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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

China Buys 2 Warships for $1.5Bln

Russia has secured a contract to supply China with two modified Sovremenny-class destroyers that is estimated to be worth $1.5 billion.

The announcement last week, made against the backdrop of an accelerated military buildup by Beijing and Taipei, follows Washington's offer last year of its biggest arms package to Taiwan in a decade -- including four Kidd-class destroyers.

Sovremenny destroyers pack more firepower than their older U.S. Kidd counterparts. Moscow has already shipped such warships to China, assembled from hulls laid down in the Soviet days.

Itar-Tass reported the two new 956ME vessels were due for delivery in four years and would be an upgrade on the first batch. The warships would be built at the Severnaya Verf shipyards in St. Petersburg.

"Russian designers have managed to significantly improve combat performance of all weapons to be installed on the destroyers ordered by the Chinese Defense Ministry," said Vladimir Yukhnin, who oversaw the modifications, Itar-Tass reported.

The agency said each new warship would carry one dedicated helicopter. It quoted a government source as saying the value of the deal, signed Thursday, exceeded $1 billion.

Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy head of the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, said the contract on two Project 956ME destroyers could rake in as much as $1.5 billion, including weapons.

Driven by a pair of steam turbines, Sovremenny-class destroyers displace 7,900 tons, can carry a variety of missiles and guns and have a maximum speed of 33 knots.

The destroyers will be made from scratch, he said.

Makiyenko said two such destroyers were sold to China in 1997 for around $1 billion and were delivered in 1999 and 2000.

Jane's Defense Weekly reported last year that Russia had run into difficulties building the ships because some key components are manufactured outside its borders in former Soviet republics.

Russian arms trade officials said late last year that they saw "a huge export potential" for Sovremenny-class destroyers.

China is a leading client of the Russian arms industry, which President Vladimir Putin said earned $4.4 billion in export sales in 2001.

The State Duma ratified a friendship treaty with China last month that recognized Beijing's undisputed sovereignty over Taiwan. (MT, Reuters)