Nation’s sole heavy icebreaker to deploy to the Arctic this winter

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, with 75,000 horsepower and its 13,500-ton weight, is guided by its crew to break through Antarctic ice en route to the National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station, Jan. 16, 2017. The ship, which was designed more than 40 years ago, remains the world's most powerful non-nuclear icebreaker. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley

Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star file photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley

ALAMEDA, Calif. — The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB-10) will deploy to the Arctic this winter to help protect the nation’s maritime sovereignty and security in the region.

The United States is an Arctic nation, and the Coast Guard has served as the lead federal agency for homeland security, safety, and environmental stewardship in the Arctic region for more than 150 years. As the nation’s primary maritime presence in the polar regions, the Coast Guard advances U.S. national interests through a unique blend of polar operational capability, regulatory authority, and international leadership across the full spectrum of maritime governance.

In April 2019, the Coast Guard released the Arctic Strategic Outlook, which reaffirms the service’s commitment to American leadership in the region through partnership, unity of effort, and continuous innovation.

“The Arctic is no longer an emerging frontier, but is instead a region of growing national importance,” said Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area. “The Coast Guard is committed to protecting U.S. sovereignty and working with our partners to uphold a safe, secure, and rules-based Arctic.”

Typically, the Polar Star travels to Antarctica each year in support of Operation Deep Freeze, the annual military mission to resupply the United States’ Antarctic stations, in support of the National Science Foundation.

This year’s maritime resupply at McMurdo Station was cancelled due to COVID safety precautions, and a limited resupply will be conducted via aircraft. However, Operation Deep Freeze is an enduring mission that requires a heavy icebreaker for a full resupply, and the Coast Guard anticipates resuming this critical deployment next year.

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