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