Polar Security Cutter Contract Awarded to Update Nation’s Arctic Capabilities
Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN
April 24, 2019
In February, Congress passed a funding bill that was signed into law which included a total of $675 million for the Polar Security Cutter program - $655 million to fully fund the first Polar Security Cutter and $20 million for long lead time materials for a second Polar Security Cutter, quoting a news release from the Alaska Delegation.
“This is an important and significant step towards an operational Polar Security Cutter to help meet our nation’s needs in the Arctic,” said Senator Murkowski. “As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have worked tirelessly to fully fund a polar icebreaker fleet and will continue to support the Coast Guard to make a U.S. polar capable fleet a reality. The U.S. cannot stand on the sidelines as other Arctic and non-Arctic nations continue to expand their icebreaker fleets and with it, their Arctic presence.”
“The United States cannot realize the potential of the Arctic—both for our national security and for the people who live there—without the technology necessary to protect our national interests in the far north,” said Senator Sullivan.“Today, the Coast Guard has taken another vital step toward securing our country’s place in this strategically-significant region with a contract award for a new polar security cutter. I appreciate Admiral Schultz for recognizing the importance of placing new Coast Guard assets and infrastructure in Alaska, and for working with Alaska’s congressional delegation to finally advance the planning, acquisition and build-out of America’s first new polar icebreaker in a generation.”
“As a longtime advocate for Arctic domain awareness, I am pleased to see the United States Navy and Coast Guard award this new Polar Security Cutter contract. This award is a major step toward finally recapitalizing our aging Polar Security Cutter fleet,” said Congressman Young. “Alaska plays a unique role in our national defense posture, and as interests in the Arctic continue to grow, our Polar Security Cutters will be vital assets for promoting safety and security for those in Alaska, the United States, and our allies across the globe.
The Coast Guard is the sole provider and operator of U.S. polar icebreakers. With only two operational icebreakers - the 20-year old medium icebreaker HEALY and the 43-year old heavy icebreaker POLAR STAR which only operates in the Antarctic - the nation's fleet does not currently have the capability or capacity necessary to assure access in the high latitudes. Because of this, the Coast Guard is unable to proactively manage risks in the Arctic maritime domain. The Coast Guard has previously announced it’s seeking a total of six new icebreakers, three heavy and three medium, to carry out its mission.
Quoting a news release from Naval Sea Systems Command, the U.S. Coast Guard is the nation’s lead agency responsible for providing assured surface access in the polar regions. This contract award supports the United States’ ability to recapitalize heavy polar icebreaker capabilities that are vital to our nation’s ability to conduct national missions, respond to critical events, and project presence in the polar regions.
The initial award is valued at $745.9 million and supports non-recurring engineering and detail design of the PSC class as well as procurement of long lead-time materials and construction of the first ship according to Naval Sea Systems Command. The contract also includes options for the construction of two additional Polar Security Cutters (PSC). If all options are exercised, the total contract value is $1.9 billion. Polar Security Cutters will support a wide range of Coast Guard missions including search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, environmental response, and national defense missions.
“Against the backdrop of great power competition, the Polar Security Cutter is key to our nation’s presence in the polar regions,” said Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant of the Coast Guard. “With the strong support of both the Trump Administration and the United States Congress, this contract award marks an important step towards building the nation's full complement of six polar icebreakers to meet the unique mission demands that have emerged from increased commerce, tourism, research, and international activities in the Arctic and Antarctic.”
Construction on the first PSC is planned to begin in 2021 with delivery planned for 2024; however, the contract includes financial incentives for earlier delivery.
If the options in the contract are exercised, the second and third vessels are expected to be delivered in 2025 and 2027 respectively. The vessels are 460 feet in length with a beam of 88 feet overall and a full load displacement of about 33,000 long tons at delivery.
The acquisition of Polar Security Cutters is being jointly managed across the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard through an IPO that leverages the expertise and utilizes best practices across each enterprise to deliver a fleet of highly capable, multi-mission ships in the most cost-efficient and timely manner possible. Naval Sea Systems Command is the lead contracting authority.
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