Designing the Coast Guard’s role in the Arctic

By Cmdr. John Goshorn, Cara Condit, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin.

At the Coast Guard Academy, the axiom “Don’t think outside the box. Think like there is no box” is in full effect.

From science to engineering to the humanities, cadets are working on significant research projects that carve new paths for determining, and meeting, Coast Guard mission requirements in the Arctic.

For more than 150 years, the Coast Guard and its ancestor agencies have played a major role in Alaskan and Arctic operations. However, the definition of that role continues to evolve to address the challenges of a changing landscape.

With that evolution, the current generation of young leaders at the Academy is thinking, planning, and building with no boundaries in mind.

As the U.S. emerges from the cold of winter, two different groups of cadets at the Academy are diligently finalizing their proposals that will shape the future of Coast Guard Arctic missions.

Within the Department of Engineering, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering cadets are working on their capstone project which is to design the Coast Guard’s next medium icebreakers.

These icebreaker designs will help to respond to the changing polar landscape, which includes an increase in maritime traffic, tourism, resource development and production, and geopolitical sovereignty claims.

Another group of NA&ME students is designing a commercial equivalent of a Coast Guard icebreaker, an Arctic Offshore Supply Vessel.

Within the Center of Artic Study and Policy, cadets are focused on the strategy, funding resources and partnerships with other Arctic countries to understand where the Coast Guard needs to position itself to execute future missions.

The most visible symbol of Coast Guard continuity in the Arctic continues to be the red hull of the icebreaker.

The Coast Guard has been providing support to mariners in the Arctic region since 1892, when Lt. David Jarvis took a three-person overland relief expedition of 400 reindeer from the Revenue Cutter Bear 1,500 miles into the frozen icepack near Barrow, Alaska, to rescue a stranded group of 250 whalers.


Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering

First Class Cadets Ross Garrett, Hannah Eshleman, Bayley Olds and Joe Sagan hold their model of a scientific medium icebreaker as part of their capstone project at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., April 3, 2018.

First Class Cadets Ross Garrett, Hannah Eshleman, Bayley Olds and Joe Sagan hold their model of a scientific medium icebreaker as part of their capstone project at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., April 3, 2018.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin.

The Naval Architecture & Marine Engineering capstone project focuses on a blank-sheet ship design.

The senior capstone courses present small teams of students to the preliminary design of a ship to accomplish missions of the Coast Guard or commercial maritime industry. Students design and analyze the ship’s hull form and structure, propulsion and auxiliary systems, general arrangements, crewing, and cost studies.

More than an academic exercise, the Coast Guard relies on these studies to creatively stretch the bounds of what is possible in designs. Previous cadet studies have gone on to become baseline research for larger Coast Guard acquisitions.

“Having the Coast Guard Academy Naval Architecture & Marine Engineering cadets studying the medium icebreakers is extremely useful because it provides the Coast Guard’s design and acquisitions communities with a glimpse of how different capability trade-offs affect the design space,” said Lt. Cmdr. Anderson Ogg, a member of the Coast Guard’s Ship Design Team.

“It is also beneficial because the cadets’ lack of previous design experience provides the opportunity for novel solutions that the Ship Design and Systems Engineering Division may not have considered otherwise,” continued Ogg.

The NA&ME section tasked three of six design teams to design an icebreaker capable of operating in both the Arctic and Great Lakes.

These cadets will enter the fleet this summer as the Coast Guard is in the midst of the largest icebreaking acquisition in recent history.

The Coast Guard is currently pursuing the detailed design and construction for the acquisition of a heavy icebreaker.

A heavy icebreaker is intended to be able to operate year round in the Arctic, with the ability to winter over in substantial ice conditions, while a medium icebreaker is intended to operate seasonally in the Arctic regions.

With design guidance from the Coast Guard’s Surface Acquisition Office and the Coast Guard’s internal Ship Design Team, three exploratory design variants are being developed.

The first is a low-cost, low-risk “baseline” design. The second design is a science capable icebreaker containing science mission support not found on conceptual heavy icebreakers. The last design is required to be innovative higher-risk, with a specific focus on novel hull forms and propulsion systems.

The remaining teams are working on a commercial Arctic multipurpose support vessel.

First Class Cadets Harry Hoffman, Jordan Fonville, Alberto Enriquez Luna, and Dakota Richter give their capstone presentation, Proposal for Arctic Multi-Purpose Support Vessel, at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., April 3, 2018.

First Class Cadets Harry Hoffman, Jordan Fonville, Alberto Enriquez Luna, and Dakota Richter give their capstone presentation, Proposal for Arctic Multi-Purpose Support Vessel, at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., April 3, 2018. The cadets were practicing their presentation for a Society of Naval architects and Marine Engineers presentation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology later this month. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin.

One of the teams, the Cube Crusher Co., focused on a multi-purpose support vessel for the artic. Members of the Cube Crusher Co., First Class Cadets Harry Hoffman, Jordan Fonville, Alberto Enriquez Luna, and Dakota Richter, designed a ship capable of enduring 45 days in the Arctic and can break ice up to three feet thick.

Their design has operational capabilities with a helicopter flight deck, 100-ton capacity crane, moon pool, and azipod thrusters.

“We chose to work on a design for a commercial support vessel because we wanted to create a unique diversified platform that could adapt to all missions,” said Richter.

“We spent hours conducting research on the needs of those working in the Arctic and the design.”


Center for Arctic Study and Policy

CASP First Class Cadets Sarah Chen, Amanda Klawinski and Lindsay Wheeler pose for a photo in the Law Library at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., April 4, 2018.

CASP First Class Cadets Sarah Chen, Amanda Klawinski and Lindsay Wheeler pose for a photo in the Law Library at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., April 4, 2018. As a group they have traveled to Iceland and visited several embassies in Washington, D.C., to discuss the growing need for cooperation between countries in the Arctic. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin.

Beyond ship design, cadets are thinking different about policy development and strategic forecasting for whatever future the Arctic may see.

In 2014, the Coast Guard established the Center for Arctic Study and Policy at the Coast Guard Academy to serve as the Coast Guard’s leading Arctic policy research center and think tank.

Through a diverse network of maritime specialists, CASP collaborates on effective interdisciplinary solutions to meet the varying challenges in the polar regions.

CASP also supports advanced cadet research in the Arctic and beyond.
This year, CASP partnered with the U.S. Coast Guard Office of Emerging Policy and the Norwegian Naval Academy to introduce wargaming to the graduating Class of 2018.

Wargaming involves strategic team planning in the classroom followed by a turn-based online simulation that informs the decision-makers of real-time consequences.

Wargaming is widely practiced within the Department of Defense but not a tool currently used by senior leaders in the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard Academy 2nd Class Cadet Kyla Hughely talks to a member of the Norwegian Naval Academy over a video conference call during the Spring 2018 Arctic Wargame: Stress Testing Decisions with Scenarios event, April 5, 2018.

Coast Guard Academy 2nd Class Cadet Kyla Hughely talks to a member of the Norwegian Naval Academy over a video conference call during the Spring 2018 Arctic Wargame: Stress Testing Decisions with Scenarios event, April 5, 2018. During the event, students at both colleges worked together to respond to a mayday call from a cruise ship in the Arctic while facing scenarios such as media inquiries and worsening weather conditions. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin.

Through strategy formation, budgeting, and resource allocation, this semester-long project challenges cadets to apply their conceptual understanding of the Arctic domain in a new learning environment, and without limitations.

The Norwegian delegation visited the Coast Guard Academy in January to talk with cadets and faculty about wargaming and to gain input for software development that reflects the Coast Guard’s unique mission set.

In addition to building wargaming competence that can be informative for senior leadership, this advanced research is building foundational relationships between Arctic nations.

CASP First Class Cadets Sarah Chen, Amanda Klawinski and Lindsay Wheeler have traveled to Iceland and visited several embassies in Washington, D.C., to discuss the growing need for cooperation between countries in the Arctic.

“The Arctic is becoming important to the Coast Guard,” said Wheeler. “It has become obvious that other countries have made response to the Arctic a priority and the U.S. and the Coast Guard are moving in that direction as well.”

During warmer months, the ice in the Arctic is melting enough that not only are cruise ships able to navigate the waters, it is the first time that scientific ships are able to travel further north than ever before.

“The Arctic is unlike other areas of the world,” said Klawinski. “It is untouched militarily or economically and it is full of opportunities for cooperation with other countries.”

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