France has bowed to international pressure generated by the ongoing Ukraine crisis and halted the October delivery of the helicopter landing ship Vladivostok to Russia. The French President has said Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine meant conditions were not right for delivery of the helicopter-carrier and that the contract is suspended until November. No mention was made in the statement of second-in-class Sevastopol, scheduled to be delivered in 2015.
While described as a temporary measure, the deal has never been more likely to collapse. In addition to France being left with a large compensation bill for breach of contract, there is also the prospect of having to find a use for two 21,000-tonne assault ships.
The French Navy operates three of the class, and whilst they once had plans for four, financial constraints make it unlikely one or both ships could be absorbed. Some of the solutions mooted include NATO or the European Union buying or leasing the ships as pool vessels. Canada has also been touted as a possible customer.