The U.S. Coast Guard’s decades-old heavy icebreaker is currently undergoing sea trials off the coast of Alaska, according to a Friday report from Alaska Public Radio Network.
USCSC Polar Star (WAGB-10) left Friday for ice trials to put the ship and its crew through a training regime focused on Arctic planned to last several weeks.
Polar Star was held in a reserve status since 2006 and has been undergoing a $90 million overhaul to extend the life of the ship until the Coast Guard can fund a new icebreaker.
Polar Star was commissioned in 1976 and has been instrumental in operations at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.
“Now, we need to make sure that all our equipment is functioning correctly, that we’re still able to withstand the same amount of force and break the same amount of ice that we were back in the ’80s,” Ensign Paul Garcia said in the report.
The ship can transit through ice up to six feet ice and clear paths in ice up to 21 feet.
“We have a lot of weight up forward,” said Garcia in the report. “We kind of have a rounded hull and so we use our three main gas turbines to come up on the ice and then use that weight to come down and it smashes the ice, and that’s how we create the channels.”
The president’s fiscal 2013 budget includes $8 million for the Coast Guard to get started on a heavy icebreaker replacement to come online around when the Polar Star is again ready to retire.
The Coast Guard is poised to be the vanguard of U.S. presence in the Arctic. For the summer largely ice free months, the Coast Guard will send a National Security Cutter to patrol the region.