Thursday, August 27, 2020

The U.S. Has NO Icebreakers It Can Deploy To The Arctic This Year

What the actual hell.
Congress and the Obama administration should have ordered six heavies ten years ago.
This is  dereliction of their single most important function, national defense, and borderline suicidal.
From Breaking Defense, August 26:

No US Icebreakers Working As USCGC Healy Limps Home 
With one icebreaker down, the US has one left in port -- with no new ships scheduled to arrive for years.
The Coast Guard has lost its only deployed icebreaker after one of the ship’s main motors caught fire on August 18, an incident only reported by the service on Tuesday.
The USCGC Healy had just picked up a group of 11 scientists in Seward, Alaska to run experiments on ice flow patterns in the Arctic when the blaze struck. The ship is now sailing back home under its own power. It should arrive by Aug. 31, the Coast Guard confirms to Breaking Defense. As a result of the incident, the Coast Guard has canceled all Arctic operations at sea.

The Healy blaze means the US has no operational icebreakers capable of deploying, as the heavy icebreaker Polar Star just wrapped up a scheduled overhaul to prepare for a planned annual deployment to Antarctica in November. The Polar Star is currently in port in Seattle preparing for Operation Deep Freeze, which leads the breakout of McMurdo Sound to allow resupply of the McMurdo Station at Antarctica, the Coast Guard’s Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Brickey told me in an email. 

The medium cutter Healy, built in the 1980s, and the heavy breaker Polar Star, constructed in the 1970s, are both increasingly at risk for mechanical accidents as they age, and “taking one out of service (even temporarily) forces the U.S. to choose which polar region it will serve,” said Heather Conley, senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic and director of the Europe Program at CSIS.

“Heaven help us if both icebreakers have mechanical failures at the same time,” Conley said. “The U.S. urgently needs interim icebreaking capabilities (both heavy and medium-strength) until the newly constructed polar security cutters become available.”....

Last year the Polar Star was in such bad shape that our headlines didn't even convey the seriousness of the situation:

March 13, 2019
An Account of The Voyage Of The Icebreaker USCG Polar Star (It's bad)
March 4, 2019
FIRE IN ANTARCTIC OCEAN Aboard U.S.Coast Guard’s Last Heavy Icebreaker
The introductions to our two most recent posts on the Polar Star began with "This is just sad".
It is now beyond sad and is stupidly dangerous to use this ship any longer.

January 24, 2019
The Only U.S. Heavy Icebreaker Suffers MULTIPLE Mechanical Problems On Voyage To Antarctica
Dec. 14, 2018
"US Coast Guard Turns Down Arctic Exercise Because 40-year-old Icebreaker Might Break Down And Would Require Russian Help"

April 2019 
The United States Has Finally Ordered ONE New Icebreaker

And now I'm going to have to re-write our traditional Christmas story of Captain Healy and the reindeer:

Uh Oh: Santa May Have a Big Problem
Specifically Federal law.
How's "CFR › Title 25 › Chapter I › Subchapter J › Part 243 › Section 243.4" grab ya, Mr. bowl full of jelly belly?
Originally posted for Christmas 2017:

The introduction of reindeer from Russia to Alaska was quite a big deal at the time and a project of one of the most amazing sailors in the history of the northern seas, Captain Michael Healy of the predecessor to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Revenue Cutter Service.

For 20 years Healy was the law from Seattle to Point Barrow and in what was to become the state of Alaska  and the fact he was born a slave and rose to become the first black Captain in the service of the U.S. government was just a small part of his story.

The University of Alaska-Fairbanks has a short history of his and Rev. Sheldon Jackson's efforts to supply Alaskan Natives with a source of food, leather, income etc. when the northern whales and sea-lions were hunted to near extinction.
The largest and most advanced U.S. Coast Guard ship, the icebreaker Healy was named for the Captain and like its namesake is pretty tough.

A couple years ago it became the first U.S. surface ship to break its way to the North Pole:...