Category Archives: homeland security

Happy Tax Day: First LCS makes last deployment

210412-N-NN369-1046 SAN DIEGO (April 12, 2021) Littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) returns to Naval Base San Diego from her final deployment, April 12. Freedom returned after supporting Joint Interagency Task Force South’s counter illicit drug trafficking mission in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jessica Paulauskas)

Via 3rd Fleet:

SAN DIEGO (April 12, 2021) – The inaugural littoral combat ship returned from a U.S. Fourth Fleet deployment, April 12.

Littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) was deployed to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter illicit drug trafficking in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.

“The success of this deployment is a testament to the hard work and dedication of Freedom’s Sailors and our embarked detachments,” said Cmdr. Larry Repass, Freedom’s commanding officer. “Every Sailor and U.S. Coast Guardsman on this mission has lived up to Freedom’s motto of ‘Fast, Focused, Fearless,’ and they have made great contributions to maritime security in the region.”

During their deployment, the crew of Freedom and a detachment from Helicopter Sea Combat squadron 23 completed joint operations with a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment in support of counter-illicit trafficking, improving Navy-Coast Guard naval warfighting readiness and interoperability. Additionally, Freedom sailed with naval assets from both El Salvador and Guatemala, strengthening naval partnerships and improving regional readiness.

Written off by Big Navy as a beta test vessel for an increasingly troublesome class of under-armed warships not even worthy of being deemed a frigate and too expensive to upgrade, Freedom is set for decommissioning in September just shy of her 13th birthday.

In related news, it turns out these ships, designed to be inexpensive and, let’s face it, expendable, cost almost as much ($70 million per year per hull) as a full-sized guided-missile destroyer ($81 million) to operate. 

The Two Biggest Flaws in a “Ghost Gun” Ban

Unless you have been under a rock, President Biden last week took executive action to order the DOJ to come up with a rule to regulate 80-percent complete firearm frames and receivers, something that has long been pushed by anti-gun groups and progressive politicians looking to get their face on the news.

The basic problem with the “80 percent” designation is that it is a marketing gimmick just as much as the term “Ghost Gun” is, and is not a real-life thing. The ATF looks at a firearm as being 100 percent a firearm, or 100 percent not a firearm. There is no such thing under the law as being anything between, hence the ability to sell such kits through the mail with no checks or regulations– because they just are not guns.

It is too hard to come up with a realistic rule for such things.

Take an AK47 or G3 style rifle. They have a receiver made from folding a flat piece of sheet steel together and making the required cuts. Super simple tech. A guy even famously made an AK from a shovel once.

How do you regulate that?

Even ARs begin life as a plain block of aluminum that doesn’t need that many steps to mill out to a receiver– a process that is in the public domain. 

Do you ban blocks of aluminum? Only transfer said blocks after a background check?  A couple years ago, a fellow with a simple sand forge melted down 265 coke cans to make an AR receiver then built a functional rifle from it.

Then there are guns like the STEN and the like, for which a myriad of plans and parts kits are floating around, which were specifically designed to be made DIY-style with commonly available parts and simple hand tools. Have you ever heard of Harbor Freight? 

Finally, the biggest elephant in the room: criminals will still find a way to make guns. In England, after intense gun control was established, blank guns and starter pistols were converted to fire projectiles while a cottage industry sprouted up to make obsolete 19th-century ammo for relics that had not seen factory-loaded a cartridge produced since Victoria was on the throne. The answer? More gun control on Sherlock Holmes-era firearms. Sure. 

Take this specimen recently picked up by the SFPD– a town without any (legal) gun stores since 2017 and in a state with an “assault weapon” ban since 1989.

Homemade with a DIY frame, this Glock-pattern 9mm also has a selector switch on the back of the slide to make it full auto. Now such switches have been illegal without a tax stamp since 1934 and banned from new consumer production since 1986, but here one is, just floating around the Bay Area. Guess making something illegal doesn’t magically mean it will vanish and that no one would break the law to make one. 

You just can’t really regulate this stuff and expect it to have an effect on crime.

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk, stepping down off my soapbox. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. 

Ice Station Zebra, Russian 2021 Edition

As part of Russian wargames in the Arctic, three Russki submarines just surfaced from under the ice, a pretty decent show of force for the region and a nice ICE-EX for any nation.

From the Russian Ministry of Defense:

Today, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, listened via video conference call to the report of the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, on the ongoing Umka-21 complex Arctic expedition. Admiral Nikolay Evmenov reported that since March 20, 2021, in the area of ​​the Franz Josef Land archipelago, Alexandra Land island and the adjacent water area covered with continuous ice, under the leadership of the Main Command of the Navy, a comprehensive Arctic expedition “Umka-2021” is being conducted with the participation of the Russian Geographical Society … “For the first time, according to a single concept and plan, a complex of combat training, research and practical measures of various directions is being carried out in the circumpolar regions,” the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy emphasized.

During the expedition, according to Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, 43 events are envisaged, of which 35 have been completed to date, including 10 jointly with the Russian Geographical Society. All activities of the expedition are carried out as planned. The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy said that more than 600 military and civilian personnel and about 200 models of weapons, military and special equipment were involved in the expedition. All planned activities take place in harsh climatic conditions: in the area of ​​the expedition, the average temperature is minus 25-30 degrees Celsius, the thickness of the ice cover is up to 1.5 meters, the wind in gusts reaches 32 meters per second.

Admiral Nikolai Evmenov reported to Vladimir Putin that within the framework of the Arctic expedition, for the first time in the history of the Russian Navy, three nuclear submarines surfaced from under the ice in a limited area with a radius of 300 meters; flight to the polar region with refueling in the air of a pair of MiG-31 fighters with the passage of the geographic point of the North Pole; practical torpedo firing by a nuclear submarine from under the ice, followed by equipping a hole at the torpedo’s ascent point and lifting it to the surface; tactical exercise with a subdivision of the arctic motorized rifle brigade in adverse weather conditions.

“Based on the results of the measures taken, the samples of weapons, military and special equipment participating in military-technical experiments have generally confirmed their tactical and technical characteristics in conditions of high latitudes and low temperatures,” said the commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy. Admiral Nikolai Evmenov also added that the Arctic expeditions of the Navy will continue in the future.

As noted by The Drive, the three subs are all top-shelf boomers: 

[T]wo sails belonging to Delta IV class submarines, also known as Project 667BDRM Delfins. It’s possible that the third boat could be either a member of the Borei class, or the lone Borei-A class submarine presently in service, the Knyaz Vladimir. The Borei and Borei-A designs are Russia’s most advanced ballistic missile submarines.

Farewell, Munro, last of the 378s

In January 1965, USCGC Hamilton (WHEC-715) the first of the country’s 378-foot High Endurance Cutters– and the largest designed for the service up to that time– was laid down. Equipped roughly as a destroyer escort with six ASW torpedo tubes, sonar, and a 5″/38, they were also the country’s first CODAG engineering suites introduced into service.

The Hamilton-class cutters were one of the first naval vessels built with a combined diesel and gas turbine propulsion plant. “The twin screws can use 7,000 diesel shaft horsepower to make 17 knots, and a total of 36,000 gas turbine shaft horsepower to make 28 knots. The diesel engines are Fairbanks-Morse and are larger versions of a 1968 diesel locomotive design. Her Pratt-Whitney marine gas turbine engines are similar to those installed in Boeing 707 passenger jet aircraft.”

Over the years, they stood on the front line of the Cold War and saw some combat during Vietnam’s Operation Market Time providing naval gunfire support for troops ashore while busting blacked-out munition-laden trawlers poking around the littoral at night. In the 1980s, they FRAM’d with the provision to carry Harpoon AShMs while trading in the old 5-inchers for a 76mm OTO and a CIWS, then continued to soldier on.

When Hamilton struck in 2011, it started a slo-mo fuze on the 12 ships of the class that will burn out at the end of the month with the decommissioning of Kodiak-based USCGC Douglas Munro (WHEC-724), which joined the fleet in 1971– 50 years ago.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro in Kodiak, July 2018. USCG Photo/ENS Jake Marx.

From COMDT COGARD, WASHINGTON DC:

UNCLAS
ALCOAST 088/21
SSIC 4500
SUBJ: USCGC DOUGLAS MUNRO (WHEC 724) 49 YEARS OF SERVICE
1. On 31 Mar 2021, after 49 years of faithful service to
our Nation, CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO will transition to In-Commission
Special status. This status begins the decommissioning process.
Throughout the cutter’s service, CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO crews
embodied the cutter’s motto –
“Honoring the Past by Serving the Present.”
2. CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO was named in honor of Coast Guard
Signalman First Class Douglas Albert Munro, who was awarded
the Medal of Honor for acts of extraordinary heroism in World
War II. As the Officer-in-Charge of an eight-craft amphibious
landing force during the Guadalcanal Campaign, Munro bravely
used his landing craft and its .30 caliber machine gun to
shield and protect several hundred Marines who were under
heavy enemy fire. He was mortally wounded during this effort,
but his actions allowed for the Marines to be extracted by
other landing craft. Commissioned on 27 Sep 1971 as the tenth
cutter in the Hamilton Class, CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO was originally
homeported in Boston, MA but quickly moved to its Seattle, WA
homeport in 1973. CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO again shifted homeport to
Honolulu, HI in 1981 and then to Alameda, CA in 1989. CGC DOUGLAS
MUNRO made a final homeport shift to Kodiak, AK in 2007.
3. Over the course of the cutter’s distinguished career, those who
sailed aboard CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO served in a multitude of domestic
and international theaters including the Bering Sea and Gulf
of Alaska, Persian Gulf and Horn of Africa, and Southeast Asia
and Eastern Pacific Ocean.
4. CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO’s proud legacy of honorable service to
the Nation began in the early 1970s patrolling Ocean Stations
Delta, Bravo, and November, providing weather data to trans-
Pacific flights, supporting oceanographic research missions,
and performing search-and-rescue operations. CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO
also patrolled the Pacific for decades as a critical enforcer
of fisheries regulations, particularly with the international
fleets of the former Soviet Union, Korea, Indonesia, and Russia.
In 1998, CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO interdicted over 11.5 tons of cocaine
on a Mexican flagged vessel, the XOLESUIENTLE, in what remains
to this day one of the largest single drug seizures in USCG
history. The following year, CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO seized the motor
vessel WING FUNG LUNG, which was attempting to transport 259
illegal Chinese migrants to the United States. In early 2005,
at the beginning of a six-month, 37,000 mile global circumnavigation
that included support to Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING
FREEDOM, CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO diverted to render assistance to
countries affected by the devastating December 26, 2004 Indian
Ocean tsunami. CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO’s legacy was epitomized on
March 23, 2008 when the cutter and its embarked MH-65 Aviation
Detachment worked with a forward deployed Air Station Kodiak
MH-60 to recover 20 survivors of the F/V ALASKA RANGER that
sank in the Bering Sea early that morning. The Seventeenth
Coast Guard District Commander at the time of the rescue,
RADM Arthur Brooks, declared it “One of the greatest search
and rescue efforts in modern history.”
5. During the cutter’s last year of service, CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO
completed 159 days away from homeport patrolling over 23,000
nautical miles in the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, and Pacific
Ocean to enforce laws, treaties, and regulations critical to
detecting and deterring Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported
(IUU) fishing. This included an operation NORTH PACIFIC GUARD
deployment and two Alaska patrols, concluding the cutter’s long
legacy of safeguarding mariners in some of the world’s most
perilous waters.
6. The decommissioning of CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO comes 10 years
after CGC HAMILTON was the first WHEC-378 to be decommissioned
in March 2011. CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO’s decommissioning marks the
end of service for the 12-cutter HAMILTON class fleet, whose
crews proudly served the Nation for more than half a century.
The spirit of Douglas Munro will continue to live on in the
sixth National Security Cutter, CGC MUNRO (WMSL 755), the second
cutter to bear the name of the Coast Guard’s sole Medal of
Honor recipient.
7. To current and past CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO crews, Plankowners,
Shellbacks (Golden, Emerald, Horned, or otherwise), subjects
of the Golden Dragon, Blue Noses, and even Pollywogs: Well Done!
Through 49 years of service, CGC DOUGLAS MUNRO crews admirably
served the Coast Guard and the Nation. Congratulations and
Bravo Zulu!
8. ADM Karl L. Schultz, Commandant (CCG), sends.
9. Internet release is authorized.

As with all 11 of her sisters, Douglas Munro will be given a light refit and transferred to an overseas ally, namely Vietnam, which already operates the former USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-722) and is slated to receive ex-USCGC Midgett (WHEC-726) this year. The 378s are all currently still afloat and in fleet use with Bangladesh, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka in addition to the Vietnamese ships.

As for her name, that of the service’s only MOH recipient, the Coast Guard commissioned the new Pascagoula-built 418-foot National Security Cutter USCGC Munro (WMSL 755) in 2017, leading to the curious state of the service having two large cutters on its active list named for the hero at the same time. 

378-foot Hamilton-class Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro (WHEC 724) and the new 418-foot Berthoff-class USCGC Munro (WMSL 755), working together off the  Hawaiian Islands, Aug. 29, 2020. USCG Photo

Racing Stripes of the Philippine Sea

There is a good reason why so many “coast guards” around the globe have racing stripes similar to the one the U.S. Coast Guard adopted in the 1960s.

The USCG does a lot of unsung nation-building operations around the world and has done so for years. The fact is, a low-tech cutter is often a better training mesh with the navy or maritime patrol force of a small coastal nation. One of the longest relationships is with the Japan Coast Guard, which was founded in May 1948 as the Japan Maritime Safety Agency– notably six years and two months prior to the current Japan Maritime Self Defense Force.

In an ode to the past, and with eyes on the future, the huge (9,300-ton) Shikishima-class patrol vessel Akitsushima (PLH-32) of the JCG last month conducted exercises near the Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands in the Philippine Sea with the West Pac-deployed 4,600-ton Bertholf-class National Security Cutter USCGC Kimball (WMSL-756). The drills included operating “helicopters, small boats, and unmanned aerial vehicles to practice interdicting foreign vessels operating illegally inside Japanese waters.”

The two ships looked great together.

Of note, Akitsushima, while the same size as a DDG, is very lightly armed for her tonnage, carrying only two 35mm twin Oerlikons and two optically-trained 20mm Vulcans. She does have an impressive 20,000nm range and the capability to carry two large Super Puma helicopters.

Kimball is a bit better armed, roughly to the level of an old OHP-class frigate (once they lost their one-armed bandits) or to nearly the same standard as the baseline LCS with a 57mm MK110, a CIWS-1B/BL2, and six crew-served MGs as well as soft-kill countermeasures and a Slick-32. Would be a whole lot nicer if they had an ASW suite, an 8-pack of NSMs, and another of VLS ESSMs, but hey, it is still 2021.

Of note, the Ogasawaras are some 600 miles south of Tokyo and are sparsely populated, earning them the nickname of the “Galápagos of the Orient,” making them a target for illegal fishing and other activities. Naturally, military history buffs will recognize the names Chichijima and Iwo Jima in the chain.

11 Months Underway

Ships assigned to the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group sail in formation with Indian navy ships during a cooperative deployment in the Indian Ocean, July 20, 2020. Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Donald R. White, Jr. VIRIN: 200720-N-MY642-0207M

From DOD:

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is returning after operations in U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. Central Command areas of responsibility. It was the first carrier strike group to deploy under COVID-19 protocols. By the time the carrier strike group reaches home, the sailors and Marines aboard will have been gone for 321 days.

The Nimitz, the cruiser USS Princeton, and the destroyers USS Sterett and USS Ralph Johnson made up the group. 

Overall, the carrier strike group steamed more than 87,300 nautical miles during its deployment. The carrier launched 10,185 sorties totaling 23,410 flight hours logged.

I’m not sure the value of wearing out ships and crew on year-long deployments when there are no major conflicts underway, but you damned sure don’t see other fleets able/willing to pull off this type of crap, which is a statement of deterrence all its own, I suppose. 

Of note, Nimitz is our oldest active warship in fleet service– and the oldest commissioned aircraft carrier in the world–  slated to celebrate the 46th anniversary of her commissioning in May. Princeton is no spring chicken either, as the early Tico left Pascagoula for the fleet in 1989.

Lawyer Turned Lookout: The Hooligan Navy

— The 80th anniversary of the founding of the Coast Guard Reserve is this month. Of note, of the 214,000 personnel that served in the USCG during WWII, 92 percent were in the USCGR, with an additional 125,000 personnel serving in the Temporary Reserve.–

Feb 1943. Official caption: Coast Guard Auxiliary. Guardians of inland waters. The Marblehead unit of the Coast Guard Auxiliary includes among its members Bill Welch, a Boston lawyer, junior commander of the flotilla. He contributes twelve hours a week to patrol duty, during which time he assumes regular Coast Guard status as a temporary reservist.

Photo by Alfred T.Palmer, via Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress) LC-USE6-D-010130 

Welch and his flotilla were part of the so-called Hooligan Navy or Corsair Fleet, members of the volunteer Coast Guard Auxillary ordered on 4 May 1942 by Chief of Naval Operations, ADM Ernest J. King to organize into an anti-submarine patrol force officially termed the Coastal Picket Patrol.

Made up primarily of private yachts– the plan was advocated to King by the Cruising Club of America– and fishing boats, crewed by their owners, and converted for ASW use, the small craft of all sizes made regular sorties along the American coast into October 1943. Equipped and outfitted with whatever arms and uniforms the service could spare, these vessels were assigned 15-mile patrol squares extending from the beach to the 50-fathom curve.

In all, a remarkable 2,067 converted private motor and sail craft, numbered CGR1 to CGR9040 served with the patrol, with missing numbers in that range for boats that were surveyed but not taken into service.

The program peaked November 1942 with 1,873 boats in commission with the Coast Guard Reserve, a figure that slowly declined from there, dropping below 1,000 in November 1943, under 500 in April 1944, and under 100 in June 1945, with the last craft disposed of at the end of that year. 

Private “Commuter Yacht” Aphrodite built by Purdy Shipyard in May 1937, serving as CGR557 Corsair Navy. Schena notes that CGR557 was 73 feet oal, was assigned to the 3rd Naval District, taken into service April 1942, and disposed of in July 1945, at which point there were only 80 CGR vessels left on the roster. She was reportedly used as a chase and security boat for the Elco PT-boat factory in Bayonne, New Jersey, and tapped from time to time during the war to transport President Roosevelt to and from his home at Hyde Park on the Hudson River. She was originally built for Wall Street financier and later Ambassador to the Court of St. James, John Hay (Jock) Whitney of Manhasset, Long Island.

Although actual combat with U-boats was slim for the group, they did provide lots of help in so far as OPSEC was concerned as they often shielded coastwise convoys from random small boat traffic and would board vessels to seal their radios in such instances so that random commo traffic wouldn’t accidentally give away positions to those who were listening for that type of thing. 

The nicknames of the force were fitting, as the volunteers, at least in the early days of the patrol, ran the gamut from semi-reformed smugglers and rumrunners to boy scout troops and yachtsmen such as the good Mr. Welch, our trusty lookout in the first image.

There was even something of an embrace of the term, with Disney pitching in to make an unofficial insignia, that sadly was never issued to the units and men involved. 

For a good doc on the Hooligan Navy, A&E– before they were all aliens and mermaids– had an excellent show called Sea Tales and they covered the USCGA in WWII, to include interviews with veterans of the force. 

Further, a number of those classic yachts and powerboats are still around. For instance, Aphrodite/CGR-557 is still stately at age 83. 

Looks different without the haze grey and machine gun!

Sig P229, a Retrospective

Cutting edge when introduced, the Sig Sauer P229 was foisted on me in 2005 and, after we learned to get along, has grown to become a favorite.

That was the year Hurricane Katrina sucker-punched the Gulf Coast and left my then-profession with Ma Bell somewhat on the ropes. Dusting off my firearms trainer certs, I soon took a gig with a Department of Homeland Security contractor to train guards working the myriad of FEMA sites that sprang up like mushrooms. Intending this to be a temp job until I moved back into telecom, I wound up with the company for almost a decade, running courses all over the country on a variety of different contracts. Long story short, I stood on the range and watched well over 100,000 rounds of ammo burned through four pallets of Sigs in very short order.

And I still have a couple P229s from that era around today.

More of my “16 Year Journey with the Sig Sauer P229” in my column at Guns.com

Impact Tools

When I first got into LE in 1998, the standard-issue defensive “tools” on the duty belt were an S&W Model 66 in .357 (with a dump pouch and two speedloaders!) and a PR-24. Talk about TJ Hooker

Over time, the wheelgun/loaders got ditched for a semi-auto and extra mags, and the good-ole steel “prick 24” was left in the trunk in favor of an ASP collapsible baton, augmented by OC spray.

Soon, I became an impact tool instructor, so-called because the word “baton” can have negative connotations in court and– as any course in its use will tell you– it can be an amazing little widget that can serve as a lever, guide, or pry bar during crowd/riot control, resistive handcuffing or clock in for non-standard use such as in those occasions where a window has to be adjusted.

My personal tagalong for over a decade was an ASP Airweight, which weighed in at just 9-ounces and went from 8- to 21-inches when needed.

Sadly, in recent years many new officers have hit the streets lacking a “less lethal” alternative other than a Taser device, with both the ASP and OC spray today being seen as obsolete. While I never did like OC– for a myriad of reasons it is a bad idea– deleting the ASP in my humble opinion is a fundamental mistake.

Tasers are not absolutely effective/affective in many cases, and their stand-off ability can only be used once per pack, limited its capability to dry contact stuns after that. An ASP never runs out of juice and offers a lot more options than riding the lightning. Sure, the laser on a Taser provides a moment of pause that can help de-escalate a situation, but so does the “rap” of opening an ASP with a corresponding determined look on your face.

With all that being said, it was encouraging to see that the FBI recently has remained “old school” and has adopted a new model ASP for standard issue to agents.

The FBI has, appropriately, adopted a version of the ASP Agent baton

From ASP:

The FBI chose the A40 baton model, which extends to about 16” in length, and collapses—via a pushbutton release mechanism—to under 8”, for easy, discreet carry. The standard version of the A40 features two aluminum shafts and a steel striking surface, but the special variant being fielded by the agency is constructed entirely of 4140 steel, for increased striking potential. The baton also features a spring-loaded clip that facilitates carrying in a pocket or waistband, making it ideal for plainclothes use.

In a statement, ASP said, “It is a distinct honor to continue to be trusted by the men and women of the Bureau for the equipment and training they need to perform their duties and keep themselves safe.” According to the company, the FBI is one of a growing number of major federal agencies that have adopted the Agent Baton.

Aging Icebreaker Sets Polar Record

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) underway in the Chukchi Sea, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020, at about 10:30 a.m. The 44-year-old heavy icebreaker is underway for a months-long deployment to the Arctic to protect the nation’s maritime sovereignty and security throughout the region. U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Cynthia Oldham.

The country’s only heavy icebreaker, U.S Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB-10), on Christmas Day reached a record-breaking winter Arctic latitude while in the course of a grueling 30-day winter deployment to wave the flag in the increasingly crowded northern seas.

As noted by the USCG:

Polar Star‘s crew navigated beyond 72 degrees latitude shortly before noon Friday before changing course and heading south to continue their Arctic deployment.

“The crew achieved a notable milestone Christmas Day by traversing farther into the harsh, dark winter Arctic environment than any cutter crew in our service’s history,” said Capt. Bill Woitrya, the cutter’s commanding officer.

“Our ice pilots expertly navigated the Polar Star through sea ice up to four-feet thick and, in doing so, serve as pioneers to the country’s future of Arctic explorations.”

With frigid Arctic winds and air temperatures regularly well below zero, Polar Star‘s engineers work around-the-clock to keep frozen machinery equipment running and the ship’s interior spaces warm enough for the crew.

The 44-year-old icebreaker is underway to project power and support national security objectives throughout Alaskan waters and into the Arctic, including along the Maritime Boundary Line between the United States and Russia.

The Polar Star crew is also working to detect and deter illegal fishing by foreign vessels in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone and conduct Arctic training essential for developing future icebreaker operators.

The Polar Star’s record-breaking winter Arctic latitude is 72° 11′ N.

It should be noted that Polar Star, while on her regular McMurdo resupply to the Antarctic last year– a mission suspended in 2020 due to the coof– suffered a serious electrical/engineering casualty underway, so it is nice to see that she is doing better this year and is headed back home.

Of course, her crew is having to battle that age-old boogeyman of the Arctic– knocking ice off the ship that accumulated from sea spray to keep topside weight to a manageable level. 

Those who have done the task know first hand it is one of those jobs that looks fun until you do it for about two minutes. 

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