Project 21180M: icebreakers of the future

Project appearance of the icebreaker pr. 21180M

On November 20, at the Almaz Shipbuilding Company, the hull of the lead icebreaker pr. 21180M was withdrawn from the slipway. The vessel “Evpatiy Kolovrat” has been transferred for completion and will be tested in the foreseeable future. It is planned to deliver it to the customer in 2022, and the second icebreaker of the series will appear in the next few years. It is expected that the appearance of such vessels will positively affect the operation of naval bases and the fleet as a whole.

From concept to delivery

In 2014, the Admiralteiskie Verfi shipyard (St. Petersburg) began construction of the lead icebreaker, project 21180 Ilya Muromets, developed by the Vympel Design Bureau (Nizhny Novgorod). In November 2017, the ship was handed over to the fleet. Initially, it was planned that three of the same type of icebreaker would follow, but in the spring of 2017 it became known about a change in plans. The Ministry of Defense has revised the technical and economic requirements for the desired icebreakers.

According to the updated plans of the Navy, a promising diesel-electric icebreaker for naval bases was supposed to differ from the Ilya Muromets in a smaller draft, reduced dimensions, a number of other technical features, as well as a reduced cost. Such a project received the number “21180M” – despite the cardinal differences, it was considered as a deep modernization of the existing one.

In 2017, KB Vympel completed a new project, and then the Almaz shipyard received an order for the construction of the lead vessel. Contract cost – approx. 6 billion rubles During 2018, the plant prepared construction and concluded the necessary contracts for materials and equipment.

On December 12, 2018, the laying ceremony for the first icebreaker project 21180M, named Evpatiy Kolovrat, took place. On November 20, 2020, the finished building was taken out of the boathouse for further completion. Launching is scheduled for next year. Upon completion of the tests, in 2022 the lead icebreaker of the new type will become part of the Navy. He will serve in the Pacific Fleet; the base will be Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

Corps “Evpatiya Kolovrat” during the withdrawal from the boathouse

According to current plans, after the completion of work on the Evpatiy Kolovrat, the laying of the second icebreaker of this type will take place. It is planned to be completed and transferred to the fleet by 2027, i.e. until the end of the current State Armaments Program. The exact dates of laying and launching, as well as the name of the vessel, have not yet been announced. It is reported that the second icebreaker will be handed over to the Northern Fleet.

Modernization paths

Project 21180M is considered as an option for revision and modernization of the basic “21180” taking into account the new requirements of the customer. Basically, they come down to a reduction in draft (and main dimensions), as well as a reduction in cost. Other innovations in various areas are associated with them to one degree or another. In particular, the ship’s power plant and propellers have undergone major changes.

The total displacement of the icebreaker pr. 21180M is 4800 tons. For comparison, for Ilya Muromets this parameter reaches 6 thousand tons. The total length of the vessel was reduced from 85 to 82 m, the width from 20 to 19 m. The draft was reduced from 7 m to 4.6 m. Despite this, the basic performance characteristics remained the same. So, at a speed of 2 knots, icebreakers of two projects can pass ice up to 1 m thick.

Project 21180 used a diesel-electric power plant with power output to two propeller-driven steering columns. Etc. The 21180M uses a different architecture. It uses a combination of two lower power propellers and a central shaft with a propeller and a separate electric motor. Due to this, a favorable combination of speed and maneuverability characteristics and the ability to efficiently perform basic tasks are provided. The estimated maximum speed of the icebreaker is 14 knots. Cruising range – 7600 nautical miles. For comparison, project 21180 provides a speed of up to 15 knots and a range of 9 thousand miles.

Measures have been taken to reduce the workload on the crew. Control over the operation of units and assemblies is carried out using the digital automated control system “Zaliv-LK-21180”. The number of the crew does not exceed 28-30 people. Autonomy is 30 days, half as much as in the base project 21180.

General view of the icebreaker project 21180

Icebreakers of the two new projects are capable not only of navigating ships through the ice, but also of solving other problems. So, the bow deck is made in the form of a platform for receiving helicopters. A light boat is transported behind the superstructure. Also, the vessel is equipped with a crane and can transport cargo both in the hold and on the deck. Equipment for firefighting and towing of vessels is provided.

The ships do not receive standard armament. At the same time, it cannot be ruled out that the project provides for its installation if necessary. So, earlier it was reported about the possibility of equipping the icebreaker pr. 21180 with an artillery mount of the AK-630 type and machine guns. Perhaps the updated project 21180M has similar capabilities.

New and old

The only icebreaker project 21180 was handed over to the Northern Fleet and serves at the Severomorsk base. The lead ship of the new project 21180M will be handed over to the Pacific Fleet, and the second icebreaker of this type will begin service in the Northern Fleet in a few years. The appearance of three vessels of the 21180 (M) type will make it possible to carry out a major renovation of the Navy’s icebreaker fleet with understandable positive consequences.

According to open data, the Northern Fleet now has only two icebreakers at its disposal: the new Ilya Muromets and the old Ruslan, project 97P, built in the mid-seventies. Due to moral and physical obsolescence, the service of the latter is coming to an end. After its decommissioning, only one modern icebreaker will remain in service.

The situation in the Pacific Fleet is not fundamentally different. There are two icebreakers pr. 97P / AP built in 1968-73. based in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. The older vessel is undergoing repairs and will soon be back in service. At the same time, it is obvious that the operation of these icebreakers will end in the future. They will be replaced by the lead ship, project 21180M.

“Ilya Muromets”

Thus, the two main operational-strategic formations of the Navy, constantly faced with the problem of ice, are in need of strengthening the icebreaker fleet. Measures in this direction are being taken, and in the foreseeable future they will give the desired results. However, the pace of renewal of icebreaker groups is not too high, and the fleet will not yet be able to abandon obsolete models.

New ships of the 21180M type, both independently and together with other icebreakers of various projects, will be able to support the operation of naval bases and conduct escort of ships of the fleet in the Arctic seas. At the same time, we are talking about the Navy’s own icebreakers, which reduces dependence on other structures that have a similar fleet.

So far, it is planned to build only two icebreakers of project 21180M until 2027. It is quite possible that after the completion of their construction, an order for new vessels of this type will appear. In addition, it is possible to develop a completely new project, taking into account the operating experience of predecessors. The ways of further development of this direction will be determined later.

In the strategic direction

The Arctic region is of great importance, which makes special demands on the development of the armed forces in this area. In particular, specialized samples of various equipment are needed, incl. icebreakers and ice-class ships. The current projects 21180 and 21180M were created within the framework of this strategy, and have already allowed the start of the re-equipment of the icebreaker fleet.

It should be admitted that there are still some difficulties. The average age of the naval icebreakers is very high, and only one of the new ships has started service so far. However, the process of updating the auxiliary fleet continues, and the modernization of its icebreaking part has already been launched. One new vessel has recently begun service, and in the near future new ones will appear – more fully corresponding to the current requirements of the fleet.

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