Maritime Reporter and Engineering News has a brief, four page, report on the Coast Guard’s Polar Security Cutter (PSC) (heavy icebreaker) program written by marine consultant, lawyer, and retired USCG Captain Dennis L. Bryant, Academy class of 1968.
There is not a lot new here if you have been following this website, but it is a good summary.
While it is true that, “The design of the PSC is based on that of the German polar research and supply icebreaker Polarstern II,” we now know that while Polarstern II was supposed to have been the parent design for the PSC, that project was cancelled and no contract for its construction was ever awarded.
Looking at the current plan for three heavy and three medium icebreakers, he suggests that the Coast Guard,
“…consider the alternative of three heavy polar icebreakers utilizing the current design and then have three other heavy polar icebreakers constructed on the same hull and propulsion design, but with greater emphasis on oceanographic and atmospheric research in polar waters. Utilizing the same hull and propulsion design will save time and money in the construction phase.”
Since the price has come down and should continue to do so with each successive ship, building more ships of basically the same configuration makes sense. There are already plans to provide space for science and research.
Presumably, at least the first two PSCs, and perhaps all three, will be assigned primarily to work in the Antarctic. The second class will probably work primarily in the Arctic. Operating frequently in the US EEZ, enforcing US laws and regulations, it makes sense to arm them more like other large cutters, like the NSC or OPC. In view of the apparent improvements being made to projectiles for the 57mm Mk110, a good fit might be two of these, one forward and one aft, to provide 360 defensive coverage. Using two of these weapons rather than one of 57mm and a second different weapon like the Phalanx, would minimize requirements for training and spares.
If things become confrontational in Antarctica, asI expect they will, these more heavily armed icebreakers could be used there as well.