The Priboy-class amphibious assault ship prototype. Click to see full-size image
Russia's two first helicopter carrier warships will be laid at a shipyard in Crimea in the spring of 2020, state-run news agency TASS reported citing own sources.
The first two Russian universal landing ships (LHD) will be laid down at the Zaliv shipyard in Crimea in May 2020, according to two anonymous sources.
"Two LHDs with a displacement of up to 15 thousand tons are planned for the first time in Russian history at the Zaliv shipyard in Kerch in 2020," one of the agency's sources said.
He added that the lead ship is planned to be handed over to the fleet before the completion of the current state armament program, by the end of 2027.
Another source also said that "the laying of both ships will take place in May 2020." He confirmed that each will have a displacement of up to 15 thousand tons. The warships, he said, will be able to carry more than 10 helicopters of various classes on board, and will also receive a large docking chamber for landing boats.
The sources further said that "the development of a technical project for new ships is in the final stage, after its completion, in the coming months, a contract for the construction of the LHD will be signed."
Earlier, another source in the shipbuilding industry told TASS that no later than the end of 2019, the Ministry of Defense would complete the formation of a tactical and technical task for the first Russian universal landing ships.
According to that source, it was planned to build and hand over the lead LHD to the customer within the framework of GPV-2027, and have it in serial production - by the beginning of the 2030s.
The Zaliv factory in Kerch has a slipway for building ships up to 300 m long and up to 50 m wide, which allows it to build ships with a displacement of more than 150 thousand tons.
Universal landing ships, also called helicopter carriers, are capable of carrying a large grouping of heavy helicopters for various purposes (up to 16 helicopters from Mistral and more than 30 from American type Wasp), and also carry from several hundred to a thousand or more marines.
In addition, the LHD has a dock for speedboats, and other small vessels, to ensure landing and the transport of armored vehicles.
If the reports are true, these ships would become the largest ships in the Russian Black Sea Fleet, and they will also be capable of operating in the Mediterranean.
In addition, Crimea will receive much needed investment, the shipping industry would be revitalized and many jobs would be created.
The Kerch shipyard has not yet received official documents on preparations for the start of construction. The head of USC Rakhmanov said that a final decision has not yet been made. And TASS itself said that the information wasn't confirmed.
Separately, satellite imagery (and photographs) show that in addition to working on its 3 aircraft carrier, China is also constructing two new LHD Type 075.
These ships are aimed at strengthening the capabilities of the Chinese fleet for operations abroad related to covering the expanding political, economic and military positions of China in Eurasia and Africa.