Warship Technology: July/August 2020
On 9 June 2020, President Trump issued a memorandum directing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in coordination with the Department of Defense, Department of Commerce, Department of State and Office of Management and Budget, to review required numbers of polar security cutters, US and international basing options for polar security cutters, and options for bridging a gap in polar vessels until US Coast Guard’s new polar security cutters are delivered.
The President directed the departments to report back to him by 8 August 2020 with the results of the review.
The memorandum called for an analysis of operational capabilities and of costs for heavy and medium polar security cutters not already under contract. It also tasked the agencies with examining propulsion options for new polar cutters, including nuclear power.
In the memorandum from the President, ‘Memorandum on Safeguarding US National Interests in the Arctic and Antarctic Regions,’ the President said the US ‘requires a ready, capable, and available fleet of polar security icebreakers that is operationally tested and fully deployable by fiscal year 2029.’
President Trump called for a review of requirements for a polar security icebreaking fleet acquisition programme to acquire a fleet of polar security icebreakers capable of ensuring a persistent US presence in the Arctic and Antarctic in support of national interests and in furtherance of national security and defence strategies.
The President asked the departments ‘conduct a study of the comparative operational and fiscal benefits and risks of a polar security icebreaking fleet mix that consists of at least three heavy polar-class security cutters’ (Polar Security Cutters, PSCs) and analysis of roles for a class of medium PSCs and their defensive armament and potential for nuclear-powered propulsion. He also asked for an analysis of suitable bases for polar vessels, and at the potential for leasing polar vessels.
Under the PSC programme, the US Coast Guard is already acquiring three new heavy polar icebreakers, to be followed years from now by the acquisition of up to three new medium polar icebreakers.