The U.S. Coast Guard released a request for information (RFI) for the polar icebreaker acquisition program which aims to boost the service’s current fleet.
The Coast Guard currently has only two operational icebreakers, the 1976-commissioned Polar Star and the younger cutter Healy, commissioned in 2000. The Polar Star is expected to remain in service through approximately 2020 to 2023 after it underwent a three-year reactivation in 2013.
Another heavy icebreaker, Polar Sea, was placed in commissioned, inactive status by the service in 2011 an the Coast Guard is evaluating options to reactivate the ship, parts from which were used to reactivate Polar Star.
The request that was issued October 26 seeks feedback on the program’s notional acquisition approach and schedule, and includes a draft statement of work for industry studies on heavy polar icebreaker technology risks, sustainability, producibility and affordability.
Following the completion of the industry studies, the Coast Guard plans to release a request for proposals for detail design and construction of a heavy polar icebreaker in fiscal year 2018. The service plans to begin production activities in 2020.
The Coast Guard said it needs at least two new heavy icebreakers to ensure access to both polar regions.