To no one’s surprise MarineLog reports that Davie Shipbuilding, Lauzon, Quebec, Canada’s largest shipyard, has been selected as the third shipyard partner in Canada’s “National Shipbuilding Strategy” and will build six icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard.
Below is quoted a press release about the departure of the Polar Star for the annual McMurdo resupply mission.
I may be reading too much into this, but the paragraph regarding the Polar Security Cutter program seems to represent a change from previous pronouncements.
The Coast Guard … is seeking to increase its icebreaking fleet with six new polar security cutters in order to ensure continued national presence and access to the Polar Regions.
The same message is now on the Acquisitions Directorate Polar Security Cutter page, “The Coast Guard needs six new PSCs to ensure national year-round access to the polar regions and to provide self-rescue capability.”
The High Latitude study that the number six was based upon, said the Coast Guard needed three heavy icebreakers and three medium icebreakers. The heavy icebreaker became the Polar Security Program. Are medium icebreakers also being called Polar Security Cutters? It does not seem so. There is no mention of this second type.
There is logic to simply building only a single class. It would save the development costs of a new, second class. The cost of the PSC is less than originally estimated and with the cost potentially dropping as the shipyard continues the learning curve with each new ship, building three less capable ship may not save much. Having instead six of the more capable ships would increase flexibility, and commonality pays dividends in logistics and training. Six more capable ship could allow a Northern Hemisphere winter deployment of two ships to McMurdo, while a second pair of ships could alternate, one on patrol in the Arctic, and the other on standby in Seattle, while a third pair are in the yard for maintenance to be ready for deployment during summer months.
Of course for any mission requiring an icebreaker, a heavy icebreaker Is more likely to get there quicker and be capable of doing more than a smaller ship when it gets there.
The Press Release
Nov. 26, 2019
Nation’s only heavy icebreaker departs for Antarctic military operation
Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version.
SEATTLE — The crew aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) departed Tuesday commencing their annual deployment to Antarctica where the cutter and crew will support Operation Deep Freeze 2020, a joint military service mission to resupply U.S. interests in Antarctica.
“We set out today on an important mission, saying goodbye to the friends and families who have supported us and our ship for the past seven-months since we returned from Operation Deep Freeze 2019,” said Capt. Gregory Stanclik, commanding officer of the Polar Star. “We are looking forward to this year’s mission to McMurdo Station with a ship that is running the best it has since reactivation. This mission is critical to the United States and our continued strategic presence on the Antarctic Continent and I have the best crew possible to ensure we safely accomplish our goal.”
Homeported in Seattle, the 43-year-old Coast Guard cutter is the United States’ last remaining operational heavy icebreaker. This is the cutter’s seventh deployment in as many years to directly support the resupply of McMurdo Station – the United States’ main logistics hub in Antarctica.
Each year, the crew aboard the 399-foot, 13,000-ton Polar Star create a navigable path through seasonal and multi-year ice, sometimes as much as 21-feet thick, to allow a resupply vessel to reach McMurdo Station. The supply delivery allows Antarctic stations to stay operational year-round, including during the dark and tumultuous winter.
Commissioned in 1976, the Polar Star is showing its age. Reserved for Operation Deep Freeze each year, the Polar Star spends the winter breaking ice near Antarctica, and when the mission is complete, the cutter returns to dry dock in order to complete critical maintenance and repairs in preparation for the next Operation Deep Freeze mission.
The Coast Guard has been the sole provider of the nation’s polar icebreaking capability since 1965, and is seeking to increase its icebreaking fleet with six new polar security cutters in order to ensure continued national presence and access to the Polar Regions.
In the fiscal year 2019 budget, Congress appropriated $655 million to begin construction of a new polar security cutter this year, with another $20 million appropriated for long-lead-time materials to build a second.
The Coast Guard and U.S. Navy, working through an integrated program office, awarded VT Halter Marine Inc., a fixed price incentive contract in April for the detail design and construction of the Coast Guard’s lead polar security cutter, including options for the construction of two additional PSCs.
“The Coast Guard greatly appreciates the strong support from both the Administration and Congress for funding the polar security cutter program,” said Adm. Karl Schultz, the commandant of the Coast Guard. “These new cutters are absolutely vital to achieving our national strategic objectives in the Polar Regions – presence equals influence, and we must be present to meet the Nation’s national security and economic needs there in the future.”
There is much more detail in the VARD brochure and Wikipedia entry linked above, but a few significant data points.
- Displacement, full load: 23,500 tons
- Length overall: 150.1 m 492’-6”
- Length waterline: 137.6 m 451’-5”
- Breadth moulded 28.0 m 91’-10”
- Design draft: 10.5 m 34’-6”
- Generators: 39,600 kW 53,100 hp
- Propulsion: two 11 MW (14,751 hp) wing shafts and a 12 MW (16,092 hp) azimuth thruster. total 34 MW (45,595 hp),
- Speed: 18 knots ice free, 3.0 kn, 2.5m ice
- Range: 26,000 NM @ 12 kn ice free
- 1,800 NM @ 3.0 kn 2.2 m of ice
- 60 core crew + 40 program personnel
- Endurance 270 days
For comparison these are figures for the planned Polar Security Cutter. Projected delivery dates, 2024, 2025, 2027.
- Displacement, Full Load: 22,900 tons
- Length: 460 ft (140 meters)
- Beam: 88 ft (26.8 meters)
- HP: 45,200
- Accommodations: 186
- Endurance: 90 days
In many ways the designs are remarkably close. Looks like the Canadian breaker will be slightly larger than the PSC, but will have a much smaller crew.
Presumably there will be no provision for armament since the Canadian Coast Guard does not arm its vessels.
The Diefenbaker’s very long endurance is a bit of a surprise, in view of Canada’s lack of a requirement to go to Antarctica, a feature that has driven the design of the PSC.
Propulsion power is almost identical, a bit over 45,000 HP, and both designs include three propellers, but the way it is done is different. While the PSC has a conventional shaft on the centerline and rotatable drive units to port and starboard, the Canadian design has a single rotating drive unit on the centerline and conventional shaft driven props port and starboard. This may provide the PSC with a redundancy advantage in that it might allow steerage even if one unit is damaged. On the other hand the single Canadian unit may be less likely to be damaged because of its position.
I am a bit embarrassed to admit, I have been behind on this subject. My post from Saturday, linked the 19 September version of the report, but there was already a more recent version, dated 4 October. You can see it here.
The significant change in this edition is the addition of the new section at the top of page 15. (This new section reflects the questions Tups has raised here earlier.)
“Parent Design and PSC Design
“One potential aspect of the issue of technical, schedule, and cost risk in the PSC program relates to the parent design for the PSC design. As mentioned earlier, a key aim in using the parent design approach is to reduce cost, schedule, and technical risk in the PSC program. As also mentioned earlier, VT Halter states that its winning design for the PSC “is an evolution from the mature ‘Polar Stern II’ [German icebreaker] currently in design and construction; the team has worked rigorously to demonstrate its maturity and reliability.” As also mentioned earlier, VT Halter and ship designer Technology Associates, Inc. reportedly made “a lot of modifications” and went through six design spirals to refine the PSC’s design. Potential oversight questions for Congress include the following:
- “To what degree was Polarstern II’s design a completed and proven design at the time it was used as the parent design for developing the PSC design? How much of Polarstern II’s detail design and construction plan was completed at that time? When did Polarstern II begin construction, and when is the ship scheduled to complete construction and undergo sea trials to confirm the ship’s design and operational characteristics?
- “How closely related is the PSC’s design to Polarstern II’s design? How many changes were made to Polarstern II’s design to develop the PSC design? What were these changes, and what technical, schedule, and cost risks, if any, might arise from them?”
This vessel was discussed earlier, but now we have video of a model of the ship (done in LEGOs) along with some additional discussion. You can see this segment on the video above from time 6:22 to 7:47.
19 September, the Congressional Research Service has issued an update to its “Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (Icebreaker) Program: Background and Issues for Congress” replacing an edition published on eight days earlier. You can see the latest version here. The only significant changes I see in the latest edition is reflected in table C-1 to include future year PSC funding though FY2024 and table C-2 that provides projected Procurement, Construction and Improvements (PC&I) funding through FY2024. Notably these PC&I projections are well below the $2B annually that the Coast Guard has been saying they need.
Projected PC&I totals by FY are:
- 2020: $1,234.7M
- 2021: $1,679.8M
- 2022: $1,555.5M
- 2023: $1,698.5M
- 2024: $1,737.0M
You can track the changes made between consecutive editions here.