One of the challenges for the US Navy is that as the ships get bigger it makes it hard for them to navigate the locks in Panama, meaning they have to go around South America or through the Northwest Passage which is only possible in the summertime or when the ice is cleared. What if we could find an easier way to rapidly cut through the ice? What if we used high-energy lasers for the cutting? What if we used aerial assets to sense the thickness of the ice and choose the most optimal route, and then cut the path for the lead ship below and then followed by the convoy? Is this possible? Well it just might be.
Currently, getting through the ice is a huge challenge not to mention the problems with our dwindling fleet. The US Navy needs more ships for its fleet, so too does the US Coast Guard (USCG). We definitely need ice breaker ships. In fact the USCG Official Website states under the acquisition page;
"The Coast Guard requires at least two new heavy icebreakers to ensure continued access to both polar regions and support the country's economic, commercial, maritime and national security needs. The operational polar ice breaking fleet currently includes one 399-foot heavy icebreaker (Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, commissioned in 1976) and one 420-foot medium icebreaker (Coast Guard Cutter Healy, commissioned in 2000). These cutters are designed for open-water ice breaking and feature reinforced hulls and specially angled bows. "
These icebreaker ship assets are extremely expensive to build, so I propose another way to do this:
1.) Fly a tethered dirigible at 800 to 1500 AGL with a laser payload.
2.) The Tether is a hose which allows hydrogen (for the laser) to flow through it.
3.) The Sensors on the dirigible determine the best path (thinnest ice) using AI and routing algorithms.
4.) The lead ship would follow the path cut, and churn the ice which is severely weakened.
5.) The convoy would follow the exact path using the same strategy as flight following systems and GPS.
There was an interesting paper in Airborne Geophysics (APPGEO1182R1) titled: "Helicopter-borne measurements of sea ice thickness, using a small and lightweight, digital EM system Article Type: Special Issue: Airborne Geophysics," by Christian Haas; John Lobach; Stefan Hendricks; Lasse Rabenstein; Andreas Pfaffling. The abstract states:
"Sea ice is an important climate variable and is also an obstacle for marine operations in polar regions. We have developed a small and lightweight, digital frequency-domain electromagnetic-induction (EM) system, a so-called EM bird, dedicated for measurements of sea ice thickness. 3.5 m long and weighing only 105 kg, it can easily be shipped to remote places and can be operated from icebreakers and small helicopters. Here, we describe the technical design of the bird operating at two frequencies of f1 = 3.68 kHz and f2 = 112 kHz, and study its technical performance. On average, noise amounts to ± 8.5 ppm and ± 17.5 ppm for f1 and f2, respectively. Electrical drift amounts to 200 ppm / h and 2000 ppm / h for f1 and f2 , during the first 0.5 h of operation. It is reduced by 75% after two hours. "
Another research paper; "The Navy's high-energy laser weapon system," by Joung R. Cook and John R. Albertine, (Proc. SPIE 2988, Free-Electron Laser Challenges, 264 (May 15, 1997); doi: 10.1117 / 12.274390) notes in its abstract:
"Over the past 25 years, in an attempt to develop a speed-of- light hard-kill weapon system, the US Navy has successfully reduced megawatt-class chemical laser and high power beam control technologies to engineering practice. This Navy program was established during the cold war era when defending naval battle group was the primary concern of the US Navy. "
The high-energy laser could use power from the ship and that power could be delivered by cable – OR – the dirigible could reflect the laser and be fully contained within the lead ship. Please consider all this, yes, I have sketches and drawings and a small plan.