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US Coast Guard vice commandant cites progress for cold-climate cutter programmes

Healy is one of only two operational US Coast Guard icebreakers. (Janes/Michael Fabey)

The US Coast Guard (USCG) is seeing progress for its cutter programmes for ships meant for cold-climate operations, according to Admiral Steven Poulin, USCG vice commandant.

Speaking about the proposed new Polar Security Cutter (PSC) on 28 March at the Heritage Foundation discussion on USCG programmes and operations, Adm Poulin said, “I look forward to cutting steel – hopefully very soon.”

Referring to the proposed Arctic Security Cutter (ASC) during the same discussion, Adm Poulin said recently, there have been “some preliminary conversations about what the Arctic Security Cutter may look like”.

The two ship programmes are meant to replace USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10), the country's only operational heavy icebreaker, which was 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.

The procurement of the first two PSCs is fully funded, and as noted by the US Congressional Research Service, the USCG says the first PSC is to be delivered to the service in 2026 or 2027.

“We haven't built a heavy icebreaker since the 70s,” Adm Poulin said. “It is a complicated ship. The Offshore Patrol Cutter has 17 segments. [The] Polar Security Cutter has 85. We have to be deliberate in how we build it and deploy it.”

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