Laser Icebreaker?

Project 23550, Ivan Papanin class icebreaking patrol vessel, with towing capability and containerized cruise missiles.

The National Interest is reporting that the Russians are planning to use lasers as a way to facilitate icebreaking.

…. “Later this year, scientists aboard the Dixon, a Russian diesel-powered icebreaker operating in the White Sea, will begin testing of a 30-kilowatt ship-based laser, designed specifically for easing the movement of ships operating in the Arctic environment,” Sputnik News said. “The project involves experts from the Moscow-based Astrofizika Design Institute, with the assistance of St. Petersburg’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute.”

A Russian physicist told Russian media that the new laser is designed as an ice cutter rather than a weapon. “We’re talking about easing as much as possible navigation through northern regions. In addition, it’s necessary to test empirically calculations, create the system, measure energy consumption and calculate many other parameters. For the first stage this is enough.”

The author of the post may be a bit confused. He refers to,

More details are emerging about Russia’s trump card for control of the Arctic: laser-armed, nuclear-powered “combat icebreakers.”

But he refers to the Project 23550 (Ivan Papanin) class icebreaking patrol vessels which we talked about earlier, armed but relatively small (for an icebreaker) and definitely not nuclear powered icebreaking patrol ships with provision for mounting containerized cruise missiles.

The author seems to have assumed that the laser could also be used as a weapon although the mounting and targeting requirements for a laser weapon would be much different.

Despite the author’s apparent confusion, this is the first I have heard of using lasers to facilitate icebreaking. Using one to open a crack in the ice before the bow hits might be worthwhile. Whether it is even feasible ought to be something that could be determined mathematically.

Sounds like something worth looking at.

One thought on “Laser Icebreaker?

  1. Using lasers for (assisting) icebreaking has been discussed from time to time. Personally I’m very skeptical about it – a lot of power is required to cut through any meaningful thickness of ice at any meaningful speed. Breaking a straight line in unbroken level ice is also one of the easiest tasks for an icebreaker, and I can’t see a laser being much use in ridges, compressive ice or while maneuvering.

    However, let’s see what’s the outcome of the Russian trials. I doubt we’ll be hearing much of it afterwards…

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