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.”
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)
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.
Military.com reported on the possibility of a greater Coast Guard role in South East Asia and capacity building in Africa. It probably should be noted that the title, “Coast Guard Could Send Ship to Pacific to ‘Temper Chinese Influence’,”is a bit deceptive in that the Commandant’s remark about tempering Chinese Influence was in regard to Oceania, the islands of the Central and Western Pacific. The Commandant was quoted in the Seapower post, “In the Oceania region, there are places where helping them protect their interests, tempering that Chinese influence, is absolutely essential.”