Arctic Patrol Vessel

With all the talk of the Arctic opening up, I’d like to pick you brains about the sort of ships we need. How will we balance of numbers and capability?

Do we need a new design? An ice strengthened OPC? Can 225s do the job? A salt water Mackinaw? (Anybody know if the new Mackinaw is restricted to fresh water?)

Do we perhaps need a new type of vessel–maybe an icebreaking helo carrier with hanger space that can alternately be used for containers of different types from scientific or personnel support to mine warfare modules?

Should we reactivate the Glacier as an interim measure?

There is some background here.

What do you think?

69 thoughts on “Arctic Patrol Vessel

  1. ten years is too long to wait for a new U.S. icebreaker to be designed never mind the fact that it is 2.5 times the length of U.S. involvement in World War II.

    I would take a foreign design and build in U.S. yards? Here’s some more info about the Icebreaker Gap:

    http://www.cgblog.org/2008/11/29/icebreaker-gap/

    I also think they should consider nuclear power.

  2. It occurred to me while thinking about doing SAR, law enforcement, and possibly military operations in the Arctic, that you need a very different type of helicopter capability than normally provided for an icebreaker, where its primary purpose is ice recon. You probably want long range, so that means an H-60, and because of the danger of exposure in that environment, frequently you will want to launch two helos on a mission, or at least have a second one on standby. In order to keep two in readiness, you need to be able to hanger and service at least three aircraft. In effect the ship becomes a mobile CG air station. The ship is there to service the aircraft instead of the other way around.

    The ships may not need heavy ice breaking capability, but I would think they would need to be more that simply ice strengthened if they are going to break out possibly ice strengthened merchant ships that may be stuck in the ice.

    In terms of wartime roles, the primary capability, other than ice breaking, would be operating helicopters, so there should be some spaces set aside for sono-buoys and the helos’ weapons magazines with the proper alarms, fire suppression, and security, in case Navy MH-60s are embarked, with an elevator from these spaces to the hanger. This doesn’t need to be an onerous requirement since the spaces and the elevator can also be used for other supplies until the need arises.

    We would probably also want space and weight reserved for a couple of close in weapons systems (CIWS), but a couple of 25 mm Mk38 mod 2s, like those on the FRCs, mounted in their place would probably be adequate for now.

  3. While she no where nearly as capable an icebreaker as the Polar class or the Healy, I wasn’t being facetious about reactivating the Glacier (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Glacier_%28AGB-4%29). She had just completed a major availability when she was decommissioned and volunteers have been doing some work on her in the mean time. I’m curious what kind of condition she is in. She might still have a few years left in her.

    • You’re kidding, right? Re-commission the Glacier?

      What the CG should do is if and when they ever get the OPC design finalized, build two of them with more robust hulls to make them ice-capable – like the Storis – and H-60 capability. You don’t need full time icebreaking capability.

      • What I see is that we are short of ships and it will be a long time until we get something designed for the purpose.

        We might manage with a 225 until something better comes along.

        We might cut the design process short if we could build a repeat of the Mackinaw, but she really doesn’t look like the ship we need, in that, at least right now, she doesn’t have a helo deck.

        An ice strengthened OPC may be what we end up with, although I don’t think a hanger limited to one helo is an optimum solution. If it is that easy to ice strengthen an existing design, why not an ice strengthened NSC? At least they are already designed and being built.

        Ice strengthening may be enough to keep our own ships out of trouble, but will we be able to assist other ships that may find themselves caught in the ice? And if we do get caught in the ice, who will come for us?

        Yes, the glacier is old, 55 years, which is old even by Coast Guard standards. She had 32 years of service before being retired immediately after leaving the yard where she had a very expensive refit. The hull was very strongly built and the machinery is simple. If the Reserve Fleet did their job properly the machinery is well preserved. I’m just saying, its worth a look. If she is not in good shape, forget it.

      • One helo is enough. You don’t need two.

        The NSC is overkill for the Arctic.

      • In a perfect world, we’d have 4 NSC’s assigned to the 17th District, all with 2 helicopters on board with spares strategically located throughout the Bering Sea.

        In the real world, we need to take into account the fact that we can’t afford everything we’d like, and the reality of how often we actually need a helicopter on board. In my 2 years of Bering Sea experience – 10 patrols, to be exact, we “needed” a helicopter exactly twice – and in both cases, an H-3 came from AS Kodiak in time to accomplish the mission it was needed for. It would have been nice to have one on several other occasions, but no one died because we didn’t have a helicopter on deck.

        Two OPC’s, each with one helicopter on board, would more than meet the needs of our coverage in the Bering Sea.

      • You realize of course that the Storis had a longer range than the NSC. I might be wrong but I don’t think there are many places to refuel in the Arctic Ocean right now.

      • In the last years of the Storis, even that venerable old ship suffered from metal fatigue. Bringing Glacier back into commission is simply not logical.

  4. While she no where nearly as capable an icebreaker as the Polar class or the Healy, I wasn't being facetious about reactivating the Glacier (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Glacier_%28AGB…). She had just completed a major availability when she was decommissioned and volunteers have been doing some work on her in the mean time. I'm curious what kind of condition she is in. She might still have a few years left in her.

  5. You're kidding, right? Re-commission the Glacier?What the CG should do is if and when they ever get the OPC design finalized, build two of them with more robust hulls to make them ice-capable – like the Storis – and H-60 capability. You don't need full time icebreaking capability.

  6. What I see is that we are short of ships and it will be a long time until we get something designed for the purpose. We might manage with a 225 until something better comes along. We might cut the design process short if we could build a repeat of the Mackinaw, but she really doesn't look like the ship we need, in that, at least right now, she doesn't have a helo deck. An ice strengthened OPC may be what we end up with, although I don't think a hanger limited to one helo is an optimum solution. If it is that easy to ice strengthen an existing design, why not an ice strengthened NSC? At least they are already designed and being built. Ice strengthening may be enough to keep our own ships out of trouble, but will we be able to assist other ships that may find themselves caught in the ice? And if we do get caught in the ice, who will come for us?Yes, the glacier is old, 55 years, which is old even by Coast Guard standards. She had 32 years of service before being retired immediately after leaving the yard where she had a very expensive refit. The hull was very strongly built and the machinery is simple. If the Reserve Fleet did their job properly the machinery is well preserved. I'm just saying, its worth a look. If she is not in good shape, forget it.

  7. NSC Helo Op’s: At least the new WMSL’s have a working roll stabilization system to assist during helo ops if needed. The LCS-1 stabilizers have to be extended out the sides but can only be done at relatively low speeds. Lockheed Martin’s PR cartoons drawings often show LCS-1 doing helo ops at full speed. Never will happen. Helo’s want a certain relative wind both direction and speed and LM drawings are nothing short of outright prevarications.

    WMSL’s ride quite nicely although they haven’t yet done a fishery patrol off Alaska. We shall see how good they are someday.

  8. In a perfect world, we'd have 4 NSC's assigned to the 17th District, all with 2 helicopters on board with spares strategically located throughout the Bering Sea.In the real world, we need to take into account the fact that we can't afford everything we'd like, and the reality of how often we actually need a helicopter on board. In my 2 years of Bering Sea experience – 10 patrols, to be exact, we “needed” a helicopter exactly twice – and in both cases, an H-3 came from AS Kodiak in time to accomplish the mission it was needed for. It would have been nice to have one on several other occasions, but no one died because we didn't have a helicopter on deck. Two OPC's, each with one helicopter on board, would more than meet the needs of our coverage in the Bering Sea.

  9. NSC Helo Op's: At least the new WMSL's have a working roll stabilization system to assist during helo ops if needed. The LCS-1 stabilizers have to be extended out the sides but can only be done at relatively low speeds. Lockheed Martin's PR cartoons drawings often show LCS-1 doing helo ops at full speed. Never will happen. Helo's want a certain relative wind both direction and speed and LM drawings are nothing short of outright prevarications. WMSL's ride quite nicely although they haven't yet done a fishery patrol off Alaska. We shall see how good they are someday.

  10. You may want to read what the Canadian American Strategic Review has posted on their proposed Arctic Offshore Patrol ship by Aker at this link
    http://www.casr.ca/bg-icebreaker-aops-aker.htm

    And/or the naval armed icebreaker background here:
    http://www.casr.ca/doc-dnd-icebreaker.htm

    Why buy something new, when one can use a design off the shelf?

    ANY ship which is expected to perform a number of roles in the future, must have “flexible spaces” built into the design to accomodate helos, boats or containers aka mission modules.

  11. You may want to read what the Canadian American Strategic Review has posted on their proposed Arctic Offshore Patrol ship by Aker at this linkhttp://www.casr.ca/bg-icebreaker-aops-aker.htmAnd/or the naval armed icebreaker background here:http://www.casr.ca/doc-dnd-icebreaker.htmWhy buy something new, when one can use a design off the shelf?ANY ship which is expected to perform a number of roles in the future, must have “flexible spaces” built into the design to accomodate helos, boats or containers aka mission modules.

  12. Supposing we really want to think outside the box….. how about planning on deploying our 3 brand new DDG-1000 ships for prolonged periods north in the Artic Ocean ? Rather than somehow strengthening an NSC, which might have perhaps .25 inch thick steel hull, use those new DDG-1000’s which must have 3, 4, or maybe 5 inch thick steel hulls (due to their PVLS launchers all along the sides). Of course, the Navy would have to alter the DDG-1000 bow and remove that delicate sonar dome. But the cold air up North would help prevent overheating of the deckhouse and all those many high powered, built-in arrays.

    Just an idea. Provide Air Surveillance and Surf to Air missiles protecting our Northern “flank”.

  13. I’m astounded by the pie in the sky gibberish posted on these sites… seriously, DDG-1000? And Anonymouse, 10 patrols or not, H-3? We are not talking the Bering Sea mission you recall here. Ice stengthened OPC varient or parent craft ice strengthened adaptation is required, perhaps preferred. First we need a solid National policy hat opens the door for the increase in our AC&I required to support this. Then again, perhaps we can work on AC&I to extend the service life of the WTGBs, recap the inland rivers fleet and provide a mid-life for the WLB/WLM fleet. Large bills continue to loom of there will be no more cutterman out there to post hee.

    • Sorry, but when I was in Alaska, AS Kodiak was still flying the H-3. That is my frame of reference. So what is different now than in the late 80’s, other than the H-60 has replaced the H-3, and the Storis is gone? We’re still patrolling the last remaining viable commercial fishery in the US, right?

      I was XO of an ice-strengthened vessel, which is exactly what I advocate for now – a more robust OPC variant. But a WTGB in the Bering Sea? You’re kidding, right?

      • Well, this is a thread about “Arctic Patrol Vessels,” is it not?

        No disrespect to the Great Lakes sailors, but the Coast Guard needs at least two ice-capable patrol cutters for the Bering Sea before worrying about refurbishing the WGTBs.

      • Thank you Chuck for reading what I wrote. No disprespect to a Being Sea Sailor now or in the past meant but when we speak Artic OPS I’m assuming w mean above the Artic Circle (beyond the Bering) and that means a mission and environement that most have not experienced. I’d suggest we do currently have at least one ice strengthened vessel (HEALY); 1 true heavy duty breaker; and 1 heavy breaker in waiting (SEA and STAR). A national policy will help us define the mission and thus the actual requirements for an Artic varient (this was broght up and discussed during a recent fleet mix study) and if we neglect the current fleet WTGB or otherwise we only dig a deeper hole for the longevity of our assests. It was easily to think of the WTGBs as new 13 years ago when WTGB 109 (Based on the East Coast not Great Lakes) was only 10… WTGB 101 is no over thirty…. Let alone the WLB and WLM fleet now reaching mid-life with WLB 201 at 14 years young.

      • Reread his statement. He was only saying a lot of bills are coming due. He never suggested that the WTGBs should go to the Arctic.

  14. Supposing we really want to think outside the box….. how about planning on deploying our 3 brand new DDG-1000 ships for prolonged periods north in the Artic Ocean ? Rather than somehow strengthening an NSC, which might have perhaps .25 inch thick steel hull, use those new DDG-1000's which must have 3, 4, or maybe 5 inch thick steel hulls (due to their PVLS launchers all along the sides). Of course, the Navy would have to alter the DDG-1000 bow and remove that delicate sonar dome. But the cold air up North would help prevent overheating of the deckhouse and all those many high powered, built-in arrays.Just an idea. Provide Air Surveillance and Surf to Air missiles protecting our Northern “flank”.

  15. I'm astounded by the pie in the sky gibberish posted on these sites… seriously, DDG-1000? And Anonymouse, 10 patrols or not, H-3? We are not talking the Bering Sea mission you recall here. Ice stengthened OPC varient or parent craft ice strengthened adaptation is required, perhaps preferred. First we need a solid National policy hat opens the door for the increase in our AC&I required to support this. Then again, perhaps we can work on AC&I to extend the service life of the WTGBs, recap the inland rivers fleet and provide a mid-life for the WLB/WLM fleet. Large bills continue to loom of there will be no more cutterman out there to post hee.

  16. NAVSEA will soon direct Bath Iron Works to redesignate the DDG-1000 as WAGB(G)-1000. Name to be changed to USCGC NORTHWIND. DDG-1001, 2, 3, will be named SOUTHWIND, EASTWIND, and WESTWIND. Homeport will be announced later.

  17. Sorry, but when I was in Alaska, AS Kodiak was still flying the H-3. That is my frame of reference. So what is different now than in the late 80's, other than the H-60 has replaced the H-3, and the Storis is gone? We're still patrolling the last remaining viable commercial fishery in the US, right? I was XO of an ice-strengthened vessel, which is exactly what I advocate for now – a more robust OPC variant. But a WTGB in the Bering Sea? You're kidding, right?

  18. NAVSEA will soon direct Bath Iron Works to redesignate the DDG-1000 as WAGB(G)-1000. Name to be changed to USCGC NORTHWIND. DDG-1001, 2, 3, will be named SOUTHWIND, EASTWIND, and WESTWIND. Homeport will be announced later.

  19. I would look into the Royal Danish Navy's Thetis class patrol frigate or the Knud Rasmussen class patrol vessel. They designed these frigates and OPV to be very modular using the Stanflex system and are capable of Arctic ice operationshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thetis_class_patrohttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knud_Rasmussen_cla…Picturehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:RDN_F357_Thethttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:P570_Knud_Ras

  20. Well, this is a thread about “Arctic Patrol Vessels,” is it not?No disrespect to the Great Lakes sailors, but the Coast Guard needs at least two ice-capable patrol cutters for the Bering Sea before worrying about refurbishing the WGTBs.

  21. This seems like a great discussion. I would like to throw a few points out there though. A poster said that the NSC would be overkill for the arctic, and I would agree. The NSC has some pretty wazoo sensor technology, C3 stuff, and CBR capabilities that would NEVER get used up there. One poster stated that the new icebreaker should be nuclear. The Russians do this, but they also go almost 20 years between nuclear refits, and that is simply not done with US boats. Nuclear ships are also forbidden from portcalls in certain parts of the world, and that’s not how the CG likes to operate. Personally having had some experience with some Canadian deystroyers, I think we should look at what they might be getting rid of or do a joint shipbuilding project with them. Let’s remember where these boats will operate, and take some opportunities to build some partnerships up there as well.

    • I agree that we probably don’t want to go nuclear, but for a different reason. I just don’t think we would have a large enough pool of billets to make a reasonable career path. Nuclear engineering is not something you can teach in a few weeks before reporting. We would need a lot of help from the Navy and they are already having problems keeping their billets filled.

      Operationally nuclear is very appealing since we now make reactors that will not need refueling for the life of the ship. But it does make the ship much more expensive and imposes restrictions because, as has been said, not everyone will welcome a nuclear powered ship. In the post 9/11 era we also have to assume it will require additional security driving up the cost even more.

  22. This seems like a great discussion. I would like to throw a few points out there though. A poster said that the NSC would be overkill for the arctic, and I would agree. The NSC has some pretty wazoo sensor technology, C3 stuff, and CBR capabilities that would NEVER get used up there. One poster stated that the new icebreaker should be nuclear. The Russians do this, but they also go almost 20 years between nuclear refits, and that is simply not done with US boats. Nuclear ships are also forbidden from portcalls in certain parts of the world, and that's not how the CG likes to operate. Personally having had some experience with some Canadian deystroyers, I think we should look at what they might be getting rid of or do a joint shipbuilding project with them. Let's remember where these boats will operate, and take some opportunities to build some partnerships up there as well.

  23. I agree that we probably don't want to go nuclear, but for a different reason. I just don't think we would have a large enough pool of billets to make a reasonable career path. Nuclear engineering is not something you can teach in a few weeks before reporting. We would need a lot of help from the Navy and they are already having problems keeping their billets filled. Operationally nuclear is very appealing since we now make reactors that will not need refueling for the life of the ship. But it does make the ship much more expensive and imposes restrictions because, as has been said, not everyone will welcome a nuclear powered ship. In the post 9/11 era we also have to assume it will require additional security driving up the cost even more.

  24. Having gone through this exercise, I now realize that, to some extent at least, our differences are based our presumptions about what the environment will be like. What we need, will depend to a great extent, on variables outside the design of the ship, some within Coast Guard control, some not.

    Will we have an air station on the North coast of Alaska?
    Will we have one ship on patrol or two or more? Any small ships? Buoy tenders?
    Will we have any small boat stations?

    What will the Canadians have to the East and the Russians to the West?
    Will our relations with our neighbors be friendly or less so? Will they help us or contend with us?

    What kind of traffic will be in the area?
    Ice breaking tankers?
    Fishing boats?
    Thin skinned passenger vessels with lots of people on board?

    How long will a season last?
    Will we (and the Canadians) attempt to extend the commercial shipping season as we do in the Great Lakes? Will we charge for the service?
    How quickly are things going to change?
    Will we develop much more extensive trade with the Russians?

    If we establish an air station at Pt Barrow with both fixed wing and helos, the number and type of helicopters on the ship becomes less critical. If we there is no air station near the North Coast, we need a much more robust ship board detachment.

    Will nations around the Arctic quickly resolve their different claims so that we can continue to count on mutual aid from our neighbors and the ships can go virtually unarmed or will we need to defend ourselves?

    Will we need to rescue ships that are themselves quite ice capable, meaning we will need a robust capability?

  25. Having gone through this exercise, I now realize that, to some extent at least, our differences are based our presumptions about what the environment will be like. What we need, will depend to a great extent, on variables outside the design of the ship, some within Coast Guard control, some not. Will we have an air station on the North coast of Alaska? Will we have one ship on patrol or two or more? Any small ships? Buoy tenders?Will we have any small boat stations?What will the Canadians have to the East and the Russians to the West?Will our relations with our neighbors be friendly or less so? Will they help us or contend with us?What kind of traffic will be in the area? Ice breaking tankers?Fishing boats?Thin skinned passenger vessels with lots of people on board? How long will a season last?Will we (and the Canadians) attempt to extend the commercial shipping season as we do in the Great Lakes? Will we charge for the service?How quickly are things going to change?Will we develop much more extensive trade with the Russians?If we establish an air station at Pt Barrow with both fixed wing and helos, the number and type of helicopters on the ship becomes less critical. If we there is no air station near the North Coast, we need a much more robust ship board detachment.Will nations around the Arctic quickly resolve their different claims so that we can continue to count on mutual aid from our neighbors and the ships can go virtually unarmed or will we need to defend ourselves?Will we need to rescue ships that are themselves quite ice capable, meaning we will need a robust capability?

  26. I thought that the rotor folding capability of all the H-60s in the USCG fleet had been disabled. They are not currently deployed aboard USCG cutters, correct?

  27. I thought that the rotor folding capability of all the H-60s in the USCG fleet had been disabled. They are not currently deployed aboard USCG cutters, correct?

  28. I thought that the rotor folding capability of all the H-60s in the USCG fleet had been disabled. They are not currently deployed aboard USCG cutters, correct?

  29. An Arctic Patrol Cutter is a subject I’ve spent considerable time contemplating. Much of what has been suggested above is right on target, while other items are unrealistic. For the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, and possibly slightly farther North (and as an OPV for the Canadian CG), I think several factors must be considered.

    First off, we’re talking a combination of restricted waters (with some downright tight), with some of the nastiest weather and sea states on a common basis. The CG must operate in any of these nasty sea / weather conditions, especially to conduct rescues. For Dist. 17 operations IceBREAKER ability is unnecessary, but ability to operate in light ice is a MUST. Likewise, because of the distances involved the APC must have H-60 (or bigger) flight deck.

    I’ve actually written up a complete design idea for an 85-meter APC w/ ~80′ Flight Deck with a double-acting hull with the bow design following the Ulstein X-Bow and the stern having a traditional taper with a very small transom. I re-designed the Arctic Survey Boat so there’d be a new LRI-like design capable of handling snowy-icy conditions to conduct boardings/rescues/etc. The 57mm fits perfectly on this design. There’s plenty of room for cargo, mission packages, fisheries support, medical support, etc.

    As far as needing two H-60s, I think one is plenty, and the more-likely use of this platform could be as a mid-flight refueling stop-over to extend the range of Kodiak-based H-60s. Anybody know an e-mail at HQ I could send my idea to?

  30. Hi Chuck:

    No, the MACKINAW is not restricted to fresh water, but should not transit in warmer waters because of her Box-Cooler system. I would not build another MACKINAW for the arctic, but as stated in another similar topic, would go with a “SVALBARD” design that has standard-sized 5MW azipod drives. Russia also has a podded ice breaker-tug very simuilar to MACKINAW: “Arctic Pevek” http://www.ship-info.com/prog/skip.asp?id=K130620 She is just 4 feet longer than MACKINAW, draws about 4 feet more, but has the standard 5MW pods. Do we really want to go with another custom “one-of”? (Of course doing so would keep guys like me employed:)

    • That does looks pretty close to an Arctic Patrol Cutter to me. I did not see a max speed?

      I would think the OPC will also need about 10,000KW (13,400 HP) total.

      • I would think her top speed is 14-15 knots. As you know, its tough to combine speed and ice breaking capability – especially with a draft like that. You can tell from the picture that she is moving alot of water and must throw a decent wake. As far as I know, there are 3 standard size azipods; a small version for the rich and famous’ yachts, a medium size (5MW) and a large (Royal Carribean is a big fan of these). MACKINAW’s pods are custom-made 3.36MW “one-of’s” and have unique and challenging nuances all their own. The capabilities of these pods are astounding and this ship is a kick to drive!

      • I’m a fan of diesel-electric and hope we see it on the OPC, particularly since you can conceivably loiter on ship service generators. Also helps maintain water tight integrity.

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