Keeping the Polar Sea?

The plan had been to scrap the Polar Sea (WAGB-11), but it looks like the plan may have changed. The Seattle Times is reporting that the Ship has been spared, at least for now.

“The decision was announced Friday by Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington and Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.”

“Cantwell, Begich and Murkowski say the Polar Sea’s hull is in sound condition and rebuilding the ship would be cheaper than building a new icebreaker.”


US Coast Guard Photo

26 thoughts on “Keeping the Polar Sea?

  1. This is a very interesting turn of events, especially due to the fact that it was ready to begin demolition. Please keep us updated on this Chuck, thank you

  2. If the hull is in sound condition, and the ship can be restored to an operating condition at a reasonable price, it probably is a good decision. The days of unlimited government budgets are over, and people need to recognize this.

      • The problem with the 378 FRAM is that it wasn’t properly designed or carried out. As Chuck has already pointed out, that wasn’t really a FRAM – it was a modernization of CIC and the weapons systems – they didn’t spend the money they should have in the engineering spaces.

      • I doubt very much an LM2500 would fit anywhere in a 378 engine room. Maybe if they got rid of the disels altogether? Where would you guys get an oiler to follow the cutter everywhere then?

      • And sice they screwed the pooch on it last time, what makes anyone think they will not bilge this up as well? Let’s face it the Coast Guard has shown itself the past 30 years of being unable to manage its major cutter assets or acquisitions.

      • Accounting to GE on web page. A LM2500 Marine gas turbine module wound only need (27X9X10 feet) for installation. Now I do not remember how big the module is for and Pratt & Whitney FT4 was, but I bet it about the same size. Also if the the Coast Guard leadership that you love to rage on. Did not carried out the FRAM of the Hamiltons or SLEP of the Reliances. Then all the Coast Guard would have today, would be 13 Bears cutters and one icebreaker. You seem to forget a guy name William Jefferson Clinton was president of the United States of a America in the Nineties. And he was no friend of the Coast Guard.

      • I don’t have dimensions but the first LM2500s were only a little more powerful than the orginal turbines in the 378s which were an earlier technology (based on the 707’s engines), so I would expect their physical size to be similar.

      • There was discussion of making the swap at the time. The LM2500’s output has almost doubled since it was introduced, so its intake and exhaust size would be considerably larger than an earlier installation.

      • The 87 foot WPBs have been a success and the Webber class seem to be coming in on time and on budget. The Coast Guard got some hard lessons, but it has learned a lot.

      • Wrong, wrong, wrong!!! They had Fairbanks & Morse completely rebuild and updated the main diesels. Also the main reduction gears were also rebuilt. I believed that Pratt & Whitney overhauled the FT4 gas turbines. Among other items rebuild or replace. There were also hull and superstructure upgrades performed, like the telescoped hanger. It was not just a Weapon and CIC upgrades.

      • True, they “rebuilt” and “updated” the mains, and they “overhauled” the turbines. What they should have done is replaced them. I’m not an engineer, but when the project was designed, a very senior engineer told me that the CG was taking the cheap way out when it came to the propulsion plant, and it was going to come back and bite them down the line. Given the number of main engine casualties during the last several years, I’d say that engineer was correct.

      • Or maybe it was the crew’s neglect of the plant? The Coast Guard does not have a PEB or INSURV so you cannot say for sure it was the crews or the desk jockeys can you? I would think it is probably both given there is no oversight in the Coast Guard.

      • It could be crew neglect, sure, but I’m going on what my friend, a senior CG engineer in HQ naval engineering told me back in 1991. He said that in his opinion, the CG should have replaced components they instead chose to rebuild.

      • Oversight has not meant that the Navy has been any more successful in meeting their commitments than the Coast Guard. In fact they seem to have at least as many failures if not more.

    • It is probably the only way we can get to three icebreakers any time soon. Even though the Polar Star is being repaired it will not last much past the commissioning of the planned new icebreaker which is included in the five year Capital investment plan. If the hull is in fact sound, which ought to be carefully confirmed, replacing the propulsion with something more reliable might be worthwhile. The hull design was definitely a success, but the propulsion systems on the Polar Class have been problematic since commissioning. Still re-engining Polar Sea should not be expected to add more then 10 years, so we will need a second new icebreaker as follow-on to the Polar Star replacement. If we want it ready by 2024, it would have to be funded in FY2020, just about the time the Polar Star Replacement enters service, so there would be an opportunity to apply lessons learned.

      The 378 FRAM wasn’t really about adding life to the 378s, because there were no improvements to the propulsion (unfortunately). It was about updating the weapons systems.

      Generally I think a mid life up-date is a good idea, but we should not expect a 50 year life. We should expect 30 years and regard anything more as a pleasant surprise. The 378s began to hit mid-life (15 years old) in 1982. Hamilton began her FRAM in 1985, 27 years ago. I would think the 378 FRAM would be considered a success, since they have spent more of their life in the FRAM configuration than in the original build configuration.

      • I’d have to concur that FRAM shouldn’t be viewed as “screwing the pooch”. We can always use 20/20 and say this should have been done or that but in the end after 27 years HAMILTON completed 45 years of service and didn’t miss any operational commitments over the last thre years. Her last patrol was DEC ’10-Jan ’11 in the Bering Sea. She is currently conducting operations with the Philippean Navy as DALLAS will be soon. I recall the 327′ class being in worse shape than the 378s after hitting mid forty but maybe I’m missing something here.

  3. The big question is “What is it going to take to get the Polar Sea up and running?” Is it going to be a simple overhaul of the Alco diesel engines and generators? Or is it going to be a completed rebuild of entire propulsion system? If it is the later, that is going to cost a hell a lot of money!

    • “Rebuild” may not even be applicable, think “replace.” That said, if they can piece together the funding I’m for it. Hulls are needed now, even under less than ideal circumstances this puts another back in the fleet. I only hope this does not mean the new breaker gets pushed out another 5 years.

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