Posts filed under ‘HIGH NORTH’

BALTIC 2 BLACK: Black Sea Exercise Ends; Poland buying Abrams tanks; Norway-German submarine deal

From the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, Russia’s Neighbors Are Nervous

In recent years, Baltic and Nordic nations have been rattled by Russia’s antagonistic behavior. There have been numerous reports of Russia probing Nordic defenses, from an underwater vehicle  entering Swedish waters, to Russian bomber flights violating Swedish and Finnish airspace. Estonia was hit by a massive cyber attack, believed to be Russian in origin, in 2007. Concerns about a resurgent Russia have grown in the Black Sea region since Russia attacked neighboring Georgia in 2008, seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has supported Ukrainian separatists fighting a bloody hybrid war in eastern Ukraine since 2018.

While the United States and its allies have imposed sanctions on Russia, the U.S. military has been upping its presence in the Baltic and Black seas — as well as the Barrents Sea in the Arctic — to deter Russian belligerence.

Sea Breeze 21, “Who’s Provoking Whom?

Sounding like a script from a Cold War era newscast, the United States and its allies accuse Russia of dangerous aggressive behavior during a recent multinational training exercise in the contested waters of the Black Sea.

Noting that Russian aircraft overflew U.S. Navy ships at dangerously low altitudes during the recently ended Exercise Sea Breeze 21, Admiral Robert Burke said the Russians were creating a tactical risk that could morph into a strategic issue. “And that’s a big concern with this increasing aggressiveness,” Burke said, adding “We’re not going to flinch and we’re not going to take the bait.”

The guided-missile destroyer USS Ross sails in formation during Exercise Sea Breeze 2021 in the Black Sea on July 9, 2021.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Damon Grosvenor))

Burke, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, said the latest bad behavior underscores Moscow’s increasingly provocative actions in the air and at sea, SEAPOWER reported in an article by your 4GWAR editor.

Russia’s embassy in Washington called for the exercises to be cancelled, and the Russian defense ministry said it would react to protect its own national security, Al Jazeera reported on June 28, the day Sea Breeze 21 began.

Upping the ante, Russian warplanes later practiced bombing simulations of enemy ships in the Black Sea during the U.S.-Ukrainian exercises, as the friction grew following an earlier incident with a British warship.

For nearly a decade, a resurgent Russia has mounted a huge military buildup in the North Atlantic, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Arctic and the Black Sea. “They want to be in control of those waters, for their own exclusive use,” Burke said, adding “We can’t cede that to the Russians.”

When officials notified Russian authorities about their plans three weeks before Sea Breeze 21 began, Moscow reacted by closing off half of the western part of the Black Sea and announcing their own ship bombing exercise. “If it wasn’t so threatening, it would be laughable,” Burke told a live-streamed edition of the United States Navy Memorial’s SITREP speakers series July 20.

(Black Sea region map Norman Einstein via wikipedia)

Sea Breeze, a long-standing exercise in the Black Sea to enhance interoperability and capability among participating forces in the region, has grown from eight participants in 1997 to 32 this year. The 2021 exercise included 5,000 personnel, 30 ships and 40 aircraft supplied by 17 NATO members, U.S. allies like Australia, and partner nations like Sweden and Senegal.

The admiral praised U.S. and allied commanders for their restraint. “When a strike aircraft overflies a destroyer at 100 feet altitude, right over top, our COs are making a judgment call of whether that strike fighter is on an attack profile or not,” Burke said. “It could be argued that they’re baiting us into shooting first. We’re not going to do that first without provocation, but I’m also not going to ask my commanding officers to take the first shot on the chin,” he added without elaboration.

A Marine, assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment  2d Marine Division, cuts through barbed wire during Exercise Sea Breeze 2021 in Oleshky Sands, Ukraine on July 2, 2021.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trey Fowler)

In June, Russia said one of its warships fired warning shots and an aircraft dropped bombs near Britain’s Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Defender, to force it away from territorial waters, claimed by Russia, near Crimea — which Moscow seized in 2014. Russia denounced the Defender’s maneuver as a provocation and warned that the next time it might fire to hit intruding warships, according to the Associated Press.

The Royal Navy insisted the Defender wasn’t fired upon on and said it was sailing in Ukrainian waters when Russia sent its planes into the air and shots were heard during the showdown.

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Poland Buying M1 Abrams tanks

Poland’s defense minister announced July 14 that the NATO member will buy 250 M1A2 Abrams SEPv3 tanks from the United States, confirming previous reports of a planned acquistion, according to Defense News.

The Abrams M1A2 SEPv3 is an upgrade to the U.S. Army’s current main battle tank. The upgrade was designed to defeat or suppress enemy tanks, reconnaissance vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, anti-tank guns, guided missile launchers (ground and vehicle mounted), bunkers, dismounted infantry and helicopters.

A soldier provides ground guidance for an M1A2 SEP V2 Abrams Tank at Ware Range, Fort Benning, Georgia on July 20, 2021. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Staff Sergeant Austin Berner)

The announcement came just two months after Polish defense leaders said they were buying 24 armed drones from fellow NATO member Turkey.

The U.S. and allies in NATO have made reinforcing Poland and the nearby Baltic states a focal point since Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. Since then, U.S. tanks from units rotating overseas have been a consistent presence in Poland, according to the Stars and Stripes website.

Baltic Region (Map: CIA World Factbook)

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Norwegian-German Submarine Deal.

The military procurement agencies of Germany and Norway have reached an industrial agreement to buy new, common submarines from Germany’s Thyssekrupp Marine Systems, the Norwegian government announced July 8, 2021.

The identical submarines will be delivered starting in 2029, with operational service expected to last into the 2060s. The agreement on industrial cooperation will help open up the German market to the Norwegian defense industry, according to the announcement. A ceremony in Kiel, Germany this Fall will include the unveiling of a model of the new, common of the 212CD class submarines.

Norway will order four submarines from Thyssenkrupp for 45 billion crowns ($5.3 billion), while Germany will purchase another two, the defense ministries of both countries, said, Reuters reported.

As part of the deal, Norway and Germany also agreed to buy missiles jointly, and to finance the development of a new type of naval strike missile from Norway’s Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace.

In 2017, Norway and Germany, both NATO members, agreed in principle to build the submarines as part of a closer cooperation of their navies.

July 29, 2021 at 8:52 pm Leave a comment

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: Counter Drone attacks in Iraq; Turkish UGV competition;

DEFENSE.

Drone Shot Down Near U.S. Embassy

An armed drone was shot down above the American embassy in Baghdad on July 5, just hours after a rocket attack on a base housing U.S. soldiers in the west of the country.

According to Agence France Presse reporters, U.S. defense systems fired rockets, taking down a drone laden with explosives.

The system was a counter-rocket, artillery and mortar system, known as C-RAM, said Army Colonel Wayne Marotto, a military spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition. Footage shared online overnight showed the system’s familiar stream of red tracers and exploding rounds arcing over part of Baghdad., the Stars and Stripes website reported.

Soldiers with B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery, from Fort Campbell, Ky., participate in a Counter — Rocket, Artillery and Mortar live-fire exercise, May 26, 2013, at Thompson Hill Range at Fort Sill, Okla. . (Photo: U.S. Army)

The systems can defend against unmanned aerial vehicles, but the cheap drones also can be flown to evade C-RAM fire. This has led to their adoption by Iran-backed militias that mount sporadic harassing attacks, sometimes with deadly effect, in an effort to oust U.S. forces deployed to Iraq to help battle the Islamic State group.

Since the start of the year, 47 attacks have targeted U.S. interests in the country, where 2,500 American troops are deployed as part of an international coalition to fight the jihadist Islamic State group.  Six of those attacks involved armed drones., according to AFP.

In April, a drone packed with explosives struck the coalition’s Iraq headquarters in the military part of the airport in Arbil, the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital. The next month, a drone packed with explosives hit the Ain Al-Asad airbase housing U.S. troops. On June 9, three explosives-laden drones targeted Baghdad airport, where US soldiers are also deployed. One was intercepted by the Iraqi army.

The attacks come as tension is on the rise between U.S. troops and Iran-backed fighters as Baghdad and Washington negotiate a timeline for foreign troop withdrawal from Iraq, according to the Associated Press. (via Stars and Stripes). Recently, the attacks have become more sophisticated, with militants using drones.

Late last month, U.S. warplanes hit facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups which the Pentagon said support drone strikes inside Iraq. Four Iraqi fighters were killed in the June 27 airstrikes, according to the AP.

“At President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces earlier this evening conducted defensive precision airstrikes against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a June 27 statement, reported by Military Times. “The targets were selected because these facilities are utilized by Iran-backed militias that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq.”

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Turkey’s Military UGV Search

Four unmanned ground vehicles are competing to enter service with Turkey’s military under the force’s medium-class UGV project, Defense News reports.

Turkey’s largest defense company, Aselsan, is participating in the competition with its Aslan UGV, while Havelsan is pitching its Barkan; Best Group is offering its Fedai; and Elektroland Defence is proposing its Hancer. All four UGVs are fitted with Aselsan’s SARP remote-controlled weapon system. To see photos of the vehicles and see the full story, click here.

According to a statement released by Turkey’s top defense procurement official, the indigenously produced UGVs have reached the final phase of the competition. The finalists carried out firing tests with their 7.62mm guns, and the contest is scheduled to conclude next month.

“We are determined to show our experience and success in unmanned systems in the air vehicles as well in the naval and land vehicles. Our prototype racing activities, which we started within the framework of our Medium Class 1st Level Unmanned Ground Vehicle Project, carry on.” Demir tweeted June 27.

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More from Turkey

Turkey’s first indigenous unmanned combat surface vessel, the ULAQ, conducted its first live-fire trial during a massive naval exercise in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, that ended June 6.

The ULAQ, Turkey’s first combat unmanned surface vessel. (Courtesy Turkey)

The combat USV’s live-fire trial was not part of the training exercise, Denizkurdu, which involved 132 surface vessels, 10 submarines, 43 winged aircraft, 28 helicopters and 14 drones, Defense News reported.

Developed by Turkish defense companies Ares Shipyard and Meteksan Defence, ULAQ was launched in January and completed sea trials in April. During the live-fire trials, conducted as the last phase of acceptance tests for the Navy, it launched a laser-guided Cirit missile twice.  The first one involved telemetry, and the second used a real warhead hitting its target in the Eastern Mediterranean. The ULAQ was controlled from a mobile coastal control station and illuminated the target with a laser designator before firing.

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ENVIRONMENT

Saildrone is set to conduct an Arctic research mission — for the seventh consecutive year — with its autonomous unmanned surface vessels (USVs) powered by wind and sun, SEAPOWER magazine reports.

Saildrone’s arctic fleet ready to deploy in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. (Courtesy Saildrone)

The company is conducting the missions with six of its smallest USV, the 23-foot-long Explorer. The six USVs are being launched from Dutch Harbor, a port in the Aleutian Islands. Four of the USVs will collect data in the Bering Sea and two others will collect data in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Arctic Ocean.

The voyages are being conducted to collect atmospheric, oceanographic and bathymetric data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA. The sensors on board the Saildrones will be collecting data on carbon dioxide dissolved in the water; bathymetry; climate and weather — including heat, radiation, carbon and atmospheric variables; wind speed and direction; and radiation and temperatures.

For maritime domain awareness, the Explorers also are fitted with 360-degree cameras that record visual information 24/7 using machine learning algorithms to spot anomalies, such as a passing vessel, imaging every five seconds.

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INDUSTRY

Autonomous Ground Effect Vessels

Flying Ship Technologies Corp. has signed a $100 million sales agreement with a European customer for the purchase of wing-in-ground-effect maritime vessels, according to the SEAPOWER website.

Flying Ship Technologies is developing autonomous ground effect vessels that fly just over the water, which the company says are: Ten times faster than boats, a quarter of the cost to maintain and operate compared to planes; provide tens of thousands of additional coastal access points, and are dramatically cleaner for the environment.

“These vessels will provide fast, low-cost delivery to a wide range of coastal locations around continental Europe and the surrounding islands. Flying Ships will improve the quality of life for consumers by enhancing existing trade routes and opening new routes to deliver fresh foods, medical supplies, and e-commerce, while being carbon-neutral and a fraction of the cost of air freight,” Flying Ship CEO Bill Peterson said in a July 8 statement.

July 8, 2021 at 11:51 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Dynamic Mongoose; Russian Military Drills; Canadian Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessel

Dynamic Mongoose Anti-Submarine Exercise.

Sailors and airmen from seven NATO nations (Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States) are participating in NATO’s anti-submarine warfare exercise Dynamic Mongoose off the coast of Norway.

The exercise, which began June 28 and runs until July 9, includes two submarines, six surface ships and eight maritime patrol aircraft.

Dynamic Mongoose is an exercise held in the High North every summer. It is hosted alternately by Norway and Iceland. Dynamic Mongoose provides the opportunity for personnel from participating nations to engage in realistic maritime training to build experience, teamwork and knowledge that strengthens interoperability, according to MARCOM (Allied Maritime Command), the central command of all NATO maritime forces .

During the exercise submarines will take turns hunting and being hunted, closely coordinating their efforts with the air and surface participants. Airbases in the UK, Iceland and Norway are also involved.

Aviation units from Canada, Germany, the U.K., Norway, the U.S. and the Netherlands are participating. Rotary winged aircraft will operate from the ships, and land-based maritime patrol aircraft will operate from Lossiemouth, U.K., Keflavik, Iceland, and Andoya, Norway, according to Seapower magazine.

Briefing reporters on the exercise June 28, French Vice Admiral Didier Piaton, the MARCOM deputy commander was asked if the exercise was an attempt to send a message to Russia. Piaton said Dynamic Mongoose — like all NATO exercises — is conducted in a transparent and unprovocative manner with a declared defensive posture. “NATO’s daily mission is deterrence. We’re here to train our crews and make sure our deterrence is credible,” he said, Seapower reported.

Chief of the Royal Norwegian Navy, Rear Admiral Rune Andersen noted the annual exercise has been taking place for many years, and is occurring within Norway’s EEZ. “It’s quite far from Russia, actually,” he said.

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Russian Arctic Military Drills.

Meanwhile, Russia says it will conduct strategic military drills in the Arctic this autumn.

Russia’s new Trefoil Military Base on Franz Josef Land a Russian archipelago in the Arctic sea. (Photo copyright Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation via Wikipedia)

Russia’s Northern Fleet command announced the “strategic military exercise” on June 1 to check the “readiness of the forces and troops” serving in and around the Arctic, according to Radio Free Europe/RadioLiberty.

Northern Fleet command added that the exercises will also “ensure the safety” of the Northern Sea Route. The growing accessibility of natural resources and navigation routes in the Arctic as climate change makes it more accessible has attracted global competition. Russia has invested heavily to develop the route, which cuts the journey to Asian ports by 15 days compared with using the traditional Suez Canal route.

As Moscow seeks to assert its influence in the Arctic, military disputes have intensified in recent years, with both Russian and NATO forces carrying out maneuvers to display their ambitions.

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Canadian Arctic Patrol Vessel.

On June 26 Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Harry DeWolf, the Royal Canadian Navy’s lead ship in its class of Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels, was commissioned in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

HMCS Harry Dewolf sails under the Confederation Bridge between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick on November 25, 2020.
(Photo by Corporal David Veldman, Canadian Armed Forces)

The Harry DeWolf is the first ship completed as part of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy and was built at Irving Shipbuilding’s Halifax Shipyard. The ship is named after Vice Adm. Harry DeWolf, a former head of the Royal Canadian Navy. This is the first time a class of ships will be named after a prominent Canadian navy figure in the RCN’s 108-year history, according to Seapower magazine.

The Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) will significantly enhance the Canadian Armed Forces capabilities and presence in the Arctic, better enabling the Navy to assert and uphold Arctic sovereignty. The AOPS will also augment Canada’s presence offshore, and will be capable of conducting a wide variety of operations abroad.

The Harry DeWolf will help to assert Canadian sovereignty in Arctic and coastal Canadian waters in addition to supporting international operations as required. It will deploy for its first mission in August.

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Nuclear submatine USS Toledo (SSN-769) in the Arctic Ocean 2020. (U.S. Navy Photo by MC1 Michael B. Zingaro)

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

July 1, 2021 at 11:36 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO Extra (June 19, 2021)

Eagle Has Landed.

(Photo courtesy U.S. Embassy Reykjavik, Kristjan Petersson) Please click on the photo to enlarge the image.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle — “America’s Tall Ship” — arrives in Reykjavik, Iceland on June 9, 2021.

The Eagle is a three-masted sailing barque and the only active (operational) commissioned sailing vessel in the U.S. maritime services. And here’s something for you Master and Commander fans, the Eagle is an actual war prize, taken from the Nazis.

The ship was built in 1936 by the Blohm + Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, Germany, and commissioned as Horst Wessel. (Can you believe it?) Four identical sister ships were also built. Originally operated by Nazi Germany to train cadets for the German Navy, the ship was taken by the United States as a war prize after World War II. In 1946, a U.S. Coast Guard crew – aided by the German crew still on board – sailed the tall ship from Bremerhaven to its new homeport in New London, Connecticut.

Today, a permanent crew of eight assigned officers and 50 assigned enlisted personnel maintain the ship year round. They provide a strong base of knowledge and seamanship for the training of up to 150 cadets, or officer candidates, at a time.

Eagle is currently conducting summer U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadet training in at-sea leadership and professional development. Their first port call was Portugal in late May. Since 1946, Eagle has been giving future officers the opportunity to put into practice the navigation, engineering, and other professional theory they have previously learned in the classroom.

For more on Eagle — including photosclick here and here.

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For regular 4GWAR Blog visitors who expected to see a pretty picture or an interesting one with a story behind it in yesterday’s FRIDAY FOTO/SHAKO posting, thanks for your patience. We hope this FOTO fits the bill.

June 19, 2021 at 2:54 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Pentagon Creates Arctic Regional Center

New Arctic Regional Center.

The U.S. Defense Department is establishing a new Defense Regional Center — the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies. The center will bring increased cooperation on the unique challenges and security concerns related to the Arctic region, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced June 9.

Curious polar bears approach the bow section of the USS Honolulu after the submarine surfaced in the Arctic Circle, 280-miles from the North Pole.

The center will support the U.S. Interim National Security Strategic Guidance to work with like-minded partners and across the government “to pool our collective strength and advance shared interests,” Austin said in a press release. “It will address the need for U.S. engagement and international cooperation to strengthen the rules-based order in the region and tackle shared challenges such as climate change.”

The Ted Stevens Center will provide a new place to collaborate with U.S. allies and partners to advance shared interests for a peaceful and prosperous Arctic. Where the center will be located — probably in Alaska — has yet to be determined.

Defense Department Regional Centers are international academic venues for multilateral research, communication, and training — with the goal of building strong, sustainable international networks of security leaders. Three of the five existing regional centers are located in Washington, D.C. The other two are located in Honolulu, Hawaii and Garmisch, Germany.

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New Skipper for Alaska Coast Guard Cutter

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley conducted a change of command ceremony May 19 in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

The Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley makes its way to homeport in Kodiak, Alaska, on February 8, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings)

Captain Benjamin Golightly transferred command of the Alex Haley, a 282-foot medium endurance cutter, to Commander Brian Whisler. Rear Admiral Peter Gautier, the deputy commander of Coast Guard Pacific Area, presided over the ceremony.

Whistler, who will serve as Alex Haley’s 14th commanding officer, is responsible for the cutter’s operations throughout the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, which includes protection of life and property, enforcement of federal fisheries regulations, preservation of living marine resources, and promotion of national security in the high latitude region.

June 10, 2021 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Exercise Northern Edge, Monitoring Russian Activities in the High North.

DEFENSE

Exercise Northern Edge

An F-15EX fighter jet from the 53d Wing takes off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska in support of joint training exercise Northern Edge 2021.  (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt Savanah Bray)

Approximately 15,000 U.S. service members recently concluded a joint training exercise hosted by U.S. Pacific Air Forces between May 3-14, 2021.

The exercise took place on and above the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, the Gulf of Alaska, and temporary maritime activities area. NE21 is one in a series of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command exercises designed to sharpen Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps joint force skills.

Various units practiced tactics, techniques, and procedures; to improve command, control and communication relationships; and to develop cooperative plans and programs.

Northern Edge provided high-end, realistic war fighter training to develop and improve joint interoperability. It also enhanced the combat readiness of participating forces.

The 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, in Florida, conducted operational tests of the F-15EX fighter jet, which features upgraded computing, sensors and weapons. Northern Edge will be the “first look at large force integration” for the new jet, including with fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters, the Air Force said.

More than 25 units, almost 200 aircraft and five naval ships — including the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt — participated in Northern Edge 2019.

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) transits the Gulf of Alaska, May 7, 2021, during Exercise Northern Edge 2021 (NE21). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brandon Richardson)

Navy, Air Force and Marine aircraft executed flight missions during NE21 demonstrating seamless, joint combat capabilities. The Roosevelt conducted more than 300 aircraft launches and traps {arrested landings), and embarked squadrons completed more than 830 flight hours during NE21. The Marine Wing Support Detachment, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164 (Reinforced), established a forward arming and refueling point at Cold Bay — identified as an advanced naval base — to provide around 85,000 pounds of fuel to multiple joint aircraft.

The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) ashore from the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) served as the lead element at Cold Bay. The Makin Island ARG executed various air and amphibious operations from amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), and amphibious transport docks USS San Diego (LPD 22) and USS Somerset (LPD 25) while maneuvering over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex.

Soldiers wrap up a joint forcible entry operation during Northern Edge at Fort Greely, Alaska, on May 11, 2021. The exercise is designed to improve joint combat readiness.  (U.S. Army photo by Benjamin Wilson)

Army units participating in Northern Edge included the 25th Infantry Division’s 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) and 3rd Expeditionary Air and Space Task Force from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.

The 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, conduct a Joint Forcible Entry Operation into Allen Army Airfield during exercise Northern Edge 21. Soldiers from the 17th Field Artillery Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state also joined the drills.

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Bear Watching

The Air Force general heading U.S. European Command says more Navy destroyers and Air Force strike fighters are what he needs to monitor — and deter — Russia’s aggressive behavior from the Arctic to the Black Sea, your 4GWAR editor wrote for Seapower magazine.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook approaches the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Tide-class replenishment tanker Tidesurge for refueling at sea, Octobeer 18, 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Damon Grosvenor)

“I see a concerted effort on behalf of Russia’s maritime forces in the Baltic, in the Barents and Black seas,” General Tod Walters told a Congressional committee April 15 during a hearing on national security challenges and U.S. military activities in Europe.

Improving overall strategic indications and warnings (I&W), as well as command and control (C2), “starts with two destroyers to improve our ability to see undersea and it also culminates with F-35s, Wolters said , referring to the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.

There are four destroyers already based in Rota, Spain, which Wolters described as “the workhorses of deterrence,” projecting U.S. presence into the Mediterranean and Black seas and then back out again and up to the Arctic. Two more, also to be based in Rota, are required because of a consistent increase in Russian undersea activity in the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom gap. The historic maritime chokepoint in the 20th century is an access lane to the Atlantic Ocean for Arctic-based Russian subs. “The destroyers’ participation in undersea warfare, C2 and I&W is absolutely, positively critical,” Wolters said.

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Marines’ Arctic Mitten Search

The U.S. Marine Corps is looking for new extreme cold weather gear for combat units training to fight in subzero Arctic conditions.

Starting in late February, according to Military,com, Marine Corps Systems Command began looking at the commercial cold weather gear market for new trigger finger mittens, base-layer long underwear and a hat that sounds like a modern version of the beloved GI pile cap, according to three request-for-information solicitations.

A Marine with Marine Rotational Force Europe 21.1 (MRF-E), Marine Forces Europe and Africa, communicates with Leathernecks down range during Exercise Arctic Littoral Strike in Blåtind, Norway, March 30, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal  Patrick King)

The Marines want ideas on a new USMC Trigger Finger Mitten System that will replace the current Extreme Cold Weather Mitten Shell & Liner, according to a March 3 solicitation. Trigger finger mittens offer the warmth of a mitten while featuring a separate trigger finger so combat troops can still fire their weapons.

“The trigger finger design shall enable the wearer to move their first finger independently from the rest of the hand, but if needed move their first finger into the larger finger compartment to warm up as needed,” according to the solicitation, Military.com noted.

So far, all three cold weather items are slated to come in the color known as “coyote brown.”

 

 

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Nuclear submatine USS Toledo (SSN-769) in the Arctic Ocean 2020. (U.S. Navy Photo by MC1 Michael B. Zingaro)

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

 

 

May 16, 2021 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 30, 2021)

Ice Palace.

(Photo by Benjamin Wilson) Click on photo to enlarge the image.

A soldier from the U.S. Army’s 52nd Aviation Regiment watches the mountains and glaciers of Alaska’s Denali National Park and Reserve pass below his CH-47 Chinook helicopter on April 22, 2021.

Members of B Company, 1st Battalion of the 52nd AR, known as “The Sugar Bears,” have permission to conduct training in the park in exchange for helping the National Park Service set-up base camp for the 2021 Denali climbing season.

The Army provides assistance annually to the Park Service by flying in supplies to the base camp, which is located at 7,200 feet.

While the landscape in this photo is breath-taking, new satellite imagery reveals that the world’s glaciers are melting faster than ever due to climate change — and half the world’s glacial loss is occurring in the United States and Canada.

According to a study in the science journal Nature, glaciers are melting faster, losing 31 percent more snow and ice per year than they did 15 years earlier, the Associated Press reported via NBC. The gloomy forecast is based on three-dimensional satellite measurements of all the world’s mountain glaciers. Scientists blame human-caused climate change, the AP noted.

A French-led team assessed the behavior of nearly all documented ice streams on the planet. The researchers found them to have lost almost 270 billion tons of ice a year over the opening two decades of the 21st Century, the BBC reported.

The research team, led by Romain Hugonnet from the University of Toulouse, France, used as its primary data source the imagery acquired by NASA’s Terra satellite, which was launched in 1999. Immense computing power was brought to bear on the process of interpreting these pictures and pulling out the changes in the glaciers’ elevation, volume and mass up to 2019, the BBC noted.

April 30, 2021 at 5:33 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Big Multi-Service Exercise coming to Alaska; NORAD Tracks Russian Spy Planes;

DEFENSE

Exercise Northern Edge.

U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps personnel will be participating in Exercise Northern Edge 21 across Alaska this Spring, according to Pacific Air Forces, a unit of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

The exercise, held in odd-numbered years, will take place May 3-14 at several military installations, as well as local airports and training areas around Alaska.

The exercise provides realistic war fighter training, develops and improves joint services interoperability and enhances combat readiness, Pacific Air Forces announced, adding that details on participating units and exercise locations will be released as it becomes available.

Marines with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 7, conduct a training raid using air-delivered Polaris MRZR 4 all-terrain vehicles during exercise Northern Edge 2019 at Fort Greely, Alaska.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Rhita Daniel)

More than 25 units, 10,000 personnel, almost 200 aircraft and five naval ships — including the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt — participated in Northern Edge 2019.

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Russian Spy Planes

The Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Region reported on March 29 that it positively identified and tracked two Tu-142 Russian maritime patrol aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone.

The Russian aircraft, which operated in international airspace, did not entered United States or Canadian sovereign airspace, and Alaska Command did not indicate whether U.S. or Canadian aircraft scrambled to intercept the big four engine Russian planes.

Russian Navy Tu-142 patrol aircraft, known as Bear. (Photo by Fedor Leukhin – _MG_0277, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26608395)

Captain Lauren Ott, director of public affairs for Alaskan Command, said the Russian planes came within 60 nautical miles of the Alaskan coastline. By international convention, a nations’ sovereign territory extends 12 miles from the coast, Medill News Service (via the Military.com website) reported.

It was at least the second time this year that Tu-142s have entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), after a similar incident in January. In 2020, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) conducted more intercepts than in recent years, as Russia repeatedly flew bombers, maritime patrol aircraft, early warning aircraft, and fighters into the region, according to Air Force magazine.

NORAD’s commander, Air Force General Glen VanHerck — who also leads U.S. Northern Command — said Russia’s expanding activities in the Arctic region was due to the current great power competition.

“We’re back in the peer competition,” he told a March 31st Defense Writers Group discussion. “Clearly, Russia is trying to reassert on a global stage their influence and their capabilities. That’s exactly what’s going on. It’s great power competition,” he said, according to the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) website. He added: “The difference between the past and now is the intercepts are more complex – multi-axis, multi-platforms and often times they’ll enter the ADIZ and stay for hours,” USNI reported.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Service Committee on March 16, VanHerck said the escalation “of Russian activity and Chinese ambitions in the region demonstrates the strategic importance of the Arctic. Competition will only increase as sea ice diminishes and competition for resources expands.”

“These Russian military operations include multiple flights of heavy bombers, anti-submarine aircraft, and intelligence collection platforms near Alaska. These efforts show both Russia’s military reach and how they rehearse potential strikes on our homeland,” VanHerck said in written testimony.

“Last summer, the Russian Navy focused its annual OCEAN SHIELD exercise on the defense of Russia’s maritime approaches in the Arctic and Pacific. The multi-fleet exercise, intended in part to demonstrate Russia’s ability to control access to the Arctic through the Bering Strait, included amphibious landings on the Chukotka Peninsula opposite Alaska, as well as anti-submarine patrols and anti-ship cruise missile launches from within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone,” the testimony added.

In a first for the Russian navy, three Russian nuclear ballistic missile submarines surfaced simultaneously breaking the Arctic ice during drills, according to the commander-in-chief of the Russian fleet at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Reuters news service reported March 26.

*** *** ***

B-1 Bombers in Norway

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron sits on the flightline at Ørland Air Force Station, Norway, March 14, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Colin Hollowell)

U.S. B-1B Lancer bombers from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, were deployed to Orland Air Base, Norway, for the first time in a bomber task deployment which included several firsts in the Arctic and across Europe.

During the deployment, which ended March 25, the B-1s flew nine sorties, including training with Norwegian F-35s, Swedish JAS-39 Gripens, Danish and Polish F-16s, and German and Italian Eurofighter Typhoons, according to U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

The Lancers conducted a hot-pit refueling in Europe for the first time, and trained with U.S. special operations forces along with Norwegian and Swedish joint terminal attack controllers, according to Air Force magazine.

*** *** ***

ENVIRONMENT.

Arctic Lightning Strikes

As the Arctic warms at an alarming rate, the frequency of lightning is also changing, according to a new University of Washington study, CNN reports. In fact, Arctic lightning has tripled in just the last decade, according to the study, published in late March in the journal, Geophysical Research Letters.

*** *** ***

Warmer Arctic Waters and the LNG Market

The discovery and extraction of vast liquefiable natural gas reserves on the Yamal peninsula in Siberia in the past decade has renewed interest in bulk transport on the waters of the high north, according to The Economist.

*** *** ***

 

Nuclear attack submatine USS Toledo (SSN-769) surfaced in the Arctic Ocean 2020. (U.S. Navy Photo by MC1 Michael B. Zingaro)

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military and environmental developments in 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 protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening international cooperation.

April 4, 2021 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (February 19, 2021)

The One and Only.

(U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Cynthia Oldham) CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE IMAGE.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) transits south in the Bering Strait early on January 19, 2021. The 45-year-old heavy 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 arrived in Juneau, Alaska on February 12, for a logistics stop near the end of their months-long Arctic deployment conducting scientific research and protecting the nation’s maritime sovereignty and security throughout the polar region, according to SEAPOWER magazine.

In addition to Polar Star’s strategic national security objectives, the nation’s sole heavy icebreaker sailed north with scientists and researchers aboard to work in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), University of Washington, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) to gather data and lessen the void of information from the region and better understand how to operate year-round in Arctic waters.

February 19, 2021 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (February 12, 2021)

Going to Extremes.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cprporal Andrew R. Bray) CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE THE IMAGE

U.S. Marines exit the water of a frozen pond at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (click here to see a video) near Bridgeport, California on February 2, 2021. Marines and Sailors attending the Basic Cold Weather Leaders Course are required to undergo the hypothermia laboratory, a training event where troops experience hypothermia first hand and — more importantly — how to avoid it.

The center is situated at 6,762 feet, with elevations in the training areas ranging to just under 12,000 feet. During the winter season (October – April) snow accumulation can reach near 6 to 8 feet. And severe storms can deposit as much as four feet in a 12 hour period. Annual temperatures range from -20 degrees to +90 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the season.

On the other side of the country, at Fort Benning, Georgia on February 5 – it was Week 3 of U.S. Army Sniper School. (click here to see a short video) This soldier was one of 35 students participating in the ghillie suit wash, which is designed to test the strength and durability of the suits — as well as to weather them.

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning Public Affairs) CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO ENLARGE IMAGE.

What’s a ghillie suit? Worn by civilian hunters and military snipers, the ghillie suit is designed to look like heavy foliage in a forest or field. It was originally developed by Scottish gamekeepers as a portable hunting blind and first adopted for war in 1916. The name derives from a Scottish word for “lad” or “servant.”

Sniper School students use sand, water and mud, all in an effort to perfect one of their most important tools: their camouflage.

February 12, 2021 at 7:49 pm Leave a comment

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