Russian Icebreaker Development

Project 10510 Leader class

NavyRecognition reports on Russian icebreaker development. They have a diverse and very impressive program. Not content with the Arctika class nuclear powered icebreakers, they are now expecting to build even bigger icebreakers, the Project 10510 Leader class.

The Iceberg Design Bureau also is developing the world’s most powerful nuclear icebreaker of the Project 10510 Leader class. According to Ryzhkov, “its power is 120MW and its maximum ice-breaking capability equals 4.3 m, and if ice is 2 m thick, the ship can lead convoys at a speed of more than 11 knots, thus ensuring cost-effective traffic via the Northern Sea Route.”

120 MW, that is about 160,000 HP. That is about twice as powerful as the Polar Star.

There is a lot of interesting stuff in this post.

It is important to remember that most of these program are for the development of the Arctic for Economic purposes. That is not to say the Russians could not turn them to military purposes, but the Russians have ample reason to see them, not so much as military assets, but as economic necessities.

7 thoughts on “Russian Icebreaker Development

  1. According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, the Russian Defence Ministry will not order more Project 21180 icebreakers and the “lead ship”, Ilya Muromets, will remain the only vessel of her class. Instead, a smaller version dubbed Project 21180M will be ordered from another shipyard. According to the article, the vessel turned out to be too expensive. There’s also a small factual error: Ilya Muromets does not have ABB’s Azipod propulsion units; instead, she has mechanical Z-drive thrusters with contra-rotating propellers (CRP). That’s a first, for sure, but azimuth propulsion units in general are not a new thing by Russian standards.

    It’s also funny how the articles have stopped talking about the delivery date of the first Project 22220 nuclear-powered icebreaker – now several years behind schedule – but instead refer to the planned delivery date of all three vessels. Personally, I’d probably talk about “2020s” instead of “2020”…

    An article in BarentsObserver recently indicated that Russia is planning on axing the funding for the technical development of the 120-megawatt nuclear-powered icebreaker. I think this would be the right decision – such monster would be a “white elephant” that would suck all the funding from more feasible projects. Also, their plan of escorting merchant ships in 2 m (about 7′) thick ice at a speed of 11 knots is simply ridiculous: the merchant ships would have to be structurally strengthened almost to the same level with the icebreaker…

    Project 10570 is yet another concept developed by the design bureau with no client or shipbuilding order. Russian companies, particularly Krylov, like pushing them out and making a big number out of them. There’s nothing wrong in showing conceptual development in public – I’ve done the same – but it shouldn’t be put to the same level with ships that are already under construction.

    • Here’s more on the topic:

      “Izvestia: Russia to beef up Arctic presence by getting more icebreakers

      The Russian government will consider a new version of the state-supported program for developing the Arctic this coming fall drafted by the Economic Development Ministry, which will make it possible to substantially beef up the country’s presence in the region by 2035, the ministry’s press service told Izvestia. The document outlines steps to bolster the national ship-building industry and construct some nuclear icebreakers. Plans are in store to build up to eight nuclear-powered vessels, in addition to more than one hundred tankers and gas tankers.

      The construction of three Project 22220 universal nuclear icebreakers has begun at the Baltic Shipyard in St. Petersburg. Besides, Russia is going to design and develop the Lider (Leader) nuclear-powered icebreaker by the end of 2017, and three such icebreakers could be built in the future.
      The Project 10510 Lider icebreaker is a promising new type of Russian nuclear-powered icebreakers, which are expected to ensure year-round navigation along the Northern Sea Route and expeditions to the Arctic region.
      “The need for vessels for voyages along the Northern Sea Route has basically been shaped by Russian oil and gas companies. Their construction will be carried out mainly at the production facilities of the Zvezda shipbuilding complex,” the press service of the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade reported.

      “A new program for the construction of icebreakers is inevitable for Russia, if the country wants to preserve its sovereignty in those territories, which is impossible without icebreakers. The question is how cost efficient this plan will be. There should be neither over-expenditure, nor a squandering of budget funds under the guise of this construction project,” the paper quotes Alexander Pilyasov, Director of the Center of the North and Arctic Economy, as saying.”

      Most recent Russian heavy icebreaker projects have run into cost and schedule overruns. Both the 25 MW diesel-electric icebreaker and the 60 MW nuclear-powered icebreaker are several years behind schedule.

    • There are many challenges in designing a good dual-displacement icebreaker. The icebreaking hull geometry must work efficiently through the full draft range. At minimum draft, the propellers must be submerged deep enough, limiting propeller diameter. In addition, the heavy ice belt must extend above the maximum icebreaking draught, resulting in increased steel weight in an already weight critical vessel.

      Nuclear-powered icebreakers have a certain advantage here because there isn’t much variation in the weight of fuel carried onboard. To my knowledge, the Russians have had significant problems with the diesel-electric dual-displacement icebreaker they are already building.

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