Polar Security Cutter program

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Class overview
Builders: VT Halter Marine
Operators: United States Coast Guard
Preceded by: Polar-class icebreaker
  • $745 million (first vessel)
  • $1.9 billion (three vessels)
In service: 2024– (planned)
Planned: 3
On order: 1
General characteristics
Displacement: 22,900 long tons (23,300 t)[note 1][1]
Length: 460 ft (140 m)
Beam: 88 ft (27 m)
Ice class: Polar Class 2[2]
Propulsion: Diesel-electric
Capacity: Berthing for 186 persons
Aviation facilities: Helipad and hangar

The Polar Security Cutter Program is the program to replace the United States Coast Guard's aging fleet of icebreakers. The current fleet of large icebreakers consists of one operational heavy icebreaker, the USCGC Polar Star, and one medium icebreaker, the USCGC Healy. Both ships are planned to be replaced by three heavy and three medium icebreakers. The new fleet of icebreakers will allow the USCG to perform missions in the Arctic such as defense operations and readiness; defending U.S. sovereignty and interests; national security activities and maritime safety; PWCS (ports, waterways, and coastal security); research; search and rescue; and logistic support and vessel escort.[3][4] The first icebreaker will be funded by the U.S. Navy.[5]


The U.S. Coast Guard established the heavy polar icebreaker acquisition program in 2012. In 2016, the Coast Guard established an integrated program office with the U.S. Navy to use the Navy's shipbuilding expertise for acquiring the icebreakers. The USCG released draft system specifications in April 2017, a draft request for proposal (RFP) in October 2017, and the RFP for advance planning and detailed design in March 2018.[6] In January 2018, Commandant Adm. Zukunft said that "in the event this world changes in the next 5, 10, even 15 years from now," the icebreakers will be designed with space, weight, and power (SWAP) reservations sufficient to weaponize the icebreakers at some point in the future.[7] In September 2018, the Coast Guard announced that the icebreakers would be called Polar Security Cutters, that they would have the designation WMSP, and that the Coast Guard wanted the icebreakers to be capable of carrying deck-mounted weapons if needed.[8] On April 23, 2019 the Coast Guard and the Navy awarded VT Halter Marine a $745M detailed design and construction contract for the Coast Guard’s lead Polar Security Cutter. The contract also includes options for the construction of two additional PSCs, and if exercised the total contract cost will be $1.9 billion, not including government-furnished equipment.[9][10]

According to a press release dated 7 May 2019 announcing the PSC contract, VT Halter Marine teamed with Technologies Associates, Inc. (TAI), in the overall design based upon the proposed German polar research vessel Polarstern II. In addition to TAI, VT Halter Marine has teamed with ABB/Trident Marine for the PSC's Azipod propulsion system, Raytheon for command and control systems integration, Caterpillar for the main engines, Jamestown Metal Marine for joiner package, and Bronswerk for the HVAC system. Also, VT Halter Marine anticipates that the lead ship will be delivered in 2024, with the second PSC in 2025, and the third in late 2027.[11] The first three PSCs will be homeported in Seattle, Washington.[12]


The polar security cutter (pictured) will have a length of 460 feet (140 m), beam of 88 feet (27 m), and have a full load displacement of 22,900 long tons (23,300 t).[note 1][1] The polar security cutter will be based off a German research vessel that will be modified to meet USCG requirements, it will have a diesel-electric propulsion system, and will have accommodations for 186 crew, scientists, and others as a part of mission packages. The polar security cutters combat system will be derived from the Aegis Combat System, and the Coast Guard has not decided on what weapons the cutters will carry.[13] The polar security cutter should be able to break through ice of 6.5 feet (2.0 m) at 3 knots (5.6 km/h; 3.5 mph), independently break through pressure ridges[14] 21 feet (6 m) thick, and be able to operate for 80 days without replenishment. The medium icebreaker should be able to break ice not less than 4.5 feet (1.4 m) thick at 3 kts and operate for 80 days without replenishment. Both icebreakers will be capable of surface defense using removable weapons and will be capable of fitting with additional sensors and weapons. The ships will be equipped with surface and air search radars, will be capable of communications with other Department of Defense, Coast Guard, NOAA, and National Science Foundation ships and aircraft.[15] The Polar Icebreakers will be built to a mix of military and commercial standards.[16] The PSC propulsion system will be a diesel-electric plant generating over 45,200 hp (33,700 kW).[11]


  1. ^ a b Previously, many sources reported a displacement of 33,000 long tons (34,000 t).


  1. ^ a b "Polar Security Cutter". VT Halter. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  2. ^ "USCG PSC Equals meaningful Polar Presence". MarineLink. 14 November 2019. Retrieved 15 November 2019.
  3. ^ "Polar Icebreaker". www.dcms.uscg.mil. United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  4. ^ "Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Program: Background and Issues for Congress" (PDF). fas.org. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  5. ^ "US Senate Bill Includes Funding for New Icebreakers". Retrieved 11 May 2018. The subcommittee then decided that the funding for one icebreaker would come entirely from the Navy’s shipbuilding account
  6. ^ "POLAR ICEBREAKER RECAPITALIZATION" (PDF). www.dcms.uscg.mil. USCG. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  7. ^ "New Icebreaker Will Have Space, Power For Weapons: Coast Guard". breakingdefense.com. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  8. ^ "Coast Guard Renames New Icebreaker Program 'Polar Security Cutter'". news.usni.org. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  9. ^ "VT Halter Marine to Build New Coast Guard Icebreaker". news.usni.org. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  10. ^ "Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (Polar Icebreaker) Program: Background and Issues for Congress" (PDF). fas.org. Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  11. ^ a b "VT Halter Marine Awarded the USCG Polar Security Cutter" (PDF). VT Halter Marine. 7 May 2019. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  12. ^ "U.S. Coast Guard Announces Homeport of Polar Security Cutter". SeaPower. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  13. ^ "VT Halter Marine Details Coast Guard Icebreaker Bid". news.usni.org. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  14. ^ Uljua, Ryan (26 January 2016). "A Closer Look at the US Coast Guard's New Icebreaker Requirements". High North News. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  15. ^ "Polar Icebreaker Operational Requirements Document" (PDF). www.dcms.uscg.mil. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  16. ^ "Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Program: Background and Issues for Congress" (PDF). fas.org. Retrieved 12 May 2018.