The Arctic is shaping up to be one of the most strategically important regions in the 21st century. However, the United States has fallen far behind in building the specialized ships necessary to traverse the region’s treacherous waters.
On June 10, Russia launched its first new military icebreaker in half a century. The Ilya Muromets, a diesel icebreaker displacing 6,000 tons, will now begin supporting Russian naval operations in the Arctic.
Just days later, the Ilya Muromets’ launch was upstaged when Russia floated the largest icebreaker in history. The nuclear-powered Arktika displaces 33,500 tons and is the first of three planned hulls.
Russia even plans on adding two icebreaking patrol ships armed with cruise missiles by 2020.