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Russia to Build New Ships for Arctic

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Russian Border Guard vessel Vorovsky during a visit to Seattle, Wash. in 2009. US Coast Guard Photo

Russian Border Guard vessel Vorovsky during a visit to Seattle, Wash. in 2009. US Coast Guard Photo

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has plans to build four military ships for Arctic duty by 2020, deputy head of the Border Service of the FSB Col. Gen. Nikolai Rybalkin told reporters on Monday.

“Shipbuilding priorities of the FSB Coast Guard have been determined in light of the Arctic objectives. Four ships will be built for the Arctic zone before 2020,” Rybalkin was quoted by Russian news agency Interfax.
“The deployment is being done in line with the federal target program for 2012-2020.”

The announcement of the four ships follow plans announced in August to build ten to eleven bases along the so-called northern sea path — formerly known as the northeast passage — along Russia’s northern coast.


View Russian Bases in a larger map

“The initial goal of these bases will be to provide ships with fuel and ammunition and allow for ‘light repairs’ of military vehicles on deployment,” wrote USNI News contributor Mark Adomanis in August.
“But in 10 to 15 years down the line, any of these installations could be developed to the point that they are considered legitimate military.”

The FSB, successor to the infamous Soviet KGB, absorbed the Russian Federal Border Guard Service in 2003. The maritime agency is equivalent of the U.S. Coast Guard but its vessels are more heavily armed than U.S. cutters.

The Russian service fields Krivak III frigates that field a powerful deck gun, anti-air missiles, torpedoes and the ability to deploy mines. In contrast, the U.S. National Security Cutter has one 57mm deck gun.

Russia has a keen interest in maritime security and protection of mineral rights in the Arctic as the previously impassable ice floes recede in the summer seasons.

Russian Prime Minster Dmitry Rogozin said in late 2012 that Russia would continue to expand its capabilities in the region.

“It’s crucially important for us to set goals for our national interests in this region, Rogozin said in a December Moscow meeting reported by . “If we don’t do that, we will lose the battle for resources which means we’ll also lose in a big battle for the right to have sovereignty and independence,”

On Monday, Russian Natural Resource minister, Sergei Donskoi, said Russia had plans to create a $223 million permanent Russian research base in the Arctic by the end of the decade.

Russia is one of eight members of the Arctic Council — along with U.S., Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland — tasked with creating international standards for the region.

The U.S. has focused its efforts in the Arctic through the Coast Guard. It plans to deploy a National Security Cutter to the region, near Alaska, during the summer ice-free periods.

  • Cate

    The four “warships” being build for the Russian Coast Guard are of the “Project 22100 – Okean” class of Border Patrol Ship (corresponding to Ocean Patrol Vessels in other nations’ coast guards). These are 2700 ton displacement, ARC4 ice class (0.8 meter ice). They are armed with a single 76mm gun and two 14.5mm machine guns and one helicopter. They have a maximum speed of 20 knots, a planned endurance of 60 days and a range of 12,000nm. This design is a significant change from the downgraded frigates that used to be purchased for the Russian coast guard and are much more in line with Scandinavian design of ocean patrol vessels for arctic waters. They are specifically designed for use in the Arctic EEZ and the design indicates that their purpose is law enforcement, border protection, emergency response and maritime domain awareness.

    The keel of the lead ship was laid down in 2012 and the ship was launched in May, 2014, christened as “полярная звездаor” or “Polar Star.” It is anticipated that the vessel will be commissioned in 2015 and assigned to the northwest sector of the Russian Arctic.

    While reports are that there will be 4 arctic warships in service with the Russian coast guard by 2020, it appears there may eventually be five or 6 ships built under this project.