Last week, Russia launched its first military icebreaker in 45 years, according to the TASS news agency. The vessel, named Ilya Muromets after a Russian folk hero, has a cruising range of 12,000 nautical miles and an endurance run of two full months. It is capable of smashing through up to a meter-thick of ice.
The Ilya Muromets, which launched out at the shipyard in St. Petersburg June 10th, is expected to be inducted into the Russian Navy in 2017, the news agency said. It is the latest addition to a fleet of 40 icebreakers, as Russia seeks to build a dozen more ships over the next several years. Some experts warn that the US faces the prospect of falling behind Russia, as well as China, when it comes to developing fleets of icebreakers capable of traveling through the resource-rich Arctic region.
Last year, President Obama announced plans to acquire new icebreakers to ensure the US can operate year-round in the Arctic Ocean. Meanwhile, Russia has been stepping up its activities in the Arctic by building transport and energy production infrastructure, as well as installing military facilities and developing sea routes linking Europe and Asia, according to Sputnik News.