“Renew the Coast Guard Greenland Patrol” –USNI

Orthographic projection of Greenland. Credit Connormah via Wikipedia

The US Naval Institute blog has a proposal from Ensign Philip Kiley, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve that the Coast Guard reestablish a “Greenland Patrol.” This seems to have been prompted by the recent deployments of WMECs Tahoma and Campbell to participate in Canadian sponsored Exercise Nanook.

I agree Greenland is strategically important. I also believe that if we build three heavy and three medium icebreakers, we will have one or two of the medium icebreakers on the Atlantic side, maybe all three. Its just that a Greenland Patrol, as discussed, is not an adequate rationale. At least, the thesis is not adequately developed to support the proposal.

What would the Coast Guard do that the Danes are not already doing?

Thetis-class ocean patrol vessel belonging to the Royal Danish Navy. Source: konflikty.pl, Author: Łukasz Golowanow

The Danish Navy already does a “Greenland Patrol” and they may be better equipped to do it than the US Coast Guard. They certainly have more reason to be there. The have seven ice-strengthened patrol ships, four ships of the 368 foot Thetis class and three of the 236 foot Knud Rasmussen class.

P570 Knud Rasmussen. The first of the Danish Navy Knud Rasmussen-class ocean patrol crafts. Commisioned in 2008. Photo from Flemming Sørensen

The US Coast Guard currently has no ice-strengthened patrol ships, and has no plans to build any, unless we consider the proposed medium icebreakers, aka “Arctic Security Cutter.”

When US Coast Guard was doing the Greenland Patrol in WWII, it included ice-strengthened ships with significant armaments, including ultimately Wind class icebreakers with four 5″ guns. The Danish ships are armed with 76mm guns and the ability to add StanFlex modules that might include surface to surface and surface to air missiles.

If the “Arctic Security Cutters” could fit through the St. Lawrence Seaway, they could break ice in the Great Lakes in the winter and support DOD construction in the Arctic during the Summer. Presumably, when the High Latitude study determined that the Coast Guard needed three heavy and three medium icebreakers they had enough missions planned to justify their construction without adding a Greenland patrol.

On the other hand, its entirely possible we still have much to learn from the Danes.

4 thoughts on ““Renew the Coast Guard Greenland Patrol” –USNI

  1. might want to add that our asw capabilities are pretty much non-existent. and as i have been reading aren’t we worried about russian subs coming down through the giuk gap? supposedly? what will cutters be doing besides training and counting iceburgs?

  2. It’s an interesting idea, but like you said Chuck, the Danes are doing a fine job of patrolling that region, and have much higher motivation than we would to expend those types of resources in the area.
    As far as making trips to the region, would it make sense to have some of our upcoming new icebreakers do resupply missions to Thule Air Base as a part of Pacer Goose? That’s really the only reason I could see for sending cutters to Greenland.

    • I have never heard that there was a problem keeping Thule Air Base supplied, so I presume we have an existing workable solution.

      What I do see is maybe a requirement to add defense infrastructure in the far north of Canada. e.g. replace the DEW line. Maybe the Canadians have sufficient resources to support that, maybe not. May not be required anyway with changes in technology. New over the horizon radars may obviate the need.

      The nation and the rust belt would benefit from year round icebreaking in the Great Lakes and assuming they could exit the lakes those breakers could meet any needs in the Arctic summer.

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