Russia’s Plans for an Arctic Coast Guard

Photo: Russian Coast Guard Project 97P Border Patrol Vessel Volga (#183). The Russian Coast Guard is part of the Border Guard Service of Russia. This photo was taken by the crew of the USCGC Boutwell in Petropavlovsk, Russia during the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum in September 2007.

As is widely known Russia has plans to greatly expand use of the “Northern Sea Route,” the passage between the Atlantic and Pacific via the Arctic Ocean near Russia. To make this economical they are planning to greatly expand the presence of their Coast Guard in the Arctic. This includes a new class of ships.

“Efforts to build up an Arctic Coast Guard force have been ongoing since at least 2011, when the Federal Security Service (FSB) — the successor to the KGB, which oversees the Coast Guard and Border Guard services — ordered its first of a planned six “Ocean” patrol ships. The vessels, small ships with a displacement of 2,700 tons, are nevertheless built to withstand icy Arctic conditions.

The lead ship, known as “Polyarnaya Zvezda,” or North Star, has been completed and is undergoing final preparations for regular service in Kronstadt, near St. Petersburg. Two additional Ocean ships, known in Russia by their “Project 22100” designation, are under construction, and should be ready by 2019.

“Plans for new Arctic Coast Guard ships won’t stop with the completion of the Project 22100 class, according to Mikhail Barabanov, a naval expert at the Moscow-based Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST).

“‘Construction is planned for several larger Coast Guard patrol ships with a displacement of 6,000 to 7,000 tons,’ Barabanov said, adding that the ships will double as icebreakers. Several design bureaus are now competing for tenders to design the ships, he said.

“The Coast Guard is also expanding its infrastructure along the Arctic frontier with a chain of 10 Coast Guard stations. These stations will be used to launch search and rescue operations if ships run into trouble.”

The Project 22100 ships sound a bit like the Offshore Patrol Cutters. Specs found here indicated a displacement of 2700 tons, length of 91.8 meters/301.2 feet, beam of 14.8 meters/48.6 feet, speed of 20 knots, a range of 12,000 miles, a crew of 41, and an armament of one 76mm and two 14.5mm, and accommodations for a Ka-27 (a 12,000kg/26,455 pound helicopter). The German Navy blog Marine Forum reported on 10 October that first of class “POLYARNAYA ZVEZDA completes four days of sea trials in the Gulf of Finland.” The next two ships are not expected to be commissioned until 2019.

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