Posts tagged ‘ARCTIC NATION’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 (November 27, 2020)

Your Ride’s Here.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Peña)

Well here’s a switch. The pilot in the picture are Army and the folks on the ground are Air Force.

This photo, taken November 18, 2020, shows an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter landing to pick up Air Force special warfare Airmen, assigned to the 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron, during small unit training at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

Conducted under physical and mental stress conditions (what other kind do special operators operate in?) the small unit training reinforces fundamental combat skills and fosters team cohesion, according to the Air Force.

November 27, 2020 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (August 21, 2020)

Quiet Crossing.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Sara Eshleman)

The Royal Danish Navy Thetis-class frigate HDMS Triton leads the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner across Godthab’s Fjord in the Labrador Sea on August 13, 2020.

The Hudner participated in Canadian Operation Nanook alongside U.S. Coast Guard, Canadian, French, and Danish Allies to enhance their Arctic capabilities.

Operation NANOOK. which runs through August 24, is the Canadian Armed Forces’ signature northern operation. It comprises a series of comprehensive, joint, interagency, and multinational activities designed to exercise the defense of Canada and security in the region.

NANOOK-TUUGAALIK is the maritime component of the NANOOK series of deployments and training events and designed as a maritime presence operation and domain awareness of the seas in the Eastern Arctic. Operation NANOOK has taken place each year since 2007, but because of COVID-19, there will be no land ops or visits to local communities.

The United States is one of eight Arctic nations and the National Defense Strategy calls upon the military to increase its presence in the Arctic over the long term and to conduct joint operations with Arctic allies to strengthen situational awareness and information sharing.

In addition to the Hudner and Triton, this year’s maritime component for Operation NANOOK included the Royal Canadian Navy ships HMCS Glace Bay, HMCS Ville de Quebec, and MV Asterix; the “Misfits” of Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) 46.2; the U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Tahoma, French Navy coastal patrol vessel FS Fulmar. While France is not an Arctic nation, it is a member of NAT, as are the United States, Canada and Denmark (thanks to its control of Greenland). However, France still has territory in the High North, the fishing islands of  Saint-Pierre and Miquelon are the last piece of French territory in North America.

August 20, 2020 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

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

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.”

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

ARCTIC NATION: Norway Exercise; Corona Virus; ICEX 2020; Arctic Readiness

Cold Response 2020

For the sixth time in 14 years, thousands of troops from the United States, NATO countries and Finland headed to northern Norway in early March for a massive joint exercise, Cold Response.

Between 15,000 and 16,000 service members from the United States, Norway, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Sweden are expected to participate in Cold Response 2020, said Norwegian Rear Admiral Sverre Engeness.

Anti-Armor in the Arctic

Marines fire an M41A7 Saber missile system in preparation for Exercise Cold Response 20 near Setermoen, Norway, March 3, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Devin J. Andrews)

The main aim of the exercise is to secure the Norwegian Armed Forces and allies’ ability to conduct multinational joint exercises with a high-intensity combat scenario in demanding winter conditions.

The Cold Response 2020 exercise was to take place in an area of northern Norway that stretches from the town of Narvik to the Finnmark district. The main part of the exercise will be located in the district of Troms.

Cold Response is led by the Norwegian Joint Headquarters and has been conducted biennially since 2006 – with the exception of 2018.

Cold Response 2020 map

Exercise Cold Response 2020 was slated to run from March 2 to March 28. The exercise was planned to take place primarily in the north of Norway, near Tromso. (Photo by Norwegian Ministry of Defense)

The exercise had only proceeded for two day days when something unexpected came up — the novel coronavirus, Covid-19.

The Norwegian military quarantined 1,300 personnel on a base in the northern part of the country after a case of coronavirus was confirmed among them. No one will be allowed in or out of the Skjold base in the Troms region after one person tested positive for the virus on Thursday, the Norwegian Armed Forces said in a statement. The infected person doesn’t have serious symptoms, Bloomberg News reported, March 6.

Then Stars and Stripes reported almost two dozen U.S. soldiers in Norway were in quarantine isolation after possibly encountering a Norwegian service member who tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Norwegian service member and the 23 soldiers were training at Skjold Garrison in the Troms region of Norway, the Marine Corps said in a statement. The soldiers, with the 500th Engineer Support Company, 15th Engineer Battalion, based in Grafenwoehr, Germany, have not shown any signs or symptoms of the virus and were put in isolation “as a precautionary measure,” the Marine Corps said.

Then on March 11 Norwegian Armed Forces decided to end the exercise “due to the ongoing coronavirus situation in Norway. The decision has been made in close cooperation with Norwegian civilian health authorities.”

Lieutenant General Rune Jakobsen, chief of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters, said that “By ending the exercise now, we will also avoid any unnecessary burden to the civilian health care system, for example with illness among soldiers, accidents or corona testing among personnel.”

Arctic Subs Exercise.

USS Connecticut (SSN 22) surfaces in the Arctic

The Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) surfaces in the Beaufort Sea within the Arctic Circle during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mike Demello)

Two submarines, 100 participants from five nations have pitched a temporary camp on an ice sheet in the frozen Beaufort Sea for a three-week Arctic exercise near the top of the world.

Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2020 is a biennial gathering that helps the U.S. Navy assess its operational readiness in the harsh Arctic environment. It’s also an opportunity to train with other services, partner nations and allies to maintain regional stability while improving capabilities to operate in the Arctic, according to the U.S. Navy.

ICEX 2020

USS Connecticut crew members take in their surroundings after surfacing in the Arctic Circle on March 7, 2020, during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro)

The Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) based in Bremerton, Washington, and the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Toledo (SSN 769), based in Groton, Connecticut both surfaced by cracking through the ice. The subs were scheduled to make multiple Arctic transits, a North Pole surfacing and other training evolution during the exercise.

Staying at the temporary ice camp were personnel from Britain, Canada, Japan and Norway as well as the United States.

“The Arctic is a potential strategic corridor,” between the Indo-Pacific region, Europe and the U.S. homeland, says Vice Admiral Daryl Caudle, commander of U.S. Submarine Forces.

Russian Planes on ICE(X).

An overflight of the ICEX 2020 camp by Russian spy planes bore out the admiral’s observation about the Arctic’s strategic significance.

The head of U.S. Northern Command told a congressional hearing March 11 that two Russian reconnaissance aircraft were intercepted by U.S. and Canadian fighter jets two days earlier.

Life at Ice Camp Seadragon

Partner nations flags fly over Ice Camp Seadragon during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2020.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro/Released)

Air Force General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy told lawmakers that the planes were loitering around the U.S. submarine exercise. He said the Russian aircraft loitered about 2,500 feet above a camp with an F-22 and a Canadian F-18 on their wing, Military Times reported.

Arctic Readiness.

Unlike the South China Sea and other contested areas, the U.S. Navy does not have the capability to conduct freedom-of-the-seas operations in the icebound waters of the Arctic, a key Pentagon official acknowledged recently.

frifo-arctic-uscg

U.S. Coast Guard medium ice breaker Healy in 2011. ( (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally)

With only one heavy and one medium icebreaker and no Navy ships with hulls hardened against ice, “We do have limitations in the Arctic right now,” James H. Anderson, assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities, told a congressional hearing on U.S. military readiness in the Arctic, according to the Seapower magazine website.

As we have reported previously here at 4GWAR, rising temperatures due to climate change are causing Arctic sea ice to melt, leading to rising sea levels. The dramatic sea ice decline is also opening sea lanes across a part of the world that has seldom seen heavy maritime traffic, according to the 2013 National Arctic Strategy. And that has focused the attention of governments and commercial interests across the globe on the promise of previously inaccessible riches at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, including huge untapped deposits of petroleum, natural gas and minerals like zinc, iron and rare earths.

Russia, Norway, Canada and the United States all have boosted their military presence in the Arctic at a rate not seen since the Cold War. Last year, Russia completed a large new base at Alexandra Island in the Franz Josef Land archipelago, while reopening and refitting seven former Soviet bases within the Arctic Circle. Russia also has modernized its powerful Northern Fleet. In response, the U.S. has reconstituted the 2nd Fleet, adding the North Pole to that fleet’s area of responsibility. Last October, a U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS Harry S. Truman, entered Arctic waters for the first time since 1991.

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USS Toledo Arrives at Ice Camp Seadragon

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Far North. The 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.”

 

 

March 19, 2020 at 11:50 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Navy’s “Arctic” Fleet; Marines’ Cold Weather Boot; Arctic Report Card

Navy’s 2nd Fleet “Fully Operational”.

The U.S. Navy’s 2nd Fleet — reestablished to counter Russia in the north Atlantic — has reached full operational capability, the Stars and Stripes website reported Thursday (January 2, 2020).

The Norfolk, Va.-based 2nd Fleet, reestablished in 2018, will be responsible for overseeing ships, aircraft and landing forces on the east coast and the north Atlantic, reaching up into the Arctic.

USS Harry S. Truman and USS Normandy Transit the Atlantic

The USS Harry Truman (CVN75) entered Arctic waters in October 2018, the first time in 30 years a U.S. aircraft carrier ventured into the Arctic Circle. ( (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)

The declaration of “full operational capability” certifies that 2nd Fleet’s command-and-control infrastructure is capable of running its assigned operations, Stars and Stripes, noted.

“Our allies and competitors alike are well aware that many of the world’s most active shipping lanes lie within the North Atlantic,” 2nd Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis, said  Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis, who heads the fleet, said, according to Defense News.

“Combined with the opening of waterways in the Arctic, this competitive space will only grow, and 2nd Fleet’s devotion to the development and employment of capable forces will ensure that our nation is both present and ready to fight in the region if and when called upon,” Lewis added.

When the Navy stood up the fleet last year, it cited Russia as the primary concern for which the new force is to address, Defense News noted. At the time, then-Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said: “This is a dynamic response to the dynamic security environment.”

In a sign of how strategically important the High North has become, Stars and Stripes noted,  last September, the 2nd Fleet established a Maritime Operations Center in Keflavik, Iceland, where 30 staff members now are based.

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Marines Getting the Boot.

The U.S. Marine Corps could be getting its first new intense cold-weather boot since the 1960s, the Marine Corps Times reports.

The Marine Corps Systems Command is finalizing  testing and evaluation of two commercial options, with the winner expected to be delivered by summer 2020.

The two semifinalists are the Belleville Intense Cold Weather Boot and the Danner Acadia. Over the ­winter, systems command staff will conduct follow-on user evaluations to validate the two boot submissions in a real world environment.

1st CEB Hikes During MTX 2-17

Marines snowshoeing downhill  at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California on February 22, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Danny Gonzalez).

The Marines and Army have been using a big, white, 1960s-era rubberized intense cold weather boot — nicknamed the “Mickey Mouse” boot — for more than half a century. Officially known as the Extreme Cold Weather Boot, it is effective at preventing frostbite and ­keeping feet warm down to minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit. But it is heavy and traps moisture creating wet feet.

The new boot is part of efforts to upgrade cold weather gear as Marines are expected to ­contribute forces to Arctic regions, such as their regular ­700-Marine rotations to Norway. Another gear item in that kit was the 2018 purchase of a new ski system, which was awarded to Serket USA for its Scout model ski and Patrol ski binding, the Marine Corps Times said.

Click here to see a video about extreme cold weather boots (Mickey Mouse or Bunny boots are addressed at 3:29)

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More Bad News.

Temperatures in the Arctic region remained near record highs in 2019, according to a report issued in December by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The higher temperatures led to low summer sea ice, cascading impacts on the regional food web and growing concerns over sea level rise, according to the New York Times.

Mid-summer sea ice off Svalbard, Norway 2019.

Thinning Midsummer sea ice off Svalbard, Norway in June 2019. (Photo by John M. Doyle, copyright 2019, Sonoma Road Strategies)

Average temperatures for the year ending in September were the second highest since 1900, the year records began, scientists said. While short of a new high, it raised concerns over a continuing trend: The past six years have been the warmest ever recorded in the region.

The peer-reviewed assessment produced by NOAA takes a broad look at the effects of climate change in the region and compares current findings with the historical record. Climate researchers are concerned about the Arctic because it is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet — causing changes both in the ocean and on land, the Times reported December 10, 2019.

In July, Reykjavik, Iceland, experienced its warmest month on record. Similarly, Anchorage, Alaska, set heat records in June, July and August. Warming temperatures were just one of the concerning changes documented in the report. Ninety-five percent of the Greenland ice sheet thawed in 2019, driven partly by the onset of an earlier-than-usual melt, prompting growing concerns over sea level rise.

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sea_ice_polar_bear

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Far North. The 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.”

January 2, 2020 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Homeland Security Priorities in the Arctic UPDATE

Falling Behind.

UPDATE: Adds 6 new paragraphs at the end, to detail testimony on how the United States is falling behind other Arctic nations in asserting its role and status as an Arctic power. 

The American people and their leaders need to wake up to the fact that the United States is an Arctic Nation before it loses control of its commercial, environmental and strategic  interests in the rapidly warming — and developing — region, a panel of experts told a congressional subcommittee Thursday (September 19)

USS Comstock Arrives in Seward, Alaska to continue AECE

The amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock transits the Gulf of Alaska headed for Seward, Alaska during Arctic Expeditionary Capabilities Exercise 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas Burgains)

Changing climate reduces polar sea ice and opens up access to untapped natural resources as well as maritime trade routes across the top of the globe — including Alaskan waters. And many nations, including Russia and China, which have both identified increased presence in the Arctic as a strategic priority, are moving faster than the United States to take advantage of the changing situation.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the Arctic  holds 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas. Russia, one of five nations that border the Arctic Ocean, has seen a five-fold increase in commercial activity along its Northern Sea Route. It has invested heavily in building ice breaker ships, and at more than 50, has the largest ice breaker fleet in the world

Meanwhile, China — which recently declared itself a “near Arctic state,” even though it is located nearly 1,000 miles from the region — is moving to take advantage of the commercial opportunities in the Arctic’s warming waters. It, too has an ice breaker construction plan, and is investing strategically in economic activity like liquid natural gas drilling in Russia’s Yamal Peninsula. Beijing is planning a virtual “Polar Silk Road,” of deepwater ports in friendly nations to help cut shipping time from China to Europe by two weeks.

sea_ice_polar_bear

Sea ice still thinning.
(Photo courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory website)

No longer an “emerging issue,”  Mike Sfraga, director of the Polar Institute, told the House Homeland Security Committee’s Transportation and Maritime Security subcommittee “the Arctic has emerged.”  The Arctic “is no longer an isolated or remote region: rather it is a critical component of our global political, economic, social, physical and security landscape,” added Sfraga, who is also director of the Global Risk and Resilience Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

He was one of four panelists from Washington area think tanks that research Arctic issues — the RAND Corporation; the Arctic Institute and the Heritage Foundation — called to testify about Homeland Security priorities in the Arctic.

Russia has invested heavily in militarizing its Arctic territory — which contains half of the world’s Arctic region and half of the Arctic’s population, said Luke Coffey, director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation. Over the past decade Russia has built or re-activated 14 operational airfields in the Arctic along with 16 deep-water ports, he added.

Arctic Region

Arctic Region (Source: CIA World Fact Book via wikipedia)

Meanwhile, the United States does not have a major deepwater port along 1,500 nautical miles of its Arctic coastline — from Dutch Harbor to Alaska’s North Slope. Without a viable string of ports in the U.S. Arctic commerce, search-and-rescue capabilities and national security interests will not be met, said Sfraga.

The U.S. Coast Guard has only two ice breakers, only one of which — the Polar Star — is a heavy ice breaker capable of dealing with Arctic ice. Congress has voted funding for an additional U.S. icebreaker, the Polar Security Cutter, but it won’t be available for years.

“How did this happen?” asked a stunned subcommittee member, Representative John Katko, a New York Republican. “How did we let our guard down to this extent?”

“It goes back to our lack of awareness of our role and our status as an Arctic power” in terms of the policy makers at the Defense Department, Homeland Security and NATO, said Coffey. He noted five of the eight Arctic nations are members of NATO but the latest NATO Strategic Concept, “which highlights all the challenges to the alliance, doesn’t even mention the Arctic.”

“The U.S. is often called the reluctant Arctic nation,” said Victoria Herrmann, president and managing director of the Arctic Institute. She noted the post of special representative to the Arctic region has been vacant for two years. “We do not promote ourselves as an Arctic nation. We are thousands of miles away from Alaska, and those voices just aren’t heard in these halls [of Congress],” she said.

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ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Far North. The 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.”

 

September 19, 2019 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 26, 2019)

F-22 x Two.

FRIFO 7-26-2019 Two F-22s

(Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant James Richardson)

Two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors fly in formation during training over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex in Alaska on July 18, 2019.

Meanwhile, meteorologists say the weather system responsible for a heat wave that cooked Europe from Britain to Germany this past week will stretch all the way across the top of the globe — including the Arctic — starting this weekend.

While cities like Paris and London wilted under record-setting temperatures above 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) some scientists are concerned about what the heat wave will do to the Arctic after it reaches Scandinavia this weekend and then moves west and north.

This weather system, characterized by a strong area of high pressure aloft — often referred to as a heat dome– could increase the melting of already thin sea ice and the Greenland ice sheet, reported the Washington Post.

arctic-ice-600

Frozen canyons and glaciers in Greenland. (NASA photo by Michael Studinger)

So far this year, the extent of Arctic sea ice has hovered at record lows during the melt season. Weather patterns favorable for increased melt have predominated in this region, and an unusually mild summer has also increased melting of the Greenland ice sheet. Unlike sea ice melt, however, runoff from the Greenland ice sheet increases sea levels, since it adds new water to the oceans, according to the Post.

Editor’s Note:

Your 4GWAR editor went on a fact-finding expedition, organized by the 2041 Foundation, ClimateForce and The Explorer’s Passage, to the Arctic in June. We saw first hand, what climate change is doing to the polar region and the implications for the rest of the planet — including new sea lanes and military buildups at the top of the world.  Our three-part article with reporting from Norway, Sweden and Washington, D.C. begins Tuesday, July 30.

July 26, 2019 at 10:21 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 21/22, 2019)

The “Almost” Midnight Sun.

IMG_20190620_221920545_HDR

Midnight sun over the northern end of Storfjorden (Great Fjord) in Svalbard archipelago. (Photo by John M. Doyle, Copyright 4GWAR)

What’s wrong with this photo?

Taken Friday, June 21, 2019 off the eastern side of Spitsbergen Island, almost 600 miles north/northwest of Norway in the Barents Sea, this photograph shows the sun still up an hour before midnight. But that’s not unusual in the Arctic during summer solstice.

However, what’s wrong with this image is the nearly ice-free water. Even in summer, the waters around Spitsbergen would normally have presented a seascape thick with pack ice spread across miles of water, like this photo, taken a day later in a different area.

IMG_20190621_202434623_HDR

Arctic sea Ice in northern Storfjorden (Great Fjord). (Photo by John M. Doyle, Copyright 4GWAR Blog)

But warmer weather, due to climate change, has led to a dramatic decline in sea ice, posing both risks and opportunities for the region.  The Arctic is heating up at more than twice the rate of the rest of the globe and the northern Barents Sea is becoming much warmer, according to the Barents Observer. Also, new sea ice created over the winter months is thinner and melts in summer, resulting in an overall loss of sea ice.

The increasing climate shift affects the habitat and  food supplies of all types of wildlife from Polar bears and walrus, to birds, fish and other types of sea life. It also poses dire consequences for humans. In Longyearbyen (population 2,200) the largest town on Spitsbergen — and the northernmost permanent community in the world — houses are sagging as the permafrost beneath them melts. Take-offs and landings at Longyearbyen airport are surprisingly bumpy and rough — not because there’s anything wrong with the plane or the runway but because the permafrost beneath the runway is melting and spongey. Longyearbyen is something of a canary in a coal mine, warning of environmental dangers to come for the rest of the planet.

Meanwhile, the reduced sea ice is opening up opportunities for year-round commercial navigation through the Arctic Ocean as well as increased mining, fishing and oil drilling (it has been estimated that 1/5 of the world’s undiscovered petroleum reserves lie beneath Arctic waters).  However, those activities also raise major concerns about damage to the environment and indigenous communities’ way of life as well as, maritime safety and increasing national security issues.

June 22, 2019 at 6:09 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: The King’s Guard

Guarding History, Too

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(Photo by John M. Doyle, copyright 4GWAR Blog)

OSLO, Norway — Members of His Majesty the King’s Guard march to their posts at Oslo’s historic Akershus Fortress Saturday, June 15. Your 4GWAR editor was touring the medieval complex when these troops passed by.

Norway’s King H Håkon V began building Akershus Castle and Fortress in 1299. The medieval castle had a strategic location and withstood a number of sieges throughout the ages. King Christian IV (1588-1648) had the castle modernised and converted into a Renaisssance castle and royal residence.

The complex today contains the castle, the Armed Forces Museum and Norway’s Resistance Museum.  The Resistance Museum chronicles the heroic and harrowing  civilian and military struggle against the five-year Nazi occupation that began when the Germans invaded Norway on on April 9th, 1940.

The King’s Guard dates back to the late 1850s, when the Royal Norwegian Company of Marksmen was established to enhance security around King Oscar I in Stockholm (Sweden). The company was renamed His Majesty The King’s Guard in 1866, and was transferred to Kristiania (now Oslo) toward the end of the union between Sweden and Norway. Since 1888 the King’s Guard has been on duty at the Royal Palace and other Royal residences 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, according to the Royal House of Norway website.

Today the King’s Guard has permanent sentry duty at the Royal Palace, Skaugum Estate, Bygdø Royal Farm when in use, Akershus Fortress and Huseby military camp.

Your 4GWAR Editor is in Norway for the Climate Force Arctic Expedition 2019 to Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean north of Norway — and a hotspot in both military and climate  strategies.  The rapid melting of sea ice in the Arctic and the opening of new sea lanes has raised U.S. Coast Guard concerns about safety, pollution and search and rescue operations. It has also sparked national security, environmental and economic concerns among the nations bordering the Arctic.

Longtime visitors to the blog may recall 4GWAR has been writing about the Arctic for nearly a decade. We’ll be so far north over the next week that internet connection will be weak, if not impossible, so we’ll be out of touch until late June.

*** *** ***

SHAKO-West Point cadetsSHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

 

 

June 17, 2019 at 6:15 pm 2 comments

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