ARCTIC NATION: Russian Migs vs. U.S. Drone; A Dedicated U.S. Arctic Fleet? Marines End Year-Round Norway Presence; Canadian Ice Shelf Goes

August 13, 2020 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

Defense & Homeland Security.

Russia Says it Intercepted U.S. Arctic Drone.

Russia’s military claims three MiG-31s fighter jets intercepted a large U.S. drone over the Chukchi Sea — part of the Arctic Ocean — on August 11, according to Air Force magazine.

Air Force, Navy join in RPV training

An RQ-4 Global Hawk soars through the sky to record intelligence, surveillence and reconnaissance data.  (Courtesy photo)

The remotely piloted aircraft — a Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Global Hawk — remained in international territory and the MiGs, from the air defense forces of the Eastern Military District, returned to their bases when the U.S. drone changed directions without crossing into Russian airspace, according to state-run media, which also stated “the operation was performed in accordance with international law.”

The move comes just three weeks after the U.S. Air Force released its first-ever Arctic strategy, which acknowledges Russia’s efforts to militarize the region. Interactions between U.S. and Russian aircraft are also on the increase, raising the potential for dangerous miscalculations, Air Force magazine noted. North American Aerospace Defense Command aircraft have intercepted Russian aircraft at least 10 times this year just off the coast of Alaska, with six of those intercepts taking place in June.

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Does U.S. Need a Dedicated Arctic Fleet?

U.S. interests in the Arctic Ocean might be better served by creating a dedicated fleet for the region, rather that dividing it up between the U.S. 2nd, 3rd and 6th Fleets, according to a Navy Arctic expert.

The Navy is “facing a time/space/force problem in the Arctic,” with too many other challenges around the world, says Dr. Walter Berbrick — associate professor at the Naval War College and director of its Arctic Studies Group. He says the shrinking ice coverage in the Arctic Ocean is drawing nations looking to reduce maritime transit time from one continent to another. Maritime commerce is expected to double over the next 20 years, Seapower magazine reported.

arctic-ocean-map

In the meantime, Russia is increasing its military presence in the Arctic — modernizing old air bases, installing air-defense missile batteries, increasing submarine activity and building polar icebreakers armed with cruise missiles.

China wants to use Arctic sea routes to gain access to ports in northern Europe for commercial reasons. But China is also increasing naval deployments away from home waters, says Berbrick, and it could extend them, eventually, to the Arctic — including by Chinese subs making transits to the North Pole.

By comparison. the U.S. Navy would need days or weeks to respond to a crisis in the Arctic, Berbrick says. With  responsibilities in the region divided among three different numbered fleets, he noted, with

“Perhaps we should think outside the box and create a new fleet, an Arctic fleet,” Berbrick told a July 16 webinar, sponsored by CNA, a think tank in Arlington. He added that a total Navy battle fleet sized more toward 400 ships rather than 355 would be needed, which would allow for a fleet “permanently” spread out across the region.

The commander of the U.S. 2nd Fleet — whose ships have operated four times in the Arctic since the fleet was re-established two years ago — says there is no need for a new numbered fleet in the region. But Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis says an Arctic naval component command might be worth consideration,

“It an interesting viewpoint,” Lewis said August 4 when asked about Berbrick’s proposal. But “I don’t know that I would consider creating a numbered fleet for an Arctic fleet,” he added. “In the U.S. system, it’s another maneuver arm for the naval component,” he explained. “I don’t really own battlespace per se, as I own mission. If I’m given a mission, in the Arctic, or the North Atlantic or Western Atlantic or Southern Atlantic, I address that mission.”

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Marines Ending Year-Round Norway Rotation.

The U.S. Marine Corps is ending its year-round presence in Norway. Instead, the Marines will conduct more spread out and potentially larger deployments, Marine Corps Times reports.

Since 2017, Marines have deployed to Norway to participate in cold-weather exercises with Norwegian counterparts, to strengthen their skills for Arctic warfare, and provide a sizable U.S. presence near Russia.

Hope you don't mind if I turn up the heat

U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 20.2  fire a TOW anti-tank missile in Setermoen, Norway, on June 29, 2020. MRF-E conducts various exercises, including arctic cold-weather and mountain-warfare training, as well as military-to-military engagements throughout Europe. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Chase W. Drayer)

The new deployment cycle will be shorter and spaced out, attempting to line up deployments with Norwegian exercises and provide more flexibility within the Corps,  a spokesman for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.

“Marines will deploy from the United States to Norway for shorter deployments in order to better synchronize their training with Norwegian forces and to allow for increased opportunities for large-scale exercises of Marine Corps tactical units,” the spokesman, Major AdrianRankine-Galloway said in the statement. “We are not drawing down and, at times, will have a greater number of Marines here than before, within the terms of the agreement between the United States and Norway.”

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Envoronment & Climate News.

Canada’s Last Full Ice Shelf Collapses.

The last fully complete ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic has collapsed. The Milne Ice Shelf is at the edge of Ellesmere Island, in the far northern Canadian territory of Nunavut. The ice shelf, researchers say, lost more than more than 40 percent of its area in just two days at the end of July.

Milne Ice shelf

Eureka Sound on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic is seen in a NASA Operation IceBridge survey picture taken March 25, 2014. (NASA photo via Twitter)

“Above normal air temperatures, offshore winds and open water in front of the ice shelf are all part of the recipe for ice shelf break up,” the Canadian Ice Service said on Twitter when it announced the loss in earlier this month.

The only comparable formation, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, is larger but has already split into two separate sections. Over all, the ice shelf appears to have lost about 43 per cent of its total surface area. The largest piece to have broken away measures 55 square kilometer – nearly equal in area to the island of Manhattan.

The break up marks a turning point for the Arctic. According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, it shows what lies in store for similar formations around the globe as a result of climate change.

The Arctic has been warming at two times the worldwide rate for the last 30 years. This year, temperatures in the polar area have been especially intense. The polar sea ice hit its lowest total amount for July in 40 years. Record heat and wildfires have burned Siberian Russia, the VOA website noted.

Ellesmere Island was once bounded by extensive shelves that had melded into a single structure. At the beginning of the 20th Century, this covered 8,600 square kilometers (sq km). But by the turn of the millennium, a rapidly warming climate had reduced and segmented the floating ice cover to just 1,050 sq km, the BBC reported. Further break-up events in 2003, 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2012, and now in 2020, mean the shelf area is currently under 500 sq km.

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USS Toledo Arrives at Ice Camp Seadragon

U.S. Navy Photo by MC1 Michael B. Zingaro

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Far North. The 2013 U.S. National Strategy for the Arctic Region describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests” in the region. “Those interests include national security needs, protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

Entry filed under: Air and Missile Defense, Air Force, Aircraft, Arctic, ARCTIC NATION, climate change, HIGH NORTH, Homeland Security, Marine Corps, National Security and Defense, Naval Warfare, News Developments, Skills and Training, Technology, U.S. Navy, Unmanned Aircraft, Unmanned Systems, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

FRIDAY FOTO (August 7, 2020) FRIDAY FOTO (August 14, 2020)

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