The August, 2021 issue of US Naval Institute Proceedings has an article, that is the first I have seen to discuss the roles that should be expected of the “Arctic Security Cutters,” the Coast Guard’s planned Medium Icebreakers.
The article is available on line. I am not sure if or for how long it will be accessible to non-members.
The thrust of the article is that these ships should not be limited to deployments in the Arctic. That they have important roles in Antarctica and might also be used for domestic icebreaking, particularly in the Great Lakes during unusually severe winters, or if the Great Lakes icebreaker Mackinaw should suffer a casualty. I have suggested something similar before. It is also likely we will have reasons to operate in the Arctic entering from the Atlantic side.
This would require a homeport on the East Coast, perhaps Newport, Boston, or Kittery, ME. It would mean the ship would have to fit through the locks from the St. Lawrence to the Lakes and between the lakes.
To qualify as a “Medium Icebreaker” in the Coast Guard lexicon, the ships would have to have propulsion motors totaling 20,000 HP or more, meaning it will be more powerful than the Canadian DeWolf class Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, like the one pictured above.
The author suggests a design evolved from the Wind class Icebreakers. These were very successful ships, but the design is about 80 years old, so we can certainly do better. Even so, the successful use of the Wind class globally shows what can be done with a design smaller than the planned Polar Security Cutters.
That the Coast Guard continues to claim a requirement for a medium icebreaker class rather than simply building more Polar Security Cutters may mean they have recognized a need for a smaller ship, perhaps one that could operate in the Lakes or in shallower water than might be accessible to the PSC.
Questions remain regarding the expectations of the class. How will it be armed, and what sensors will it be equipped with? I would anticipate an outfit similar to that of the Offshore Patrol Cutters, but that is yet to be seen. Should it be capable of operating more than a single helicopter? UASs? USVs? Space and utilities to support containerized systems? Space for a SCIF? I look forward to hearing more about this class.