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Russia builds its first full-stealth warship

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Russia has invested heavily in a sweeping rearmament programme to replace the army and the navy’s Soviet-era weaponry – Anton Vaganov/AP

Russia is close to completing its first naval ship fully equipped with stealth technology to make it hard to detect by enemy vessels, Russian media reported on Tuesday.

The Mercury naval corvette has been mired in delays but two sources in the shipbuilding industry told Russian-state-owned news agency RIA Novosti that the vessel dubbed Project 20386 is expected to be delivered to the Navy as soon as next year.

The hull of the corvette has already been built.

Russia in the past decade invested heavily in a sweeping rearmament programme, designed to replace the army and the navy’s Soviet-era weaponry.

But some efforts to revamp the military have been affected by Western sanctions imposed on Russia for annexing Crimea in 2014 and throwing its weight behind separatists in eastern Ukraine as the US banned exports of dual-use technology to Russia.

The country’s shipbuilders previously used stealth technology such as a radar-absorbing coating in some of other navy ships but Mercury is expected to be Russia’s fully stealth vessel, having a special shape minimising protrusions and crevices on its surface, according to RIA Novosti.

The new warship will be armed with cruise missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and artillery. It will also have equipment for searching for and destroying submarines.

The Russian Navy before the annexation of Crimea was going to ditch the idea of building a full-stealth military ship altogether.

In 2013 the Izvestia daily newspaper quoted a high-placed military source, saying that the ship would be too expensive, up to 18 billion rubles (£175 million), and equipped with “excessive” weaponry it does not need such as the Kalibr cruise missiles.

Russia’s top military-focused publication, The Military Review, ran a scathingly critical article about Mercury in April, saying that the project was doomed to fail.

The Military Review pointed to reported failures in design such as the lack of necessary equipment to support the cutting-edge weaponry that Mercury is supposed to carry.

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