“JUST IN: No Room to Accelerate Icebreaker Program, Coast Guard Chief Says” –National Defense

Photo of a model of Halter Marine’s Polar Security Cutter seen at Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exhibition have surfaced. Photo credit Chris Cavas.

National Defense reports,

“The commandant of the Coast Guard dashed hopes Jan. 12 that a much needed new icebreaker will be delivered any sooner than 2025.”

The projected delivery has already slipped a year to May 2025, but the Commandant’s remarks did not sound confident that there will be no further delays.

“The goal right now would be to continue to work with the Navy integrated project office, continue to work with the shipbuilder, finish up the complex detail design [work] and start cutting steel here in ’22,” Schultz said. “If we stay on that track line … I am guardedly optimistic we will take delivery of that ship in ‘25 and be off to the races.”

We are putting a lot on the crew of Polar Sea. They have been having extended yard periods away from home port every year. So far, they have met repeated challenges to keep the old girl running, but we cannot really expect our luck to hold.

“Naval shipyard Tandanor to build new icebreaker for Argentina” –Navy Recognition

Artist rendering of the future icebreaker for Argentinian Navy (Picture source: Argentinian MoD)

Navy Recognition reports, state owned “Tandanor Naval Shipyard will proceed to the construction of a polar ship for the Argentinian Navy.”

“The new polar ship will have a length of 131,5 m, a beam of 23,6 m, and could reach a top speed of 16 knots.”

That is 431’4″ long and 77’5″ of beam.

Argentina is moving to strengthen their claim on territory in Antarctica.

In 2015 they completed repairs on their only icebreaker which had suffered a serious fire in 2007.

In 2019 Argentina contracted for four Offshore Patrol Vessels, three of which were to be ice-strengthened. Two of the ice-strengthened OPVs have already been delivered and the third should be delivered this year.

Argentina’s claim on Antarctica overlaps those of the UK and Chile.

 

“U.S. Coast Guard cutter completes North American circumnavigation” –The Watch

The NORTHCOM website, “The Watch” reports on USCGC Healy’s circumnavigation of North America.

There is a related story at MyCG about Polar Regions Technology Evaluation (PRTE), “Coast Guard research aimed at improving performance at high latitudes.” It includes some information about what Polar Star is doing.

Polar Star to Depart for Antarctica Saturday, Nov. 13 –News Release

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea near a large group of seals as the ship’s crew creates a navigation channel for supply ships, January 16, 2017. The resupply channel is an essential part of the yearly delivery of essential supplies to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station.US Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley

united states coast guard

Media Advisory U.S. Coast Guard 13th District Pacific Northwest

MEDIA ADVISORY: America’s only heavy icebreaker departs Seattle homeport Saturday; bound for Antarctica

Nation's only heavy icebreaker reaches fast ice of Antarctica

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version.

Who: U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB-10) with crew and numerous scientists

What: Departing Seattle, en route to Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze

When: Departing 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021

Where: U.S. Coast Guard Base Seattle

SEATTLE — The United States’ only heavy icebreaker, Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB-10), is scheduled to depart its homeport in Seattle Saturday.

This annual journey to Antarctica is conducted in support of Operation Deep Freeze, a joint military service mission to resupply the United States Antarctic stations of the National Science Foundation, the lead agency for the United States Antarctic Program.

The women and men aboard the Polar Star conduct this essential mission to create a navigable path through ice as thick as 21 feet, to allow refuel and resupply ships to reach McMurdo Station, the largest Antarctic station and the logistics hub of the U.S. Antarctic Program.

The U.S. Coast Guard is recapitalizing its polar icebreaker fleet to ensure access to the Polar Regions, project U.S. sovereignty, and to protect the country’s economic, environmental and national security interests. To support this endeavor, the U.S. Coast Guard is exploring options to expand Base Seattle infrastructure to support the growing icebreaker fleet.

Media are encouraged to contact Coast Guard public affairs at 206-251-3237 to arrange an escort at Base Seattle to attend the ship’s departure. The commanding officer of the Polar Star, Capt. Willaim Woityra, may be available for virtual interview on Friday morning and in-person at 11 a.m. Saturday prior to the 1 p.m. departure.

“GA-ASI Flies MQ-9 in the Canadian Arctic” –Seapower

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ MQ-9A “Big Wing” UAS flew in the hostile climate of the Canadian Arctic. GA-ASI

The Navy League’s Seapower website reports,

 In a flight that originated from its Flight Test and Training Center (FTTC) near Grand Forks, North Dakota, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) flew a company-owned MQ-9A “Big Wing” configured unmanned aircraft system north through Canadian airspace past the 78th parallel, the company said in a Sept. 10 release.

A traditional limitation of long-endurance UAS has been their inability to operate at extreme northern (and southern) latitudes, as many legacy SATCOM datalinks can become less reliable above the Arctic (or below the Antarctic) Circle – approximately 66 degrees north. At those latitudes, the low-look angle to geostationary Ku-band satellites begins to compromise the link. GA-ASI has demonstrated a new capability for effective ISR operations by performing a loiter at 78.31° North, using Inmarsat’s L-band Airborne ISR Service (LAISR).

The 78th parallel lies more than 1200 nautical miles North of Kodiak. Getting any kind of air recon that far north, other than perhaps icebreaker based helicopters, has always been difficult.

Even our icebreakers have difficulty communicating. Satellite coverage at these high latitudes is spotty at best.

The ability to operate UAS in this environment could substantially improve our Polar Domain Awareness and serve as a communications relay for multiunit operations in the Arctic or Antarctic.

The high altitude capability of these aircraft also provides a far larger view than would be possible from a helicopters. The horizon distance from 45,000 feet is about 250 nautical miles.

“SOLVING COMMUNICATIONS GAPS IN THE ARCTIC WITH BALLOONS” –CIMSEC

A NASA long duration balloon is prepared for launch on Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf near McMurdo Station in 2004. (NASA photo)

CIMSEC provides a discussion of the possibility of using high altitude balloons as communications links in the Arctic.

Even if balloons are not the answer, the article at least does an excellent job of outlining the difficulties of communicating in the Arctic (or Antarctic).

“SEA CONTROL 219 – USCG COMMANDANT ADMIRAL KARL SCHULTZ” –CIMSEC

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz visits with Coast Guard crews stationed in New York City. U.S. Coast Guard photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco.

(I meant to cover this earlier, but perhaps still worth a listen)

CIMSEC’s Podcast “SEA Control,” had an interview with the Commandant, Dec. 27, 2020. You can find it here.

At first I thought I had heard it all before, but toward the end, there were some surprises.

He talked about  Arctic, Antarctic, and IUU. He talked about the Arctic Strategic Outlook and the IUU Strategic Outlook.

Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated fishing got a lot of attention. He related that it was gaining visibility and had become a national security issue since overfishing has created food security issues for many countries. He pointed to Coast Guard Cooperation with Ecuador in monitoring a fishing fleet off the Galapagos Islands. Internationally he sees a coordination role for the USCG.

Relative to the Arctic he mentioned the possibility of basing icebreakers in the Atlantic and the need for better communications.

He talked about the Tri-Service Strategy and the Coast Guards roles in it, particularly in less than lethal competition.

More novel topics started about minute 38 beginning with Unmanned systems. He talked about the recent CG experiments with unmanned systems and went on to note that the CG will also regulated Unmanned commercial vessel systems.

About minute 41 he talked about the Coast Guard’s role in countering UAS in the Arabian Gulf. He added that we have a lead role in DHS in counter UAS. “We are in the thick of that”

GA-ASI Concludes Successful Series of MQ-9 Demonstrations in Greece

He said the service was looking at MQ-9 maritime “Guardian” (minute 45)

When ask about reintroducing an ASW capability he said that while the Coast Guard was looking at it, the service would have to be cautious about biting off too much. (My suggestion of how the CG could have an ASW mission with minimal impact on its peacetime structure.)

He talked about balancing local and distant missions and concluded that the CG could do both (47), and that the Coast Guard was becoming truly globally deployable (48).

He noted that the first two FRCs for PATFORSWA would transit to Bahrain in Spring, followed by two more in the Fall, and two more in 2022. (49)

He noted technology is making SAR more efficient. “Hopefully we will put ourselves out of the Search and Rescue business.” 50

He talked about the benefits of “white hull diplomacy.” (52)

Asked about our funding for new missions he said it was sometime necessary to demonstrate the value of the mission first, then seek funding. (55)

He also talked about raising the bar on maintenance.

“Coast Guard Icebreaker Polar Star Bound for the Arctic in December” –USNI

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea near a large group of seals as the ship’s crew creates a navigation channel for supply ships, January 16, 2017. The resupply channel is an essential part of the yearly delivery of essential supplies to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station.US Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley

US Naval Institute News Service reports Polar Star will deploy to the Arctic in December. We knew this was coming, but we have been short of details of when and for how long. This at least indicates it will begin in December. (I will speculate, she will be gone about three months, returning in March to provide a little inport time before going into the yard.)

There seem to be a couple of errors in the story.

“For the first time in almost five decades, the Coast Guard’s heavy icebreaker won’t be supporting Antarctic scientific missions in coming months…”

Coast Guard heavy icebreaker support has not been continuous over that period, at least once, and I believe more than once, the McMurdo break-in was done by non-Coast Guard icebreakers, either contracted foreign icebreakers or the National Science Foundation’s own smaller icebreaker.

“This would be the first Coast Guard operation in the Arctic Ocean since August 1994 when a now-deactivated heavy icebreaker with a Canadian Coast Guard heavy icebreaker reached the North Pole.”

This seems to be missing a qualifier. The Coast Guard has certainly operated in the Arctic since August 1994. There is better information on Polar class operations in the Arctic here, in a Military.com report.

“It will be the first deployment of a U.S. Polar-class icebreaker to the Arctic on a non-science mission (emphasis applied–Chuck) since August 1994, when the heavy icebreaker Polar Sea, now inactive, became one of the first two American surface ships to reach the North Pole.

“In 1998, Polar Star spent three months in the region on a science mission. And in 2009, the Polar Sea conducted a three-month Arctic deployment, also dedicated solely to science.”