Russian defense officials announced yesterday that they had delivered three attack helicopters to Sri Lanka this month and were beginning work on a project to build three new frigates for India. The helicopter announcement came from the Rostvertol factory in Rostov-on-Don, which had manufactured the three Mi-35 helicopters, the export version of the venerable Mi-24 gunship used so widely by the Soviets in Afghanistan. Plant officials said Sri Lanka had been operating several second-hand gunships of this type which they had obtained from Kazakhstan but turned to the manufacturer when they could not obtain service or spare parts from the sellers. Ukraine also sold three Mi-24s to Sri Lanka in 1996.
The frigate project was announced by the director of St. Petersburg’s Baltic Shipyards. Oleg Shyulyakovsky said the construction of the first frigate would begin by the end of the year. All construction–a US$800 million project–is scheduled to be completed within four years. The 4,000-ton ships, significantly larger than the new “Novik” frigate being built in Kaliningrad, evidently represent a new class. Shyulyakovsky said that his enterprise had already received its first payment under the Indian contract–undoubtedly good news since he said that the Navy still owed the plant 30 million rubles for the nuclear-powered battle cruiser Peter the Great, which entered service with the Northern Fleet earlier this year. The shipyard has also been working on a nuclear-powered icebreaker and a floating nuclear power plant, but the government agencies that ordered these vessels have put up little or no money. The state debt for the work already completed on the ice-breaker amounts to 51 million rubles, Shyulyakovsky said. Earlier this year, the St. Petersburg Times reported that the partially completed ship was rusting alongside the pier. (Russian media, July 20; St. Petersburg Times, January 16)
RUSSIAN, INDIAN NUCLEAR OFFICIALS SIGN AGREEMENT.