USCG Polar Star
|Builders||Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Company, Seattle, WA|
|Operators||United States Coast Guard|
|Preceded by||USCGC Glacier|
|Succeeded by||Polar Security Cutter|
|General characteristics |
|Length||399 ft (122 m)|
|Beam||83 ft 6 in (25.45 m)|
|Height||137 ft 10 in (42 m) (from waterline)|
|Draft||31 ft (9.4 m)|
|Aviation facilities||Helipad and hangar|
Polar-class icebreakers USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10), USCGC Polar Sea (WAGB-11) are heavy icebreakers operated by the United States Coast Guard (USCG). These cutters, specifically designed for icebreaking, have reinforced hulls, special icebreaking bows, and a system that allows rapid shifting of ballast to increase the effectiveness of their icebreaking. The vessels conduct Arctic and Antarctic research and are the primary icebreakers that clear the channel into McMurdo Station for supply ships. All are homeported in Seattle, Washington.
Both Polar Star and Polar Sea are near the end of their effective lifetimes, and have spent years moored because they were in need of expensive and unbudgeted upgrades. In November 2013 four senators proposed an amendment to the 2014 Defense Appropriations Act authorizing the construction of four new Polar-class vessels, at a cost of $850 million each. The four senators sponsoring the amendment were Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, from Washington, and Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski, from Alaska. According to the Seattle Times the chances that the amendment will survive into the bill, as passed, are slim. On February 22, 2017, the U.S Coast Guard announced it had awarded five fixed-price contracts worth $20 million for the future heavy polar icebreaker design studies and analysis. The icebreakers are being replaced by 3 heavy and 3 medium icebreakers as part of the Polar icebreaker program. On May 18, 2017, Adm. Paul Zukunft said that due to changes in the Arctic, the Coast Guard may have to increase the number of the future icebreakers, and the future icebreakers may have a requirement for space, weight, and power reserved for offensive and defensive weaponry which may include an anti-ship missile package.
After a $62 million overhaul, the Coast Guard will have its third icebeaker back in service in 2013, filling a critical need as the fleet takes on new responsibilities, the commandant of the service said Wednesday.
The U.S. Coast Guard reactivated the Polar Star Friday after a four-year, $57 million overhaul at Vigor Industrial shipyard. The 34-year-old ship is to undergo testing next year before once again plying the frozen Arctic regions.
The four U.S. senators from Washington and Alaska are seeking to authorize construction of as many as four new heavy-duty icebreakers, vastly expanding the Coast Guard's beleaguered Seattle-based icebreaker fleet.
The United States currently has only two operational icebreakers, the Healy and the Polar Star. The Polar Star is currently in Seattle preparing to depart on December 3rd for Antarctica after years of extensive retrofitting.
According to the language of the amendment, the Navy will be directed to build up to four new heavy icebreakers and then transfer the ships to the U.S. Coast Guard, which takes sole responsibility for polar missions. A hefty price tag accompanies the proposal -- each icebreaker costs about $860 million, said Heather Handyside, a spokeswoman for Begich.