The integrated polar icebreaker program office achieved a milestone Feb. 21 when it received approval from the Department of Homeland Security to advance to the next phase of the acquisition lifecycle.
The department’s approval allows the integrated program office, which includes Navy and Coast Guard personnel, to proceed with a planned release of a request for proposal (RFP) for detail design and construction of a lead heavy polar icebreaker.
A draft RFP was released last October for the detail design and construction of one Heavy Polar Icebreaker (HPIB) with options for two additional HPIBs. The delivery target for the first new heavy polar icebreaker is 2023.
The Coast Guard requires at least three new heavy icebreakers to ensure continued access to both polar regions and support the country’s economic, commercial, maritime and national security needs.
The operational polar icebreaking fleet currently includes one 399-foot heavy icebreaker, USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10) and one 420-foot medium icebreaker, USCGC Healy (WAGB-20). USCGC Polar Star was commissioned in 1976 while USCGC Healy was commissioned in 2000.
These cutters are designed for open-water icebreaking and feature reinforced hulls and specially angled bows.
Polar Star underwent a three-year reactivation and returned to operations in late 2013. Since then, Polar Star has completed three Operation Deep Freeze deployments to resupply McMurdo Station in Antarctica. The Coast Guard expects Polar Star to remain in service through approximately 2020 to 2023.
The Coast Guard also has a second heavy icebreaker, Coast Guard Cutter Polar Sea, which was placed in commissioned, inactive status by the service in 2011. The Coast Guard is evaluating options to reactivate the ship, parts from which were used to reactivate Polar Star.