Thanks to the Coast Guard and http://www.fiercehomelandsecurity.com, we have a summary of the”High Latitude Region Mission Analysis,” that was given to Congress last year. You can get see it in the form of a pfd here.
- The Coast Guard requires three heavy and three medium icebreakers to fulfill its statutory missions.
- Naval Operations Concept 2010 (NOC 2010) included a requirement for a year-round continuous heavy icebreaker presence in both the Arctic and Antarctic. The Coast Guard would require six heavy and four medium icebreakers to fulfill its statutory missions and maintain that continuous presence, if they are all conventionally manned and based in the US.
- Using multiple crewing and basing two heavy icebreakers in the southern hemisphere (presumably Australia or New Zealand) both statutory and NOC requirements could be met by four heavy and two medium icebreakers.
“U.S. Sen. Mark Begich says the Coast Guard is including $860 million in its five-year budget plan for a new heavy polar icebreaker.”
Even so, we probably will not see a new icebreaker before 2020. POLAR STAR commenced a major refit in May 2010 and is expected to return to service in late 2013, with a 6- to 7-year remaining service life. The Coast Guard’s only medium icebreaker, HEALY, will remain in-service until 2030. POLAR SEA is inoperative and is expected to be decommissioned this year.
So one operational icebreaker until 2013. One heavy and one medium icebreaker 2013-2019. In 2020, POLAR SEA goes away and we are still at one heavy and one medium. Any Catastrophic failure and we are back to only one icebreaker.
If we completed one heavy or medium icebreakers a year, by 2025, the Coast Guard could have the fleet required to meet our statutory responsibilities. Since we would be building OPCs concurrently, this would require a substantial increase in AC&I funding.
A final note: It is not clear from the summary what constitutes a medium icebreaker. (Maybe it is in the full report.) HEALY is identified as “medium” and the POLAR SEA is “heavy,” even if the HEALY is actually larger. Presumably “medium” is less capable, as an icebreaker, than the POLAR class but more capable than the 140 foot icebreaking tugs. Would the MACKINAW (WLBB-30) qualify? How about the 225 foot JUNIPER class WLBs? the old WIND class breakers? the Canadian Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels? One clue is that the projected price starts at $590M for a single ship and goes down to less than $560M each for four ships. That is about 69% the cost of a heavy icebreaker so presumably about 70% the displacement–larger than USCGC_Glacier
(WAGB-4). Would there really be a point in making one or two ships of a different class, if they so close in size to the Heavy icebreakers?