US Coast Guard to Develop Digital Model of Icebreaker Polar Star

The US Coast Guard’s modest and only heavy icebreaker, the USCGC Polar Star, may soon have a digital copy. The aim of creating a computer model of the vessel is to reduce the cost of risk and damage detection to extend its service life, National Defense reported on Monday.

Canadian company Gastops will collect data on the Polar Star and create a 1:1 digital replica of the ship.

“The value is that if we find an issue, it can be fixed and resolved, and the cost is probably two orders of magnitude less than if you found it when you had equipment on the ship, and then you had to go and make physical changes,” said Shaun Horning, CEO of Gastops.

With the proposed digital model, engineers working on the Polar Star can virtually test the icebreaker’s performance during maneuvers such as turning and navigating in icy seas.

The USCGC Polar Star

The USCGC Polar Star (WAGB 10) was commissioned in 1976 along with a sister ship called the Polar Sea (WAGB 11), which has been decommissioned.

The ship is powered by three aviation-grade gas turbine engines of up to 75,000 horsepower, the most powerful engine the Coast Guard currently possesses.

The Polar Star travels to the McMurdo Station, Antarctica, every year to lead Operation Deep Freeze and break miles of ice up to 21 feet (6.4 m) thick.

Despite the ship’s age, President Joe Biden supports the icebreaker, allocating $15 million of the 2022 budget to support the life extension effort.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard is also working on building a new fleet of icebreakers, known as the Polar Security Cutters project. VT Halter Marine is working on the project under a $745.9 million contract, and delivery is expected by 2024.

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