A lone icebreaker
Wicker and Sullivan state: Moscow has the world's largest icebreaking fleet of 40 vessels. For comparison, the US Coast guard has only two icebreakers-PolarStar and Healy, with the second being repaired after a fire on Board. One serviceable icebreaker is clearly not enough for an economic and military superpower. But control over the Arctic opens up access to rich natural resources and allows for a permanent military presence in the North of Eurasia.
Experts recalled that this summer the Russian Navy held the largest exercises since the cold war near the coast of Alaska. In addition, Moscow has in recent years restored about 50 military installations in the Arctic that were abandoned after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Troops and weapons were again stationed there. China, in turn, is building two ice-class ships and does not hide the fact that it considers the region as an economic "Polar silk road". On the Arctic holiday of life, Americans clearly look like poor relatives.
Back in June, President Donald trump announced the need to create a large fleet of icebreakers. The us authorities have launched a program to build six new ships, including heavy-class vessels that have not been laid in the country for 40 years. Congress has already funded the lead icebreaker — it should go on sea trials by 2024. In turn, the Coast guard command requested funds for the second ship.
In the meantime, the senators report, it will be necessary to extend the service life of the Polar Star until at least 2023. Given that the ship actually developed a resource at the beginning of the century, the task of ensuring US dominance in the Arctic is clearly too much for him.
Russia has never stopped building ice-class vessels. So, on October 21, the lead nuclear icebreaker of the project 22220 "Arctic"was put into operation. The ship, equipped with two power plants with RITM-200 reactors with a thermal capacity of 175 megawatts each, overcomes ice 2.8 meters thick at a speed of one and a half to two knots. It can work both in the ocean and in riverbeds. Atomflot expects to receive four more vessels of the project — "Siberia", "Ural", "Yakutia" and "Chukotka". The first two are expected to be commissioned in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
"The launch of the Arctic icebreaker is not just an event when a very large vessel is created, and an original one, at domestic shipyards, without Western technologies and components," Alexey Podberezkin, Director of the center for military and political research, told Sputnik radio. - The main thing is political significance. A series of new icebreakers will be built in the coming years, and Russia will be able to control the situation along the Northern sea route not only in deep water, but also, more importantly, in shallow water. Now we can provide a transport corridor from Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region to Europe, and all year round."
Nuclear icebreakers are the key to the success of any military and civil construction in the region. In addition to the "Arctic", Russia has two vessels with a two-reactor nuclear power plant with a capacity of 75 thousand horsepower ("Yamal", "50 years of victory"), two icebreakers with a single-reactor plant with a capacity of about 50 thousand horsepower ("Taimyr", "Vaygach"), a nuclear lighter carrier "Sevmorput" with a reactor plant with a capacity of 40 thousand horsepower and five maintenance vessels. The icebreaker "Soviet Union" is in the operational reserve. A very impressive Arctic flotilla, and this is even without taking into account diesel-electric vessels.
The latter include, for example, the ultra-modern Ilya Muromets, which became part of the Northern fleet in 2017. It can work in a solid ice field up to a meter thick. In addition to performing the main function of guiding ships through Arctic waters, the ship delivers cargo for the Arctic group of troops. The project also provides for the installation of onboard weapons, in particular the ship's rapid-fire artillery systems AK-630, AK-230, and AK-306. Theoretically, an icebreaker can be turned into an attack warship — just equip it with anti-ship missiles.