“Russia Is Eying More Armed Icebreakers After Launching Missile-Toting Arctic Patrol Ship” –The Drive

The Drive reports that Russia is looking at building more icebreaker warships.

A Russian shipbuilding industry official says that the country’s plans for fleets armed icebreakers, such as the Project 23550 Ice class corvettes, are growing and that they may be able to carry more even weapons depending on their exact configuration.

When I originally posted on the Project 23550 class, I questions whether we would ever actually see these vessels armed with missiles. After all adding containerized missiles may be an option, but so far the Russian Navy has not seemed enthusiastic about putting missiles on ships that do not also have defensive systems like electronic warfare and close in weapon systems. That is why, when this report talked about installation the Russian Pantsir-EM gun and missile defense system, it seemed to take on additional significance. But on reading it more carefully this was just speculation. The only upgrade actually mentioned by the “Russian shipbuilding industry official” was that the “This ships and others in its class may ultimately have a 100mm main gun, instead of a 76mm one as originally planned,”

Even with only a 76mm gun, this is the most heavily armed icebreaker in the world, but only because everyone else is virtually unarmed.

Both this ship and the Polar Security Cutter have space and weight provision for containers. The only real difference is that the Russians have a containerized missile system they are trying to sell and it has been pictured on this class.

If we start actually seeing cruise missiles, electronic warfare systems, and hard kill self defense systems like Pantsir-EM on Russian (or Chinese) icebreakers it will be real wake up call. But so far, the way these ships are armed is not significantly different from the Soviet era Ivan Susanin class naval and coast guard icebreakers.

I would note that if we start to see conflict over Antarctica, these ships could be useful there. Not against the US since we could put an aircraft carrier within striking distance, but perhaps against some of the other claimants.

I really don’t think we need to mirror the Russian capability to put containerized missiles on our icebreakers, but the Polar Security Cutters will be valuable, almost irreplaceable auxiliaries, and unlike the Russians, we have very few icebreakers, so we need to be able to quickly upgrade their defensive capabilities

8 thoughts on ““Russia Is Eying More Armed Icebreakers After Launching Missile-Toting Arctic Patrol Ship” –The Drive

  1. Pingback: “White House Orders New Icebreaker Strategy For Coast Guard” — | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

    • While Project 23550 icebreaking patrol ships and their ability to carry containerized 3M-54 Kalibr cruise missiles are pretty well-known within the cryosphere, that particular article has quite a few factual errors. However, the blame is not only with the author: the Russians have a bad habit of using the same names for both civilian and military projects.

      Last week, the Russian news agency TASS reported that a Sevastopol-based shipping company specialized in refrigerated cargos, Yugreftransflot, had developed an LNG-powered icebreaking multipurpose reefer (refrigerated cargo ship). Based on the brief technical description, it is a somewhat standard Arc7 double acting ship with diesel-electric azimuthing propulsion and capability to break 2.1-metre (about 7 ft) ice in astern direction. The company had named the project “Ivan Papanin”, perhaps to reflect that these could be considered as replacements for the Soviet-era Project 10621 Arctic cargo ships of which the best-known is the extensively-modified Chinese research vessel Xue Long. Like the predecessors, it was proposed that these ships could have a dual role in supplying both civilian and military installations along the Northern Sea Route. However, the original articles did not mention anything about armament; it was presented as a civilian project.

      Unfortunately Ivan Papanin is also the name of the lead ship of Project 23550 icebreaking patrol ships (which the Russians, for some reason, also refer to “Arktika” – don’t ask why) which, while having the same Arc7 ice class, are somewhat less capable: they can break “just” 1.5-metre (5 ft) and are powered by conventional shaft lines rather than Azipod propulsion units. In addition to patrol missions, these ships have provisions for towing as well as other secondary missions. Unless the plans have changed, two will be built for the Russian Navy and two (perhaps with somewhat lighter armament) for the Russian Border Guard.

      Then along come Naval Post and Navy Recognition, seemingly mixing the two. The result is a “multirole Arctic dual-purpose reefer ship” that “can be armed with a Kalibr-K container-type cruise missile system”. The Sevastopol-based shipping company has also turned into a Saint Petersburg -based shipyard. Azipod propulsion, which was originally proposed for Project 23550 but later replaced by conventional shaft lines, has made a comeback. The Naval Daily article had also reduced the hull strengthening to be adequate just for 50 cm (about 20″) thick ice.

      Anyway, the basic message is still the same: the Russians are building icebreaking patrol ships fitted for (and perhaps with) cruise missiles. In theory, those containerized systems could be fitted also on the proposed cargo ships but I’m willing to bet that’s easier said than done.

    • I just read another article by the Russian news agency TASS and turns out the company behind the multipurpose reefer/cargo ship is in fact proposing those containerized cruise missiles also in their project. I stand corrected.

      Still, it’s worth mentioning that there are two distinct projects: that grey-hulled patrol ship already under construction in Saint Petersburg and the refrigerated cargo ship (reefer) concept that looks more like a traditional container ship (for which only one news site has shown any renderings).

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