Russians Building Missile Armed Arctic Patrol Vessel


Concept image issued by the Russian Ministry of Defence of the Project 23550 ice-class patrol ships for the Russian Navy. Source: Russian MoD

Janes360 is reporting that the Russian Ministry of Defense has awarded contracts for two new ice class patrol vessels that are reportedly capable of operating in ice up to 1.5 meters thick (approx. 5 feet).

The class is described (in Russian) by the MoD as being “without analogues in the world”, and combining “the qualities of tug, ice-breaker, and patrol boat”.

To me it looks an awful lot like the Norwegian Coast Guard vessel Svalbard or Canada’s Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship that is based on the Svalbard’s design.

Jane’s notes, “A concept image released by the MoD showed the vessel armed with a medium-calibre main gun on the foredeck (likely an A-190 100 mm naval gun), a helicopter deck and hangar, and two aft payload bays each fitted with a containerised missile launch system (akin to the Club-K system offered for export) armed with four erectable launch tubes – presumably for either Club anti-ship or Kalibr-NK land-attack missiles. Although billed as patrol boats, this level of armament makes them better armed than many corvettes.”

If these are in fact containerized missile systems, then they may simply be optional equipment, added to the conceptual image to give the ship a bit more swagger, and we may never actually see this. If you are breaking ice for a vessel following close behind, you may not want missiles with their warheads and high energy fuel located near the stern where a collision with a vessel following too close might rupture a missile and start a fire.

It does suggest that a few spaces for containers could turn almost any ship into a potential missile platform.

14 thoughts on “Russians Building Missile Armed Arctic Patrol Vessel

  1. According to the schematics (, the diesel-electric propulsion system consists of two medium-speed diesel engines and two ABB Azipod VI1600L propulsion units (“or equivalent”). Considering the current political climate and sanctions, I doubt western propulsion system suppliers (ABB, Steerprop, Rolls-Royce, Schottel) would provide equipment for a ship that is clearly an armed naval vessel. Russia claims that they have domestic propulsion unit production (e.g. the Project 21180 naval icebreaker is said to receive Russian-made “Azipod-type” propulsion units), but there’s not much information available and all commercial operators tend to rely on non-Russian equipment (at least until someone tells them to switch to domestically-produced equipment regardless of costs and quality issues).

    Also, the “continuous” icebreaking capability is said to be 1.0 m, meaning that the 1.5 m figure probably refers to the level of structural strengthening and operation in the presence of thicker ice. This corresponds to the requirements of the Russian ice class “Icebreaker6”, which is the lowest “true” icebreaker class (for comparison, the new nuclear-powered icebreakers are built to ice class “Icebreaker9”).

  2. From the German Navy Blog, 28 July, “The Russian Navy will create a special group of icebreakers for the protection of the Arctic coast … new diesel-electric icebreaker „Ilya Muromets“ could go into mass production, armed with artillery and missiles”

    According to DefenseNews.

    “The Ilya Muromets is an 85-meter (280-feet) long electric-diesel powered icebreaker with a deadweight of 6,000 tons and is designed to help the deployment of the navy in icy conditions as well as escort or tow other ships.

    “It can cut through ice of up to one meter thick and travel the entire 5,600 kilometer (3,500 mile) length of the Northern Passage, according to the defense ministry”

    • It should be noted that with that 1 m icebreaking capability, Ilya Muromets cannot operate year-round on the NSR without escort. Additionally, without additional strengthening, the presumed RMRS Icebreaker6 ice class is only good for up to 1.5 m thick ice.

      I really don’t like the way the media cites Russian press releases word-to-word. Ilya Muromets cannot have a 6,000-ton deadweight because, based on the main dimensions, that’s likely the vessel’s displacement. Furthermore, without additional information the advertised ~3,000 nmi range is not much of a feat. Of course, the Muromets being a naval vessel, the Russians haven’t given out more detailed specs which could be used to further analyze the capabilities of the vessel class.

      The contra-rotating propeller propulsion is pretty interesting, though. I believe this is the highest ice class application of this type of propulsion so far.

      • Found the spec for Project 21180 (in Russian) online. The main dimensions are the following:
        – length: 85 m
        – beam: 19.2 m
        – draft: 6.6 m
        – depth: 9.2 m
        – RS class notation: KM* Icebreaker6 [1] AUT1 ICS FF3WS EPP HELIDECK Special Purpose Ship

        General Arrangements:

        Looks pretty normal auxiliary icebreaker to me (not that one has been built in recent years) with layout similar to offshore supply vessels.

  3. from the German Navy blog, Marine Rorum, 26 Oct. . “Admiralty Shipyards (St. Petersburg) has „started construction“ of two new Project 23550 Arctic patrol ships … deliveries in 2019 and 2020.”

    • Turns out the ice-strengthened azimuth propulsion units shown in the sketch of Project 23550 is not defined as “dual use goods” and therefore is not under the 2014 sanctions against Russia. So, I guess there’s nothing stopping the ships from being built as shown in the drawings, with the European ABB Azipod propulsion units.

      I also spotted a list of icebreakers under construction in Russia or for Russia (RMRS ice class in parenthesis; 6 is smallest and bigger is better):
      – 3 x Project 22220 60 MW nuclear-powered icebreaker (Icebreaker9)
      – 1 x Project 22600 25 MW diesel-electric icebreaker (Icebreaker8)
      – 2 x IBSV01 22 MW diesel-electric icebreaker (Icebreaker8)
      – 1 x Project 21900M 18 MW diesel-electric icebreaker (Icebreaker7)
      – 1 x ARC124 12 MW diesel-electric icebreaker (Icebreaker7)
      – 1 x 13 MW diesel-electric PSV (Icebreaker6)*
      – 3 x 13 MW diesel-electric SBV (Icebreaker6)*
      – 1 x Project 21180 7 MW diesel-electric icebreaker (Icebreaker6)
      (* under construction in Finland)

      By American classification, one could say that the first type is “heavy”, the next three “medium” and the rest “light”. All but “Icebreaker6” have minimum requirements for icebreaking capability.

      The new patrol vessels have, as far as I know, a lower “Arc” ice class, so they are not “true” icebreakers but ice-capable or icebreaking vessels.

    • I’m surprised at the rate at which the project is moving forward, considering Russia’s economic problems as well as issues with current domestic icebreaker projects. I hope they won’t end up siphoning resources from the other projects.

  4. This from the German Navy blog, Marine Forum, 19 April. Admiralty Shipyards (St. Petersburg) lays the keel for first of (initially) two Project 23550 Arctic Patrol Ships, „Ivan Papanin“ …… construction of 2nd ship „Nikolay Zubov“ to start later this year

    • I just noticed they reverted back to conventional shaftline propulsion. The original concept had Azipods which would have considerably improved the icebreaking capability.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s