The Coast Guard hopes to have its first three heavy icebreakers fielded by 2027 or 2028 to replace the one icebreaker that is increasingly struggling to make it to Antarctica and back each year and to increase U.S. presence in the high latitudes, the commandant said today.
U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said this morning that the icebreaker program – a planned three heavy icebreakers dubbed the Polar Security Cutter and three medium icebreakers – was more capital-intensive than most Coast Guard acquisition efforts, but “right now my sense is we enjoy support from the administration, we enjoy bipartisan, bicameral support” in Congress, he said while speaking on a service chiefs panel at the Navy League’s annual Sea Air Space conference.
After awarding a $745 million contract to VT Halter on April 23, “we’re off to the races” on buying the first ship. This first ship is supposed to deliver to the Coast Guard in 2023. Still, Schultz noted, the Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal only contains $35 million for the program as a bridge, to keep the acquisition office and construction yard humming until “a big tranche of money” is ideally awarded in FY 2021 to buy the second ship of the class.