ST. JOHNS, Newfoundland —
ST. JOHNS, Newfoundland (NNS) -- Engineers and scientists from Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division are working with an international, multiagency team to define requirements for and create the U.S. Coast Guard's (USCG) next heavy polar icebreaker.
On July 26, Carderock employees joined representatives from the Coast Guard, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) at NRC's St. John's, Newfoundland, ice-test facility to discuss and showcase progress made on the testing and evaluation of design models for the icebreaker acquisition program.
"This collaboration benefits both countries as they engage in vital research and development to improve the technology of icebreaking ships," said NRC President Iain Stewart at the event. "Our knowledge of how ships and offshore structures can operate in harsh environmental conditions combined with our world-class research facilities and expertise positions Canada as a strategic partner in providing safety and efficiency to the new U.S. polar icebreakers."
This testing is the result of a partnership between these parties established in February, which was developed under the agreement between the U.S. and Canada for Cooperation in Science and Technology for Critical Infrastructure and Border Security enacted in 2004. It includes analyses of maneuverability in ice and icebreaking resistance and powering, and will be used to further inform the baseline requirements for new heavy polar icebreakers, expand current icebreaker design and operational knowledge, and support the urgent need to recapitalize U.S. heavy icebreaking capability.
"Model testing activities enable us to examine critical design elements and make informed design decisions early in the acquisition process," USCG Rear Adm. Michael Haycock, assistant commandant for acquisition and chief acquisition officer, said during remarks at the event. "The data we gather from model testing at the NRC is going to be a major driver of our heavy polar icebreaker acquisition program's success and will be critical to our efforts to effectively manage costs, mitigate risks, and maintain an accelerated program schedule."
NRC's facilities in St. John's, Newfoundland, are home to one of the world's largest ice-tank facilities, which is used to measure the performance and evaluate the safety of ice-going ships and structures in controlled model-scale conditions. This ice tank, which at 270 yards is the second-longest in the world, is capable of modeling a wide range of marine ice conditions, including first-year and multiyear ice, pack ice, ridged ice and glacial ice.
The Coast Guard currently has two polar icebreakers - the heavy icebreaker USCGC Polar Star (WAGB 10) and medium icebreaker USCGC Healy (WAGB 20) - and both have been in service fulfilling regular commitments for decades under very arduous conditions, according to Neil Meister, technical director of the polar icebreaker replacement project within the Coast Guard.
"You don't build a heavy icebreaker except once in a generation," Meister said. "These are considered national strategic assets. What we're making is essentially a steel fist that has to last for decades and be able to float, run into things, and operate at 40 below zero. These ships do a lot of crazy things that most ships don't do. The capabilities we are building into the replacement reflect that."
The Navy and Carderock are in a position to support the Coast Guard in terms of the research and development efforts that are associated with acquiring a platform with icebreaking capability, according to Stephen Minnich, a naval architect at Carderock. Scientists and engineers at Carderock and other Warfare Centers are contributing to the Coast Guard and Navy integrated program office (IPO) acquiring the icebreakers through requirements development, engineering support, and research and development activities. Engineers from Carderock have also participated in the ice testing at NRC.
NRC has widely validated expertise in recreating the material properties of sea ice at model scale, which is crucial to the evaluation of vessel and structure performance in ice conditions, and Minnich said this testing has demonstrated the value that a unique facility such as NRC can offer to support the icebreaker acquisition program.
"Modeling capabilities such as the breakout of a beset vessel is a complex phenomenon that is challenging to predict numerically," Minnich said. "The powering requirement for the icebreaking mission is an important design and cost driver that ice testing helps to predict. In addition to helping the IPO understand the design trade space, access to this type of facility and expertise through this collaboration is an incredible learning opportunity for our scientists and engineers."
DHS Under Secretary (Acting) for S&T William N. Bryan agreed, calling the tests a wonderful example of international and cross-component collaboration.
"Supporting the operational mission of DHS is why S&T exists," Bryan said during the event. "In this case, I am particularly proud that S&T is able to work with our neighbors to the north and bring their expertise to bear on supporting the mission of the Coast Guard."
The current round of ice-testing activities formally began in April and is scheduled to conclude in August. Once completed, the Coast Guard and Navy will conduct complementary model testing to evaluate the performance in open water at Carderock's West Bethesda, Maryland, headquarters beginning in September. The heavy polar icebreakers will spend considerable time transiting in ice-free conditions, emphasizing the importance of the open-water performance. Model tests at Carderock will evaluate seakeeping, resistance, powering, and maneuvering performance with the ultimate goal of balancing icebreaking and open-water mobility capabilities.
"The focus of testing will soon shift in our direction," Minnich said. "NRC set the bar high supporting the IPO with the ice testing and our test teams will strive to maintain that level of support as we execute the planned test campaign at Carderock."