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Russia reveals weaponized icebreaker it plans to use to control the Arctic

Russian nuclear icebreaker fleet. (Christopher Michel/Flickr)
November 01, 2019

Russia has unveiled its latest addition of a fleet to control the Arctic, called the Ivan Papanin, an 18.7 million-pound ship that can sail through ice almost five feet thick.

The Ivan Papanin was revealed on Friday at the Admiralty Shipyard in St. Petersburg on Friday as the Russian Navy claimed the ship, named after a prominent Soviet explorer, can be used as a tugboat, patrol, icebreaker and a scientific vessel.

“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,” said Viktor Cherkov, an admiral at the state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation responsible for the ship’s construction, according to Tass news agency.

Expected to be officially commissioned in 2022 or 2023, the ship is with a portable anti-aircraft missile system, possesses Kalibr cruise missiles, an electronic warfare system and a helicopter launch pad.

The Siberian Time wrote in a tweet that the ship will be used to patrol the Arctic and can stay away from base for up to two months.

This latest development comes as Russia eyes the far north for both its growing commercial potential in oil and strategic military positioning, recently constructing other icebreakers.

Russia’s Arctic icebreaker fleet could total 13 or more by 2035, Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously said.

The nation launched a nuclear-powered icebreaker at a ceremony in St. Petersburg on May 25 to further strengthen its position in the region.

“They are the ships from new generation icebreakers of that class that we pin our hopes on in exploration of the Northern Sea Route. It is a principally new ship,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said at the ceremony.

It’s not just ships Russia is developing to control the Arctic region. Russia also developed unmanned drones in December last year that spot ships and monitor ice levels.

The ZALA 421-08M and ZALA 421-16E drones don’t rely on Russia’s version of GPS, called GLONASS, and can automatically identify and gather information about a vessel at a distance of more than 62 miles away.

Kalashnikov Group CEO Vladimir Dmitriyev said the drones were developed to provide “safety of sea shipping and the round-the-clock protection of the perimeters.”

“Russia views the Arctic as an area vital to its national security — for the defense of the nation, for the economic development and for environmental factors,” said Samuel Bendett, a research analyst with the Center for Naval Analyses’ International Affairs Group. “The government has raised the issue of the difficulties trying to monitor such a vast area, and unmanned systems were named as pivotal for that role. Russia placed a premium on ISR technologies that give it the ability to monitor the Arctic.”