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GAO cites schedule uncertainty for USCG Polar Security Cutter programme

USCGC Healy is one of the service's two operational icebreakers as the service faces delay in building new ships for polar missions. (Janes/Michael Fabey)

The expected delivery date of the lead ship US Coast Guard (USCG) Polar Security Cutter (PSC) appears to be unknown, according to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“Contract delivery date for the lead ship is May 2025, which is one year later than initially planned,” the GAO noted in a 20 April report on acquisitions made by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is the parent department for the USCG.

“However, officials stated that May 2025 is no longer realistic because of challenges such as Covid-19 effects and the shipbuilder's inexperience with large government acquisitions,” the GAO reported. “The programme does not have enough information to determine and assess a new delivery date.”

The PSC programme is intended to assist the USCG in maintaining access to Arctic and Antarctic polar regions. The service requires its PSCs to conduct multiple missions, including ice operations, defence readiness, marine environmental protection, and search and rescue.

The PSC and the Arctic Security Cutter (ASC) programmes are meant to replace US Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Polar Star (WAGB-10), the country's only operational heavy icebreaker, commissioned in 1976, and USCGC Healy (WAGB-20), the country's only operational medium icebreaker, commissioned in 1999. Healy is the largest and most technologically advanced US icebreaker and the USCG's largest vessel.

The USCG icebreaker acquisition programmes seek to acquire three PSCs classified as heavy polar icebreakers, to be followed, years from now, by the acquisition of up to three new ASCs classified as medium polar icebreakers.

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