The Coast Guard is recapitalizing its polar icebreaker fleet to ensure continued access to both polar regions and support the country's economic, commercial, maritime and national security needs.
The operational polar fleet currently includes one 399-foot heavy icebreaker (Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, commissioned in 1976) and one 420-foot medium icebreaker (Coast Guard Cutter Healy, commissioned in 2000). These cutters are designed for open-water icebreaking and feature reinforced hulls and specially angled bows.
Polar Star underwent a three-year reactivation and returned to operations in late 2013. Since then, Polar Star has completed six Operation Deep Freeze deployments to resupply McMurdo Station in Antarctica.
Why this program?
The United States has vital national interests in the polar regions. Polar security cutters (PSCs) enable the U.S. to maintain defense readiness in the Arctic and Antarctic regions; enforce treaties and other laws needed to safeguard both industry and the environment; provide ports, waterways and coastal security; and provide logistical support – including vessel escort – to facilitate the movement of goods and personnel necessary to support scientific research, commerce, national security activities and maritime safety.
The Coast Guard needs six new PSCs to ensure national year-round access to the polar regions and to provide self-rescue capability.
How is the Coast Guard addressing the need for more polar icebreaking capability?
The Coast Guard is in the Obtain phase of acquiring a PSC. A request for proposal for the advance procurement and detail design for the PSC, with options for detail design and construction of up to three PSCs was released March 2, 2018. A single contract will be awarded in fiscal year 2019. The delivery target for the lead ship is 2023.