Focus: Russia beefing up its ice-rated vessel fleet in the Arctic - Part I

Focus - Russia's Arctic Fleet
Focus: Russia beefing up its ice-rated vessel fleet in the Arctic - Part I
In recent years, there has been an active build-up of Russia’s ice-rated ships fleet designed for for operations in the Arctic. In particular, the Almaz Design Bureau has developed the unique Project 23550 patrol ship capable of executing in the icebreaker, tug and patrol ship roles.
Project 23550 ice class patrol ship RussiaArtist impresson of Project 23550 ice-class patrol ship . Image: Russian Defense Ministry.
The Admiralty Wharfs Shipyard in St. Petersburg has laid the keel of the lead ship of the Project 23550 class, the Ivan Papanin ice-class patrol corvette intended for the Russian Navy.

"Today is a special day for the Navy and military shipbuilders. Today is the birthday of the ship that is designed to guard our Arctic expanses. The ice-class patrol ship will be built by order of the Russian defense minister to pursue this country’s interests in the Arctic strategic area,"
Russian Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Vladimir Korolyov said, adding that the second ship in the class would be laid down soon. It will be named after polar explorer Nikolai Zubov.

The weapons equipping the second ship will differ from those of the lead ship, which weapons suite has not been determined yet. An important element of it will be the deck-based armed helicopter, Korolyov added.

"The Ivan Papanin icebreaker is slated for delivery in late 2020 or early 2021. It is based on Russian technologies only," the service chief added. The second ice-rated corvette is due for keel laying in late 2017 or in early 2018.

The development of the advanced ice-rated versatile patrol ship was announced in April 2015. At the time, then-Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Victor Chirkov said that the Russian naval force operating in the Arctic would be given a versatile ship capable of doing three jobs at once - icebreaker, tug and patrol ship.

"A decision has been made to design and build a unique new-generation versatile ship fit for the seagoing tug, icebreaker and patrol ship roles at the same time. The versatility will enable her to execute a wide range of missions in the Arctic. This year, we shall make up our mind on her design,"
Chirkov said.

Russian Navy Deputy Commander-in-Chief Alexander Fedotenkov told journalists in January 2016 that "a drastically advanced Project 23550 ice-rated ship triple-hatted as tug, icebreaker and patrol ship" was to be laid down some time this year.
Project 23550 ice class patrol ship Russia Project 23550 ice-class patrol ship fitted with 100mm main gun and Kalibr cruise missile launchers will be closer to a corvette rather a mere patrol vessel. Image: Russian Defense Ministry.
In May 2016, the military ordered two Project 23550 patrol ships from Admiralty Wharfs.

"Under the contract, the ships are to be delivered to the Navy before year-end 2020," a Defense Ministry official said, adding that the order had been awarded under the 2020 Defense Procurement Program.

The ice-rated patrol ship’s design was unveiled at the Army 2015 International Military-Technical Forum and IMDS 2015 International Maritime Defense Show in St. Petersburg. A model of the ship was exhibited during Army 2015. According to the developer and open sources, the advanced class is intended for guarding and monitoring the Russian sector of the Arctic, especially Russia’s exclusive economic zone; escorting or towing poacher vessels seized within the Russian exclusive economic zone; escorting and supporting auxiliary vessels; participating in rescue operations; recovering vessels that run aground; carrying special cargo in containers on the upper deck; and engaging naval, coastal and aerial targets with her weapons. The Almaz Design Bureau has classified its new ship as Arc 6 AUT1 FF3WS EPP Special Purpose Ship ANTI-ICE DYNPOS-1 HELIDECK-H as per the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping.

The ship can effectively operate in the Arctic both solo and as part of a formation and is capable of escort missions on sea lanes in the Arctic.

According to Almaz and open sources, the Project 23550 ice-rated patrol ship measures about 100 m long and about 20 m abeam, with a maximum draft of around 6 m. It displaces 8,500 tons and has a cruising range of approximately 6,000 nm and a maximum icebreaking capability of 1.5 m (1 m if moving continuously). Its speed equals around 16 knots. The ice-rated corvette has a 15,000kW power plant. Its propulsion unit includes two Azipod Vi1600L electric podded azimuth thrusters or similar ones about 6,000kW each and Schottel STT2 side thrusters or similar ones around 500kW each. The ship is furnished with a tow rig with a pull of at least 80 tons-force and two electrohydraulic cranes with a lifting capacity of about 28 tons each. There is a main crew of about 60, with 50 seamen more to be carried if needed. The self-contained operating capability is around 60 days. The area of operations is unlimited.
Project 23550 ice-class patrol ships are likely to be fitted with the contenairized variant of the Kalibr cruise missile system. Project 23550 ice-class patrol ships are likely to be fitted with the contenairized variant of the Kalibr cruise missile system (Club-K).
According to open sources, the weapons suite of the Project 23550 patrol ship comprises the Kalibr (NATO reporting name: SS-N-27 Sizzler) guided missile system, guns, two Project 03160 Raptor patrol boats and a Kamov Ka-27 (Helix) helicopter. In all probability, the lead ship will lack the missile system, but the second one will differ from her in terms of weapons, and its weapons suite is yet to be decided on. The pictures published by Almaz show two Kalibr missile system modules at the stern, each comprising four launch tubes. In addition, a 76-mm AK-176MA versatile gun will be mounted at the bow. The press office of the Arsenal Company has said in March 2017 that the AK-176MA had been designed for littoral combat ships and added to the weapons suites of advanced combatants, including those in the Project 23550 class.

The weapons suite also includes two Project 03160 landing craft designed for operating near the coast round the clock. The craft are capable of landing Marines (at least 20 each) on the shore or on any other object. They can patrol assigned areas of water, intercept and seize small-size craft and conduct search and rescue. The Raptor is crewed by three and armed with a fighting module comprising a 14.5-mm machinegun, a gyro-stabilized electro-optical module and a fire control system.

The Project 23550 patrol ship can accommodate a helicopter on a helipad at the stern fore of the Kalibr launchers. Probably, the ship also has a helicopter hangar in front of the helipad. According to open sources, the ship can carry the Ka-27PL (Helix-A), but it is very likely that she also can accommodate the search-and-rescue Ka-27PS, transport/assault Ka-29 (Helix-B), radar-picket Ka-31 (Helix-E) and Ka-35, their upgraded variants and Ka-52 (Hokum-B) armed reconnaissance helicopter. The latter can use guided missiles, e.g. the Kh-31 (AS-17 Krypton) and Kh-35 (AS-20 Kayak) antiship missiles.

As of now, open sources have provided no information on the air and antisubmarine defense systems of the Russian advanced ice-rated patrol ship. Presumably, she will mount a navalized version of the Tor (SA-15 Gauntlet) surface-to-air missile system, which is in trials now, or the Pantsir-M (SA-22 Greyhound) anti-air gun/missile system. The Project 23550 patrol ship may be equipped with the Paket small-size system with 324-mm torpedo tubes and an ammunition load including anti-torpedoes. Fitting the ship with 533-mm torpedo tubes does not look reasonable. At the same time, her weapons suite should incorporate anti-torpedo rocket launchers.

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