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Russian icebreaker fleet is the pride of the Arctic [Video]

The US Navy is widely known in the world as the largest and finest in the world. However, aside from submarines, the Navy cannot do much in the Arctic. The Arctic has, of course, icecaps, and any ship that would sail the Arctic Ocean must be able to negotiate pack ice up to and exceeding 6.4 meters (21 feet) thick at times. If it cannot do this, its path must be opened by an icebreaker, a ship capable of breaking through such ice.

At the present time the United States has but one Coast Guard heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, which is capable of breaking seven-foot thick ice. However, in February of 2018, the aging ship ran into significant problems. As discussed in a piece written by Business Insider, on January 11, one of the ship’s main gas turbines failed. On the 16th, a shaft seal failed and the engine room started taking on water at the rate of 20 gallons per minute.

The Coast Guard has a sister ship to the Polar Star called the Polar Sea, but this ship left service in 2010 because of repeated engine failure. In 2017 the Coast Guard decided it was too expensive to refurbish this ship, though her hull was still sound. The Polar Star was refurbished, but sometimes keeping this ship running requires ordering second-hand parts from sources such as eBay.

While the US has the heaviest-duty capable icebreaker, then, it has a problem with the same ship because if it breaks down there is no other US ship that can assist it. To do that, said Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft, the Americans would have to call upon Russia, with its 54 icebreakers, including some nuclear powered vessels.

This video shows some of the sophistication achieved by the Russian icebreaker fleet.

Present-day developments in the Arctic have decreasing ice-cover conditions there, so the ability to sail the Arctic Sea is seen as a huge cost-cutter for transportation of goods from nation to nation. To that end, China as well as Russia have developed highly sophisticated icebreaking ships while the US has foundered in its own programs due to political and financial neglect.

One thing is very interesting about the Russian program. Many of its large-scale icebreakers are civilian ships, owned by the country’s large energy companies, like Gazprom. Six of Russia’s ten nuclear-powered civilian ships are in the Arktika class, capable of breaking ice up to 2.8 meters thick (thicker than most Arctic ice ever gets), and with max speeds up to 22 knots.

In today’s world commerce is the preferred form of warfare, it would seem. It would also seem that the United States has been caught flat-footed in this regard.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.

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Olivia Kroth
January 5, 2019

A great part of the Arctic is Russian territory. So it is important to protect it against intruders.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
January 6, 2019

“It would also seem that the United States has been caught flat-footed in this regard.”
The USA does not own any part of the Arctic. It has nothing lost there.

Vera Gottlieb
Vera Gottlieb
January 5, 2019

With ice melting more and more, fairly soon these ice breakers won’t be needed any longer.

January 5, 2019

How thick is arctic ice? In the first part the author talks of 21ft thick pack ice, in the second part he asserts that arctic ice diesn’t get more than 6.8ft thick!

Be glad the US isn’t spending even more for the military or that will be all the US can ever produce and pay for.

As to Russia, for them it certainly makes sense to have an ice breaker fleet – they are surrounded by ice.

Shaun Ramewe
Shaun Ramewe
January 6, 2019

I guess that ice just hasn’t and isn’t melting away at exponential rates – or at all!!

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Shaun Ramewe
January 6, 2019

Of course not. All of this “global warming” is an old grandma’s tale.

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