Moscow is building two multi-mission landing ships in place of the French amphibious assault ships “Mistral” that were not delivered to the Russian Federation due to sanctions.
Contracts for the amphibious assault ship project 23900 have already been signed and work is underway. The names of the ships will also be announced during the official ceremony that is expected to take place soon.
According to sources in the Russian military and defence industry, the first ship will be named “Sevastopol”, while the name “Vladivostok” or “Kerch” could be chosen for the second ship. Most likely, “Sevastopol” will serve in the Black Sea and “Vladivostok/Kerch” in the Pacific Ocean.
The project has been in the works for a while. The layout of the ship was first shown in 2015. The appearance of the amphibious assault ship (LHD) and its characteristics were determined only late last year. Initially, the ship was supposed to have a length of 165 m, a displacement of 14 thousand tons, a speed of up to 20 knots and carry up to eight helicopters on board, but by the final design stage, all characteristics were significantly increased.
The expected LHD will have a displacement of 25 thousand tons and a 220m length. As a result, Russian helicopter carriers will surpass the French Mistral in size (displacement: 22 thousand tons, length: 199 m). Such dimensions will allow the domestic ship to take on board up to 20 helicopters and two reinforced marine battalions.
According to military historian Dmitry Boltenkov, the construction of the LHD will give domestic shipbuilders experience, which can later be useful in the creation of aircraft carriers. He noted that the last Russian aircraft-carrying ship “Admiral Kuznetsov” was built in the Soviet Union era.
In recent decades, Russia has not had a single LHD. The country’s helicopter carriers, Project 1123 antisubmarine cruisers named Moskva and Leningrad, were in service during the Soviet era, but were sold to India in the 1990s. Helicopters could also be located onboard the aircraft carriers “Minsk”, “Kiev”, “Novorossiysk” and “Baku” of Project 1143 “Krechyet”, as well as “Admiral Kuznetsov”. But all of them, except for the last one, was also withdrawn from the fleet after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
When the Ministry of Defence ordered “Mistrals” from France in 2011, questions arouse whether it was necessary to add them to the fleet. The subsequent hostilities in Syria and the emergence of hotbeds of instability in different regions of the world showed that it was impossible for the military to adapt without ships capable of taking onboard marines, equipment and helicopters.
Selection of crew members for project 23900 has already begun, according to sources. The main command of the Navy is working on the organizational structure and staffing of the crews. In addition to sailors, they will include representatives of the aviation and marines. Special attention is paid to aviation technical positions.
The LHD will be transferred to the Navy after sailors and officers take part in factory and state tests. Helicopter pilots, in parallel with sailors, will undergo training at coastal airfields. After the delivery of the ship to the Navy, they will be relocated directly to the LHD. Along with them will arrive the specialists responsible for the maintenance of the aircraft.
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