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Russia unveils weaponized icebreaker as it eyes Arctic oil & gas

PortandTerminal.com, October 29, 2019

The Ivan Papanin can cut through almost five-foot thick ice and is heavily armed. The ship will have a crew of 60 and be capable of two-month-long missions with a range of 6,000 nautical miles.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – Securing the Arctic is a key strategic aim for Russia which is looking to assert its claim on vast supplies of offshore oil and gas in the region. To help secure those interests Russia has launched a heavily armed icebreaker.

Launched at the Admiralty Shipyard in St. Petersburg, the “combat icebreaker” is equipped with cruise missiles and a deck gun amongst other heavy weapon systems.

The future Ivan Papanin “combines the functions of a tugboat, patrol, icebreaker and a scientific vessel. It can solve an unlimited number of different tasks and, thanks to the inherent design solutions, can work in the Arctic region as efficiently as possible,” said United Shipbuilding Corporation chairman Georgy Poltavchenko, speaking to Russian media. 

The Ivan Papanin, Russia’s first ‘combat icebreaker’, can cut through almost five-foot thick ice and is heavily armed with Kalibr cruise missiles and a 76.2mm gun

The Papanin is envisioned as Russia’s answer to the Norwegian Coast Guard’s Svalbard-class icebreaking rescue tug, which mounts one deck gun and can carry a small air-defense system. However, Papanin is being built as a naval vessel, and it is fitted out accordingly: with eight Kalibr-NK cruise missiles, Papanin will have an over-the-horizon anti-surface / land-attack capability, something more commonly associated with a frigate or a destroyer than a patrol boat. 

“We wanted to create a ship that would ensure the safety of our fleet in the Arctic. At the same time, we wanted the ship to carry out scientific research in the Arctic ice and, of course, for it to reliably ensure the safety of our national interests there.” 

Viktor Cherkov, an admiral at the state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation

Papanin is designed to break ice up to about five feet thick, about the same specification as the U.S. Coast Guard medium icebreaker Healy. She is also fitted with a hangar for one helicopter and a launch davit for two high-speed patrol boats. 

In June, the Eurasia Daily Monitor noted that by next year, Moscow was planning to deploy a “multi-branch force” which could react to “existing threats” and protect its Arctic interests.

In a story headlined, “Military Icebreakers—Russia’s trump card in the battle for the Arctic?” the publication said that Russia was also looking to deploy the vessel Nikolay Zubov in 2024 as part of its plan to have vessels that can act as an icebreaker, patrol ship and tugboat.

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