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Polar Security Cutter
Heavy Polar Icebreaker [HPIB]
Future Heavy Icebreaker

Polar Security Cutter On 23 April 2019 the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy, through an Integrated Program Office (IPO), awarded VT Halter Marine a fixed price incentive (firm) contract for the Detail Design and Construction (DD&C) of the Coast Guard’s lead Polar Security Cutter (PSC). VT Halter Marine Inc., Pascagoula, Mississippi, a subsidiary of Singapore Technologies Engineering (ST Engineering), was awarded a $745,940,860 fixed-price incentive-firm contract for the detail design and construction of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Polar Security Cutter (PSC) (formerly the Heavy Polar Ice Breaker).

The ship displaces about 33,000-tons fully loaded with accommodations for 186. VT Halter Marine selected a hull based on the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research vessel Polarstern II. New Orleans design firm Technology Associates, Inc would modify the design for Coast Guard requirements. The shape of the hull pushed the broken ice aside, so it doesn’t interfere with the propulsion systems. The cutter is powered by a diesel-electric arrangement pairing three unspecified Caterpillar prime movers paired with electrical motors. The propulsors are based on a Finnish design from ABB and are used on several commercial icebreakers. The design is optimized between icebreaking and seakeeping to support the voyage from its CONUS homeport to Antarctic.

The PSC program is a multiple year Department of Homeland Security Level 1 investment and a USCG major system acquisition to acquire up to three multi-mission PSCs to recapitalize the USCG fleet of heavy icebreakers which have exhausted their design service life. The PSC’s mission will be to ensure continued access to both polar regions and support the country’s economic, commercial, maritime, and national security needs.

The initial contract included options for the construction of two additional PSCs. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $1,942,812,266. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, Mississippi (61 percent); Metairie, Louisiana (12 percent); New Orleans, Louisiana (12 percent); San Diego, California (4 percent); Mossville, Illinois (4 percent); Mobile, Alabama (2 percent); Boca Raton, Florida (2 percent); and various other locations (3 percent), and is expected to be completed by June 2024. If all options are exercised, work will continue through November 2027. Fiscal 2019 procurement, construction, and improvement (Coast Guard); and fiscal 2018 and 2017 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) in the amount of $839,224,287 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Federal Business Opportunities website, with three offers received. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity (N00024-19-C-2210).

Currently, the heavy polar icebreaker Healy is tasked with regular science research missions to the Arctic while Polar Star conducts the annual Operation Deep Freeze deployment to resupply McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Both are chartered by the National Science Foundation: Healy, to conduct arctic research, with a full research vessel-level science capability aboard; and Polar Star, to provide logistical support capability for Antarctic research.

In August 2018, Congress passed a National Defense Authorization Act that approved unprecedented funds for the construction of six new polar class icebreakers by 2029. The U.S. Coast Guard has only two -- one of which is 10 years beyond its intended use -- compared to Russia's 46. The bill also calls for an updated Arctic strategy, including regularly updated summaries of regional foreign threats posed by Russia and China, along with specific roles and missions for each branch of the U.S. military.

Polar icebreakers operate under the most inhospitable ocean conditions the world has to offer. Designed for optimum performance at low temperatures in ice fields varying from uniform plate ice to deep windrowed ridges, they also transit areas of intense heat, high winds, and extreme sea conditions. Their hull structure sees a variety of loads ranging from those thermally induced to concentrated ice Impact loads to those impossible to design for, such as grounding on uncharted rock pinnacles. The icebreaker designer must allow for extreme loads on the one hand, but must pay attention, like all naval architects, to detail design, with a view toward eliminating structural failures from more subtle causes such as elastic instability, brittle fracture, and fatigue.

The United States Coast Guard affords icebreaker support, both domestic and polar, to a variety of ship operations conducted in areas made hazardous or impassable by ice. Typical polar icebreaker missions include escort of vessels supplying outlying military or scientific stations: independent logistics support to similar outposts and ice and ocean survey operations and support in both polar regions.

The Coast Guard will need three heavy and three medium icebreakers to fulfill its statutory requirements in polar regions, primarily in the arctic, according to the "High Latitude Region Mission Analysis" commissioned by the Coast Guard. In July 2011, the Coast Guard provided the Congress the High Latitude Study, on the Coast Guard’s missions and capabilities for operations in high-latitude (i.e., polar) areas.

The study, dated July 2010 on its cover, concluded the following: “The Coast Guard requires three heavy and three medium icebreakers to fulfill its statutory missions. The Coast Guard requires six heavy and four medium icebreakers to fulfill its statutory missions and maintain the continuous presence requirements of the [2010] Naval Operations Concept. Applying non-material alternatives for crewing and homeporting reduces the overall requirement to four heavy and two medium icebreakers.” The High Latitude Study estimated the acquisition cost of the 3+3 mix to be $4.14 billion, while 6+4 would cost $6.93 billion to acquire.

The Navy Arctic Roadmap was created by Task Force Climate Change and most recently revised in 2014 to prepare the Navy to respond effectively to future contingencies, delineate the Navy’s Arctic region leadership role within the Defense Department, and articulate the Navy’s support to the National Strategy for the Arctic region.

The Coast Guard has an Arctic Strategy, released in 2013, that has a lot of overlap with its Navy counterpart. Both services have an interest in preserving freedom of the seas, projecting Arctic sovereignty, and supporting scientific research. With the Navy’s Arctic reach limited to submarines for now, these icebreakers give the United States the reach it needs at the poles with the incredibly limited shore infrastructure and hazardous conditions faced when operating in these environments.

The operational US polar icebreaking fleet currently consists of one heavy polar icebreaker, Polar Star. This important, but venerable platform will serve until 2020 but that is only the beginning of the story. The Coast Guard’s mission requirements, including marine environmental protection, dictate that the service maintain heavy icebreaking capability for the foreseeable future.

The Coast Guard began the acquisition process for a new polar icebreaker and formed an integrated program office with the Navy’s Program Executive Office Ships and Naval Sea Systems Command’s Naval Systems Engineering Office to maintain this capability by building the next generation of these unique vessels.

Polar Security Cutter [notional] FincanteriThe U.S. Coast Guard awarded five firm fixed-price contracts for Heavy Polar Icebreaker design studies and analysis 22 February 2017. The contracts were awarded to the following recipients: Bollinger Shipyards, LLC, Lockport, Louisiana; Fincantieri Marine Group, LLC, Washington, District of Columbia; General Dynamics/National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, San Diego, California; Huntington Ingalls, Inc., Pascagoula, Mississippi; and VT Halter Marine, Inc., Pascagoula, Mississippi. The combined total value of the awards is approximately $20 million.

The objective of the studies are to identify design and systems approaches to reduce acquisition cost and production timelines. In addition to a requirement to develop heavy polar icebreaker designs with expected cost and schedule figures, the contracts require: the awardees to examine major design cost drivers; approaches to address potential acquisition, technology, and production risks; and benefits associated with different types of production contract types.

The heavy polar icebreaker integrated program office, staffed by Coast Guard and U.S. Navy personnel, will use the results of the studies to refine and validate the draft heavy polar icebreaker system specifications. The use of design studies is an acquisition best practice influenced by the Navy’s acquisition experience with the Landing Craft, Utility (LCU) amphibious transport ship and T-AO(X) fleet oiler, which are being acquired under accelerated acquisition schedules.

“These contracts will provide invaluable data and insight as we seek to meet schedule and affordability objectives,” said Rear Adm. Michael Haycock, the Coast Guard’s Director of Acquisition Programs and Program Executive Officer. “Our nation has an urgent need for heavy polar icebreaking capability. We formed an integrated program office with the Navy to take advantage of their shipbuilding experience. This puts us in the best possible position to succeed in this important endeavor,” said Haycock.

“The Navy is committed to the success of the heavy icebreaker program and is working collaboratively with our Coast Guard counterparts to develop a robust acquisition strategy that drives affordability and competition, while strengthening the industrial base,” said Jay Stefany, Executive Director, Amphibious, Auxiliary and Sealift Office, Program Executive Office, Ships. “Our ability to engage early with our industry partners will be critical to delivering this capability to our nation,” said Stefany.

The studies were expected to take 12 months to complete, with study results provided incrementally during that time. The Coast Guard planne to release a draft request for proposals (RFP) for detail design and construction by the end of fiscal year 2017, followed by release of the final RFP in fiscal year 2018. The Integrated Program Office plans to award a single contract for design and construction of the lead heavy polar icebreaker in fiscal year 2019, subject to appropriations.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report on April 13, 2017, titled ‘‘Status of Coast Guard’s Heavy Polar Icebreaker Acquisition’’ (GAO–18–385R), which noted added space, weight, and power reservations for Navy equipment, such as a multi-mode radar and minor caliber weapons, were incorporated in the Department of Homeland Security-approved Operational Requirements Document for the Heavy Polar Icebreaker (HPIB) in January 2018.

The Senate Armed Services Committee was interested in better understanding the plan for Navy equipment to be incorporated on HPIBs. Accordingly, not later than December 1, 2018, the Secretary of the Navy was directed, in consultation with the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Management, to submit to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and the House of Representatives an unclassified report, which may include a classified annex, containing the following: (1) A detailed description of Navy equipment planned to be included in HPIBs, including Navy-Type, Navy- Owned equipment; (2) The estimated space, weight, power, and cost for the equipment described in paragraph (1); (3) A description of Navy equipment under consideration to be included in HPIBs; (4) The estimated space, weight, power, and cost for the equipment described in paragraph (3); (5) An explanation of the capability of the equipment listed in paragraphs (1) and (3) to assist or augment the missions of the Combatant Commanders and the execution of the Department of Defense’s 2016 Arctic Strategy; and (6) A description of how the equipment listed in paragraphs (1) and (3) will meet a modular open systems approach to allow for future mission expansion.

The Committee on Polar Icebreaker Cost Assessment of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine estimated in July 2017 that the rough order-of-magnitude (ROM) cost of the first heavy icebreaker to be $983 million. Of these all-in costs, 75 to 80 percent are shipyard design and construction costs; the remaining 20 to 25 percent cover government-incurred costs such as government-furnished equipment and government-incurred program expenses. If advantage is taken of learning and quantity discounts available through the recommended block buy contracting acquisition strategy, the average cost per heavy icebreaker is approximately $791 million, on the basis of the acquisition of four ships. The committee’s analysis of the ship size to incorporate the required components (stack-up length) suggests an overall length of 132 meters (433 feet) and a beam of 27 meters (89 feet). This is consistent with USCG concepts for the vessel.

The committee estimated that a first-of-class medium icebreaker will cost approximately $786 million. The fourth ship of the heavy icebreaker series is estimated to cost $692 million. Designing a medium-class polar icebreaker in a second shipyard would incur the estimated engineering, design, and planning costs of $126 million and would forgo learning from the first three ships; the learning curve would be restarted with the first medium design. Costs of building the fourth heavy icebreaker would be less than the costs of designing and building a first-of-class medium icebreaker.

Navy said in a press release on 04 August 2017 that "Engineers and scientists from Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division [NSWC, Maryland] are working with an international, multiagency team to define requirements for and create the US Coast Guard's (USCG) next heavy polar icebreaker". The Navy identified the organizations working on the icebreaker program in the release as the Coast Guard, US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) at NRC's St. John's, Newfoundland, ice-test facility.

The partnership with Canada on the icebreaker program is based on an a 2004 agreement for Cooperation in Science and Technology for Critical Infrastructure and Border Security, the release explained. The success of icebreaker designs will depend on rugged testing protocols.

"The heavy polar icebreakers will spend considerable time transiting in ice-free conditions, emphasizing the importance of the open-water performance," the release stressed. "Model tests at [NSWC, Maryland] will evaluate seakeeping, resistance, powering, and maneuvering performance with the ultimate goal of balancing icebreaking and open-water mobility capabilities." Testing at the NRC's location will take place in the second longest ice-tank in the world, the release noted. The 270 yard tank is capable of modelling a wide range of marine ice conditions, including first-year and multi-year ice, pack ice, ridged ice and glacial ice.

Starting in November 2016, the HPIB ship design team developed an indicative (or concept) design, which has undergone several revisions as more information became available, completing a fifth iteration in September 2017. The indicative design represents an icebreaker design that meets the threshold key performance parameter of breaking 6 feet of ice at a continuous speed of 3 knots rather than the objective parameter of 8 feet of ice at a continuous speed of 3 knots. Coast Guard officials stated that based on preliminary analysis, a design that meets the HPIB’s objective key performance parameters would be an entirely separate design and would be too costly to construct. Coast Guard officials told us that in addition to price, the shipbuilders’ HPIB proposals will be evaluated on design factors, including how much the potential design exceeds the threshold icebreaking performance parameters.

“As we move out on recapitalizing our polar icebreaker fleet, I am focused on a 6-3-1 approach,” said Adm. Karl Schultz, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. “We plan to build six icebreakers for the high-latitudes, at least three of which will be heavy, but we can’t be in the Arctic the way America needs us unless we build one now.” The 6-3-1 approach underscores the importance of protecting U.S. interests in the Arctic, but the U.S. Coast Guard will continue to lag behind countries such as Russia until that first one is built.

The integrated USCG-Navy program office plans to award a single contract for design and construction of the lead heavy polar icebreaker in 2019. The USCG Ice Breaker Program Building schedule would begin building in 2019-20. Icebreaker could enter service in 2023. Procurement of long leadtime materials (LLTM) for the three ships would start in Q4 of 2019, Q2 of 2021, and Q2 of 2022. The ships would be delivered in Q3 of 2023, Q2 of 2025, and the Q2 of 2026. Coast Guard envisions having a single US shipyard build all three ships under a contract with options, as a form of annual contracting. An alternative would be a block buy contract.

Cost estimate of the 1st heavy icebreaker is $983 million. Average cost is about $791 million for acquisition of 4 ships. Cost estimate of a first-of-class medium icebreaker is $786 million, with the 4th ship $692 million. Cost Estimate is based on a ship with integrated electric drive, 3 propellers, a combined diesel and gas (electric) propulsion plant. Icebreaking capability would be equivalent to the POLAR Class Icebreaker Polar Star and research facilities and accommodations equivalent to HEALY. Cost Estimate of Icebreakers $4,704 million for 6 ships—an average of $784 million each.

One of the losing bidders, Fincantiari, was teamed with VARD and AKER Arctic. This was a strong contender because VARD designed the Offshore Patrol Cutter, Fincantiari’s Marinette Marine built the Great Lakes icebreaker, Mackinaw, as well as several other Coast Guard progects, and AKER Arctic is a leader in icebreaker design. Siemens was planning the propulsion and L3 the C4ISR.

General Dynamics had teamed with Norwegian ship designer and manufacturer VARD for the Coast Guard's heavy Polar Icebreaker Program, the company says. GD's exhibit booth at the 2017 Sea Air Space Symposium displayed a graphic with the two companies' names and an artist's concept of a Coast Guard Icebreaker. VARD is owned by Italy's FINCANTIERI. GD says VARD is one of the premiere global designers of polar icebreakers. GD's NASSCO shipbuilding division is leading the company's effort on the icebreaker program.

Compared to the Polar Star, the new Polar Security Cutter beam is essentially the same. The length is 61 ft greater, and the draft is five feet greater. Presumably displacement will be greater than that of either Polar Star or Healy, over 20,000 tons full load. Accommodations (171) are fewer than provided on the Polar Star, but more than provided in Healey. Presumably the crew will be smaller than Polar Star, more in line with Healy. Assuming 50+ scientist and an Aviation Detachment, the crew is likely about 100. Nominal range (21,500 @ 12 knots) is less than Polar Star (28,275 @ 13 knots), but still generous. This may reflect provision of segregated ballast in the new ship. The maximum speed of 15 knots is less than either Polar Star (18 knots) or Healy (17 knots), but adequate for Coast Guard requiremens.

High Latitude Heavy Icebreaker [notional]

High Latitude Heavy Icebreaker [notional]

USCG Requirements
ABS Ice class PC2
Continuous icebreaking 6 feet at 3 knots
Backing and ramming up to 21 feet of ice
Displacement 33,000-tons fully loaded
Length 460 feet
Beam 83 feet
Draft 36 feet
Speed 15 knots
Propulsors 3
Accommodations 171-186
Range 21,500 miles at 12 knots
Endurance 80 days

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