Russia and France have signed an agreement to jointly build four Mistral-class helicopter carriers for the Russian Navy.

Anatoly Saikin, head of Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport, said the agreement was a framework that neither specifies deadlines, nor the cost of the future contract.

“A contract is still a long way off. Only an intergovernmental general agreement has been signed,” he said.

Under the agreement Russia will invest 20% and 40% for the construction of the first and second warships respectively.

The input for the third and fourth ships will be 80% and will be built in Russia.

The first ship, worth €720m, is expected to be built between late 2013 and early 2014, and the second between late 2014 and early 2015, according to RIA Novosti.

The French Mistral-class amphibious assault ship is capable of carrying 16 helicopters, four landing vessels, 70 armoured vehicles and 450 personnel.