The September decision by France to withhold delivery of two Mistral-class Landing Platforms Helicopter (LPH) building for Russia is an opportunity for NATO, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and for the French shipbuilding industry and economy. France should not suffer economically for taking a stand against Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine. Rather, NATO, France and Canada can benefit if a little mutually beneficial creativity is applied.
While France desperately wants to complete the two amphibious warships — and get paid for them — NATO and Canada need the capabilities these ships can provide.
For Canada, an LPH would help buttress logistic support for the upcoming Canadian Joint Support Ship (JSS). The replacement to Canada’s fleet oilers originally required a level of expeditionary capabilities which were ultimately not included in the final ship design.
Furthermore, while one of the Russian Mistrals is already undertaking sea trials and the second is scheduled for completion in 2016, the first of three new Queenston-class JSS for the RCN will not even begin building in Vancouver until 2017 or 2018 at best, with delivery by 2019 or 2020.
Yes, there are potential pitfalls that could render this proposal impossible. First is cost. The contract with Russia reportedly runs to $1.76 billion, broken down as $926 million for the first ship and $836 million for the second.
NATO member states would have to come up with the cash on the same schedule called for in the Russian contract. Additional costs are associated with outfitting to NATO- standards, base infrastructure and entry into service, including assembling and training multinational crews.
Read More:Opinion: A Mistral For Canada – USNI News.