Russian Project 10510 Leader-class Nuclear-powered Icebreakers

Note the two nuclear reactors are located high in the ship. 

Naval News reports the first of the Russian Project 10510 Leader-class Nuclear-powered Icebreakers has been laid down. These ships dwarf the Polar Security Cutters. But perhaps of equal significance is that the new commercial shipyard where they are being built is on Russia’s Pacific coast. 

Compared to the Polar Security Cutters (PSC), they are truly monsters, built with an eye to keeping the Northern Sea Route open year round. Not only are they far larger than any Coast Guard icebreaker, they are about twice as large and twice as powerful as the largest icebreakers currently in service, the nuclear powered Project 22220 Arktika class icebreakers.

The Leader class, Project 10510 icebreakers are 209 metres (686 ft) long and have a beam of 47.7 metres (156 ft). They draw 13 metres (43 ft) of water and have a displacement of about 69,700 tonnes (68,600 long tons). Their four electric motors will provide 120 MW (160,923 HP)

The PSCs are 460 ft (140 m) long and have a beam of 88 ft (27 m). PSCs will displace 22,900 long tons (23,300 t). The PSCs’ two Azipods and diesel electric center shaft will provide just over 45,000 HP. 

While the PSCs should be able to break through ice of 6.5 feet (2.0 m) at a continuous speed of 3 knots, the Leader class will reportedly be able to maintain ten to eleven knots in the same conditions. 

Zvezda-DSME shipyard. Photo from Russian.dissident via Wikipedia.

Significantly the shipyard in Bolshoi Kamen, on the Sea of Japan, near the Chinese and North Korea borders, where the Leader class are being built, is the Zvezda-DSME shipyard. DSME, Daewoo Shipbuilding Marine Engineering, is a South Korean company and one of the largest shipbuilding firms in the world. They are also a major defense contractor, building not only ships for the South Korean Navy but also submarines for Indonesia and underway replenishment vessels for the United Kingdom and Norway. They also built 15 LNG icebreaker/tanker ships for the Russians to use in the Arctic.

4 thoughts on “Russian Project 10510 Leader-class Nuclear-powered Icebreakers

  1. Someone should tell them that could have been an aircraft carrier. I’ll be interested to see when it is finished.

  2. It’s difficult to justify such a large and powerful icebreaker when there are hardly any merchant ships that can safely keep up with it in heavy ice conditions. The Soviets ran into similar problems with the first Arktika in the 1970s and a fleet of specialized high ice class freighters had to be built to address the issue.

    I still think the Leader is kind of a white elephant and, after Putin took interest in it, “too big to fail”. Now they just have to see it through.

    It will also be interesting to see how Zvezda manages to build the Leader which is probably one of the most complex non-military ships ever built. The shipyard had been hoarding orders and laying keels left and right (I think this is the 15th keel they have laid), but only delivered one Aframax crude oil tanker of which three quarters was built at Hyundai in South Korea.

  3. Quantity has a quality all of its own.

    Russians see the world differently. They see the Arctic as theirs. And they see procurement more in terms of needs first and costs second.

    • If it’s quantity they’re after, the resources wasted on that behemoth could have been used to fund the sixth, seventh and perhaps even eighth Project 22220 nuclear-powered icebreakers that are already capable of sailing everywhere in the present-day Arctic.

      The 120-megawatt “leader-icebreaker” concept dates back to the late 1980s when the Russian engineers stated that shipping in the Arctic will forever be based on icebreaker-led convoys because independently-operating ships were not considered to be economically feasible. Just a few years later the Finns introduced Azipod and the double acting ship concept (stern-first in ice) which is today the industry standard for year-round Arctic shipping. While those ships can also benefit from icebreaker escort as it increases average speed in some ice conditions (but can reduce it in others because the cargo ship is not allowed to overtake the icebreaker), they can be designed to work efficiently with one “small” icebreaker (those that are currently the largest and most powerful ever built) instead of that monster.

      What I’m primarily afraid is that the Leader will become a black hole for resources that could have been used to improve for example SAR assets along the Northern Sea Route.

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