Posts tagged ‘Arctic’

SHAKO: First Female Coast Guard Commandant Takes Over

GLASS CEILING SHATTERS

Admiral Linda Fagan took command June 1 as the first female commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. (Dept. of Homeland Security photo via Twitter.) Click on photos to enlarge image.

History was made June 1, 2022 as Admiral Linda Fagan became the first female commandant of the United States Coast Guard in a change of command ceremony with her predecessor Admiral Karl Schultz.

President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas attended the historic ceremony.

In his remarks, Biden noted Fagan had first served aboard the Polar Star, heavy icebreaker, been captain of the Port of New York, served on all seven continents and commanded Coast Guard operations in the Pacific before becoming Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard.

“Throughout her decades of service, she has demonstrated an exceptional skill, integrity, and commitment to our country. She upholds the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.,” Biden said.

“This moment of acceleration of global challenges and hybrid threats that don’t stop at any border, there’s no one more qualified to lead the proud women and men of the Coast Guard, and she will also be the first woman to serve as Commandant of the Coast Guard — the first woman to lead any branch of the United States Armed Forces. And it’s about time,” Biden added.

“With her trailblazing career,” the President said, “Admiral Fagan shows that young people — young people entering service that we mean it when we say there are no doors — no doors closed to women.”

Fagan became the 32nd vice commandant of the Coast Guard on June 18, 2021, and the first female four-star admiral in the service’s history. Biden nominated her for the top job in early April and confirmation from the Senate came swiftly.

Keeping with the tradition of wearing shoulder boards passed down from a senior officer, Adm. Fagan wore the shoulder boards of the Admiral Owen Siler. As the service’s 15th Commandant, he opened the Coast Guard Academy’s doors to women in 1975. Despite having met Silor only once, Fagan acknowledged “the outsized impact of that decision.”

“If it were not for Owen Siler’s courage, I would not be here today,” Fagan said. “I’m wearing his shoulder boards that he wore as commandant, just to acknowledge the long blue line.”

DHS Secretary Mayorkas (3rd from left) and President Biden attended the change of command ceremony where Adm. Linda Fagan  relieved Adm. Karl Schultz (2nd from right) as the 27th commandant at Coast Guard headquarters June 1, 2022. Fagan is the first woman service chief of any U.S. military service. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Magee)

In addition to praising Fagan’s service and accomplishments, Mayorkas, who heads the department that includes the Coast Guard, praised her predecessor, the 26th Commandant, Admiral Schultz, “who led the Coast Guard through a unique and unprecedented period,” Mayorkas noted.

“Throughout the global pandemic, the Coast Guard did not have the option of working from home. At the outset of the pandemic, Admiral Schultz led Coasties as they brought cruise ship passengers and crew to safety. From that time forward, he has helped keep the Marine Transportation System going, which facilitates more than a quarter of our country’s gross domestic product and maintains 31 million jobs in American ports, harbors, and waterways,” the DHS Secretary said.

“Through the most intense and active Atlantic hurricane season on record, historic levels of migration, the urgent need to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, and the Afghan resettlement effort of Operation Allies Welcome, the Coast Guard has been there, always ready and always delivering,” Mayorkas said.

June 2, 2022 at 12:02 am Leave a comment

BALTIC-2-BLACK: Finland’s Leaders Favor Joining NATO; Sweden Could be Next; Moscow Has a Melt Down

Finland Closer to Joining NATO.

For years, 4GWAR has been reporting that Russia’s boorish, then belligerent and now inhumane behavior has been worrying its European neighbors, from the Baltic Sea in the North to the Black Sea in the South, since it annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

In recent weeks, we’ve noted that two of those neighbors in the Baltic region — long-standing neutrals Sweden and Finland — are on the brink of joining NATO in response to the continuing brutal assault on Ukraine ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24.

Finland’s leaders Thursday came out in favor of applying to join NATO, and Sweden could do the same within days, in a historic realignment on the continent 2 1/2 months after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine sent a shiver of fear through Moscow’s neighbors, the Associated Press reported.

Finland’s president and prime minister have called for the country to apply for NATO membership “without delay,” the BBC reported, noting “Russia and Finland share a 1,300km (810-mile) border. Finland has been non-aligned since World War Two and has always sought not to antagonise its eastern neighbour.”

The declaration by Finland’s leaders that they will join NATO — with expectations that neighboring Sweden would soon do the same — could now reshape a strategic balance in Europe that has prevailed for decades, The New York Times observed, noting “It is the latest example of how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 11 weeks ago has backfired on Mr. Putin’s intentions.”

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AP: Why It’s a Big Deal.

Support in Finland for NATO membership has hovered around 20 to 30 percent for years. It now stands at over 70%. The two are NATO’s closest partners but maintaining good ties with Russia has been an important part of their foreign policy, particularly for Finland., the AP explained in an analysis piece.

Now they hope for security support from NATO states — primarily the United States — in case Moscow retaliates. Britain pledged on May 11 to come to their aid.

Joining regional neighbors Denmark, Norway and Iceland in NATO, would formalize their joint security and defense work in ways that their Nordic Defense Cooperation pact hasn’t. Finland and Sweden in NATO would tighten the strategic Nordic grip on the Baltic Sea — Russia’s maritime point of access to the city of St. Petersburg and its Kaliningrad exclave.

If Finland and Sweden join NATO, the Baltic Sea would become a NATO lake, with Russia the only non-NATO member on its coastal waters.

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Moscow Meltdown

Russia warned that Finland’s potential membership in NATO was a threat and said that it was prepared to “balance the situation,” characterizing any steps it takes in response as a necessary reaction forced on it by the alliance’s continued expansion, The New Tork Times reported.

President Vladimir V. Putin has cited NATO’s spread eastward to countries on its borders as the primary national threat to Russia and has used Ukraine’s desire to join the alliance to justify his invasion of that country. Mr. Putin has accused the United States and its allies of fighting a “proxy war” by arming Kyiv’s forces, according to The Times.

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Closer Than You Think.

In late April naval vessels from NATO members Latvia, Estonia and the Netherlands practiced counter mine measures with their Finnish counterparts off Finland’s coast, while German, French, Dutch and Canadian navy vessels conducted an ant-submarine exercise with the Swedish navy in the Baltic Sea.

“Since Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine, NATO has further reinforced its deterrence and defence, on land, in the air, and at sea. Finland and Sweden are NATO’s closest partners, with years of experience training and operating alongside NATO Allies,” according to a NATO press release.

U.S. and Finnish soldiers exchange information during Exercise Arrow 22 in Niinisalo Training Area, Finland in early May. Exercise Arrow is an annual, multinational exercise where visiting forces included U.S., U.K., Latvian and Estonian troops. (Photo Finnish Defence Forces via Facebook)

 

May 12, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

BALTIC-2-BLACK: Sweden, Finland Move Closer to NATO Membership; Russia Blusters and Threatens

Sweden, Finland and NATO.

The Nordic nations of Sweden and Finland, neutral during the Cold War, have been moving closer to NATO — participating in multi-national exercises with the forces of the western alliance — since Russia seized Crimea and grew increasingly belligerent in its military moves both on and above the Baltic Sea.

Russia’s February 24 invasion of non-NATO member Ukraine alarmed the Eastern members of NATO who used to be under the sway of Moscow — like Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic — to spend more on their defense forces and participate in more NATO exercises.Several are also supplying arms, medical equipment and technology to embattled Ukraine.

Finnish Troops participate in Exercise Cold Response 2022, a multinational Arctic weather military exercise hosted by Norway between March 14 and March 31. (Maavoimat – Armén – The Finnish Army, photo via Facebook)

The war in Ukraine pushed leaders in Sweden and Finland to publicly announce plans to consider joining the 30-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization — where an attack on one means an attack on all.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused Finland to review our security strategy,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin said at a joint press conference in Stockholm on April 13 hosted by Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. “I won’t offer any kind of timetable as to when we will make our decision, but I think it will happen quite fast. Within weeks, not within months. The security landscape has completely changed.”

Finland, which shares an 830-mile border with Russia, is “highly likely” to join NATO despite the Russian government’s threats to deploy nuclear weapons, Finnish Minister for European Affairs Tytti Tuppurainen said in an interview with Sky News Friday.

The people of Finland, they seem to have already made up their mind,” Tuppurainen told Sky News, noting that polls show overwhelming support for joining NATO.

The Finnish government is expected to submit a report to parliament on the changed security environment by the end of this month, kicking off a debate and eventually a recommendation on applying for NATO membership, according to Axios.

Meanwhile, Sweden has decided to examine a range of security-related options, including deepening Nordic defense cooperation and urging the European Union to develop enhanced defense policies to offer greater military protection to EU member states that border the highly sensitive Baltic Sea and High North regions, Defense News reports.

The Swedish government is expected to deliver its National Security Report to the Riksdag, the country’s legislature, before May 31.

“What we need to do is to carefully think through what is in the best long-term interests of Sweden, and what we need to do to guarantee our national security, our sovereignty and secure peace in this new heightened tension and situation,” said Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

“Russia’s invasion has dramatically changed the political discourse in Sweden and Finland and also crucially public opinion,” Alistair Shepherd, senior lecturer for European security at Aberystwyth University, told Al Jazeera.

There are indications both Finland and Sweden are heading towards a genuinely historic change of course in their respective security policies. During the Cold War, Sweden and Finland were essentially considered neutral states, although for different reasons.

“Sweden’s neutrality was much more part of their national identity, whereas Finland’s neutrality was more pragmatic and virtually forced upon them by the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance signed between Finland and the USSR in 1948,” said Shepherd.

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Moscow Reacts with Threats

Russia warned Finland and Sweden on Thursday (April 14) that if they join NATO, Moscow will reinforce the Baltic Sea region, including with nuclear weapons, the Washington Post reported.

The threat came just a day after Finnish officials suggested their country could request to join NATO within weeks, while Sweden mulled making a similar move.

Dmitry Medvedev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who serves as deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said that NATO expansion would lead Moscow to strengthen air, land and naval forces to “balance” military capability in the region.

“If Sweden and Finland join NATO, the length of the land borders of the alliance with the Russian Federation will more than double. Naturally, these boundaries will have to be strengthened,” he wrote on Telegram. “There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic — the balance must be restored,” Medvedev added.

Even before his invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Sweden and Finland of “retaliation” should they join NATO.

The New York Times notes that “if his invasion of Ukraine has succeeded at anything so far, it has been to drive the militarily nonaligned Nordic countries into the arms of NATO, as Russian threats and aggression heighten security concerns and force them to choose sides.

Finland and Sweden’s shift to NATO membership “would be another example of the counterproductive results of Mr. Putin’s war. Instead of crushing Ukrainian nationalism, he has enhanced it. Instead of weakening the trans-Atlantic alliance, he has solidified it. Instead of dividing NATO and blocking its growth, he has united it,” the Times observed April 13.

 

More that 1,600 Swedish troops and civilian personnel participated in Exercise Cold Response 2022, Norway’s multi-national Arctic military training exercise. (Swedish Armed Forces photo by Mats Carlsson/Försvarsmakten)

 

April 15, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: Coast Guard Admiral Nominated to be First Woman Commandant

Another First for the Coast Guard.

Another glass ceiling in the military may be broken soon.

On April 5, word leaked out that President Joe Biden intends to nominate Admiral Linda Fagan to serve as the 27th Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. If confirmed by the Senate, not only will Admiral Fagan be the first woman commandant of the Coast Guard, she would be the first woman in uniform to head one the military services.

Admiral Linda Fagan, vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard since 2021, has been nominated to be the Coast Guard’s first woman commandant by President Biden. (Official U.S. Coast Guard portrait)

While the Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, it operates under the Navy during times of war and by law is considered one of the six military services along with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Space Force.

Fagan became the 32nd vice commandant of the Coast Guard on June 18, 2021, and the first female four-star admiral in the service’s history.

The vice commandant is the No. 2 commander in the Coast Guard and its chief operating officer, responsible for executing the Commandant’s Strategic Intent, managing internal organizational governance, and serving as the Component Acquisition Executive.

Pending confirmation, Fagan is expected to relieve the current commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Karl L. Schultz, during a change of command ceremony planned for June 1, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

“Admiral Fagan is an exceptional senior Coast Guard officer and nominee, possessing the keen intellect, the depth of operational experience, and the well-honed leadership and managerial acumen to serve with distinction as our Service’s 27th commandant,” said Schultz, SEAPOWER reported.

The potential gap in leadership between Schultz’s departure and his replacement’s confirmation raised concerns among lawmakers in recent weeks, On Monday (April 4) Senate Democrats Tammy Baldwin of  Wisconsin and Maria Cantwell of Washington, sent a letter to the White House urging the president to nominate a new Coast Guard leader as soon as possible, Military Times reported.

“Ensuring continuity of leadership is of the utmost importance to our national and economic security,” the pair wrote. “The Coast Guard is at the forefront of a number of strategic priorities for the United States, from the growing importance of security in the Arctic, to drug interdiction, environmental protection, and leading emergency response on the frontlines of the climate crisis.”

Congress is scheduled to break for two weeks starting April 8, but could schedule confirmation hearings for Fagan in late April or early May, Military Times noted.

Previously, Fagan served as commander of the Coast Guard Pacific Area and and Commander, Coast Guard Defense Force West. She has served on all seven continents, from Ross Island, Antarctica to the heart of Africa, and in many ports along the way. Her operational tours include: Commander of the New York sector;ore than 15 years as a Marine Inspector; and sea duty on the heavy ice breaker POLAR STAR — her first at-sea assignment.

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, seen here on Jan. 2, 2020, was Adm. Linda Fagan’s first sea duty assignment as an officer. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer NyxoLyno Cangemi)

Fagan is also the Coast Guard officer with the longest service record in the Marine Safety field, earning the service’s first-ever Gold Ancient Trident award.

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SHAKO 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.

April 7, 2022 at 9:36 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 1, 2022)

IT’S SNOWING SOLDIERS.

(U.S. Army photo by Major Jason Welch) CLICK on photo to enlarge image.

Paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, conducted a forcible entry exercise onto Donnelly Drop Zone at the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center  (JPMRC) on March 11, 2022.

The 501st regiment, part of the “Spartan Brigade — 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) of the 25th Infantry Division — were participating in JPMRC rotation 22-02, the first Home Station Combat Training Center (HS-CTC) rotation in Alaska. The Cold Weather training event focuses on Large Scale Combat Operation, including a Live Fire Exercise.

March 31, 2022 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (MARCH 12, 2022)

A Flash of Green.

The northern lights glow behind a Patriot M903 launcher station during Exercise ARCTIC EDGE 2022 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, March 5, 2022. The Patriot system allows Soldiers to detect, analyze and defend against incoming air and missile threats.

U.S.Northern Command is hosting exercise Arctic Edge 2022, which is held every two years.

Participants include 1,000 U.S. military personnel, including units from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Special Operations Command.

Additionally, elements from the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the Canadian Army are also participating.

The exercise aims is to provide realistic and effective training using training locations that are available throughout Alaska.

Arctic Edge 22 is linked to other service specific exercises, including the National Guard’s Arctic Eagle Patriot, the Army’s Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Capability Exercise and the Navy’s ICEX. They will take place concurrently or consecutively during the month of February and March.

March 13, 2022 at 12:04 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (February 4, 2022)

I’m OK

(Minnesota National Guard photo by Anthony Housey)

What you’re seeing is actually a good thing.

If you click on the photo to enlarge it, what you’ll notice is the blue-gloved hand is making the OK sign. It’s part of the U.S. Navy-U.S. Coast Guard annual ice dive training course at the Minnesota National Guard’s Camp Ripley from January 29 to February 10, 2022.

A team of Coast Guard High-Risk Training Instructors have been conducting week-long classes in how to dive in a cold-weather environment. The course, run by Dive Rescue International, and taught by qualified Navy divers and experienced civilian instructors will provide real-world ice and cold weather dive training in arctic conditions.

Training topics range from inspecting and putting on their diving equipment to diving and using their special equipment under the frozen lakes.

Camp Ripley provide arctic conditions for real-world ice and cold weather dive training. On the third day of training the “real feel” temperature at Camp Ripley was 27 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit).

Training began with setting up tents, cutting proper holes in the ice (short video),dry suit familiarization, and SCUBA cold-water set up training before the students dove under the ice.

February 4, 2022 at 7:20 pm Leave a comment

BALTIC-2-BLACK: Tensions Grow on Ukraine-Russia Border; Moscow Eyes Svalbard Presence in Hybrid-Strategy

UKRAINE:

Biden Reassures Ukrainian President.

President Joe Biden has reassured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, as the country steels itself for a potential Russian invasion on its eastern frontier.

According to a White House readout of the December 9 call, “President Biden voiced the deep concerns of the United States and our European Allies about Russia’s aggressive actions towards Ukraine and made clear that the U.S. and our Allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of a further military intervention.”

Biden also told Zelenskyy that the United States and its allies were “committed to the principle of ‘no decisions or discussions about Ukraine without Ukraine,’” reiterating his calls for Russia to de-escalate tensions and choose diplomacy, POLITICO reported.

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(Black Sea region map Norman Einstein via wikipedia)

Seeking Help from Parners, Allies.

Biden also held a separate call December 9 with the Bucharest Nine,” a group of NATO members on Europe’s eastern edge close to Russia — including the Baltics and Poland — that are particularly sensitive to aggressive moves by Moscow, the Washington Post reported.

Thursday’s conversations took place roughly 48 hours after Biden spoke on a two-hour video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, when he warned the Kremlin leader that severe economic consequences would follow if he once again decides to invade neighboring Ukraine.
During their call, Biden and Putin agreed that their teams would arrange talks on what the Kremlin calls sensitive European security issues, including Putin’s complaints about NATO activities in and around Ukraine, which is not a NATO member. The Kremlin has denied any plans to invade, accusing Washington of fueling a war scare.
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U.S. Not Sending Troops
President Joe Biden said Wednesday that U.S. support for Ukraine against a worrisome buildup of Russian forces will not include additional U.S. troops, at least for now.

“That is not on the table,” Biden told reporters December 8 at the White House. “The idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not on, in the cards right now,” Defense One repored. 

Ukraine is not a member of NATO and does not enjoy the collective protection of Article 5, which calls every alliance member to arms when one is attacked. Ukraine seeks to join NATO but Russia opposes its entry into the alliance.

In an exclusive interview for Defense One’s Outlook 2022, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Biden emphasized in his phone call with Putin that if Russia moves against Ukraine, the United States would levy economic consequences; provide more military gear to Kiev; and deploy an “increased U.S. troop presence and increased capabilities in countries like Poland, the Baltics, [and] Romania.”

But Sullivan reiterated that the U.S. does not intend to send more troops to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the final elements of a $60 million security systems package to Ukraine — initially announced in August — will ship this week, a Pentagon spokesman said December 9.

U.S. Marines, assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2d Marine Division, cut through barbed wire during the Exercise Sea Breeze 2021 in Oleshky Sands, Ukraine, July 2, 2021. The multinational maritime exercise cohosted by U.S. Sixth Fleet and the Ukrainian Navy in the Black Sea since 1997, is designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen maritime security and peace in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trey Fowler)

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters that the last portions of the existing security package, which includes small arms and ammunition, is shipping now. Other parts of that security assistance package, meant to help Ukrainians defend their sovereignty against Russian aggression, included the Javelin missile system, which is already in the hands of Ukrainian servicemembers.

The $60 million package previously included 30 Javelin Command Launch Units and 180 missiles. The Javelins were delivered to Ukraine on October 23. “The United States has committed more than $450 million in security assistance to Ukraine in 2021, and this is part of our ongoing commitment to supporting Ukraine’s ability to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Anton Semelroth, a Defense Department  spokesman said in an email to reporters.

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Putin’s No-Ukraine-in-NATO Demand.

On December 1, Vladimir Putin demanded ‘‘legal guarantees’’ that NATO would never expand eastward, ratcheting up the stakes as the West scrambled to respond to Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine, the New York Times reported.

Putin, who sees Ukraine’s deepening military partnership with the United States and other NATO countries as an existential threat, wants to start talks with the West to reach an agreement that would block the alliance’s expansion. He spoke in the midst of what Western officials describe as a growing threat of military action by tens of thousands of Russian troops massing close to the border with Ukraine — a former Soviet nation that seeks to join NATO.

‘‘The threat on our western borders is, indeed, rising, as we have said multiple times,’’ Putin said at a ceremony for ambassadors at the Kremlin December, according to the Times. ‘‘In our dialogue with the United States and its allies, we will insist on developing concrete agreements prohibiting any further eastward expansion of NATO and the placement there of weapons systems in the immediate vicinity of Russian territory.’’

Putin’s demand is a nonstarter for NATO. ‘‘It’s only Ukraine and 30 NATO allies that decide when Ukraine is ready to join NATO,’’ Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general told reporters in Riga, Latvia. ‘‘Russia has no veto, Russia has no say, and Russia has no right to establish a sphere of influence trying to control their neighbors.’’

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ARCTIC:

From the Barents Sea to the Baltic to the Black Sea

An expert on Polar geopolitics warns that Russia to enhance its presence in Svalbard, a Norwegian-controlled archipelago in the Arctic, the Independent Barents Observer reports.

In an interview with the Norwegian-based Arctic news site, Dr. Elizabeth Buchanan, says “a hybrid-strategy is underway in which Russia bolsters its legitimate presence in Svalbard on one hand while raising tensions in the maritime space on the other hand.” A lecturer in strategic studies at Australia’s Deakin University, says Moscow “isn’t about to annex Svalbard, Russia doesn’t want such a fight.”

Instead, she says Russia will try to assert its rights under a 1920 Treaty that gave Norway sovereignty over the islands, but Russia coal limited mining and other economic and scientific rights.

In recent years, the islands have risen in strategic importance as they reside just north of the intersection of the Barents, Greenland and Norwegian seas (see map above) . Whomever controls Svalbard is also likely to control the important gateway from the shallow Barents Sea to the deeper North Atlantic. For Russia’s Northern Fleet, the so-called Bear Island Gap between mainland Norway and the archipelago’s southernmost island is key to conducting sea denial operations in and over the maritime areas further south, potentially threatening NATO’s transatlantic sea lines of communication, according to the Observer.

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BALTIC-2-BLACK is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the rising tensions between Russia and the West in the regions of the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, where former Russian satellite nations like Poland and Romania border against Russian territory. Both NATO, and the United States in particular, have stepped up their presence in the region since Russia began throwing its weight around after annexing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. Since then, some Scandinavian countries have been boosting defense budgets even restoring a military draft as Russian aircraft and naval vessels have acted more aggressively in the region.

December 10, 2021 at 12:04 am Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: U.S. Ice Breaker Circumnavigating North America; Canadian Coast Guard showing Royal Navy the Ropes in the Arctic

Ice Breaker Healy Heading for Home.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy navigates near Baffin Island, Canada on September 16, 2021. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Matt Masaschi)

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy is about a month away from completing its circumnavigation of North America. The aim of the mission is to strengthen allied partnerships along the way, while conducting Coast Guard missions and supporting scientific exploration to increase understanding of the changing Arctic environment.

Uniquely equipped to conduct scientific operations, Healy is also the premiere U.S. high-latitude research vessel. Healy is the only U.S. military surface vessel that routinely deploys to the ice-covered waters of the Arctic to provide access and secure national interests related to our maritime borders and natural resources.

After setting out from its homeport in Seattle on July 10, the 420-foot medium ice breaker sailed to the Gulf of Alaska, around the 49th state through the Bering and Chukchi seas to the Arctic Ocean where it patrolled before returning to Seward, Alaska in late August to pick up a team of international scientists to study sea ice and other conditions. Healy and its crew of 85 then retraced the cutter’s journey around Alaska to the Beaufort Sea, transited the Northwest Passage — now more accessible in summer as sea ice continues to decline — through Canadian waters to Baffin Bay, the Davis Strait and Nuuk, Greenland September 13.

Healy’s crew and  the science team deployed research equipment in Baffin Bay and off the coast of Greenland. After another stop in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Healy entered Boston Harbor October 14. The next day the Coast Guard held an Arctic discussion roundtable aboard the Healy.   Coast Guard Vice Admiral Steven Poulin, the Atlantic Area commander, along with the Coast Guard 1st District command, Rear Admiral Thomas Allan, and the ice breaker’s commander, Captain Kenneth Boda, were joined by more than 20 professors, students, and Arctic leaders from several U.S. universities.

The U.S. Coast Guard held an Arctic discussion roundtable aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy in Boston on Oct. 15, 2021. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lieutenant Commander Katie Blue)

On Prince of Wales Strait, a narrow stretch of water separating two islands in Canada’s Northwest Territories, Boda told the Seattle Times , stretches of shoreline had collapsed due to permafrost thaw. Boda said the crew was largely able to find open water rather than having to break ice. Healy is expected to return to Seattle around November 20 after taking the Panama Canal back to the Pacific Ocean.

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Canadian Coast Guard Trains UK Royal Navy

The United Kingdom’s Royal Navy is learning the cold facts about operating in the Arctic from shipmates in the Canadian Coast Guard, who have a great deal of cold weather experience, SEAPOWER reports.

British sailors are training with Canadians on how to navigate through icy waters and how to break ice where necessary. At the same time, Canadian Coast Guard personnel will have operational training opportunities with the Royal Navy and gain experience with crewless technology.

An agreement to formalize the arrangement was signed between the two NATO nations at the Canadian Coast Guard’s (CCG) headquarters in Ottawa on October 8.

U.S., British and Canadian flags fly over Ice Camp Seadragon during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2020. ICEX 2020 is a biennial submarine exercise which promotes interoperability between allies and partners to maintain operational readiness and regional stability, while improving capabilities to operate in the Arctic environment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro)

“The sharing of the Canadian Coast Guard’s wide experience and expertise will mean British sailors are better equipped when sailing to the frozen region,” the Royal Navy said in a press statement.

Canadian Coast Guard icebreaking vessels, from hovercraft to heavy and light icebreaking and long-endurance ships, keep Canadian ports open year-round, freeing ice-bound vessels, escorting ships through ice-covered waters and maintaining a constant presence the High North during the navigable season.

The Royal Navy has shown a renewed interest in the Arctic region in recent years because of its key strategic importance to the security of the U.K.

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Nuclear submarine USS Toledo 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. Since that strategy was developed, mineral riches beneath the Arctic Sea – which is bordered by six nations, Canada, Denmark (which controls Greenland), Iceland, Norway, Russia and the United States — have prompted concerns about a “Cold Rush” of industries, corporations, speculators and governments hoping to take advantage of resources once thought inaccessible.

October 24, 2021 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: B-2 Bombers in Iceland: Chinese Warships Near Alaska; MQ-9 tested Over Canadian Arctic

Stealth Bombers.

U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers have ended a two-and-a-half-weeks deployment in Iceland, operating from Keflavik Air Base, where they trained with U.S., British and Norwegian fighter jets. The first-of-its-kind deployment reflects the U.S. military’s increased focus on the High North, according to Business Insider.

Three B-2s from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri arrived at Keflavik on August 23 for a Bomber Task Force deployment. For the bombers that has meant more short-term deployments overseas or non-stop flights to and from distant regions for training.

Three B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, arrive at Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, August 23, 2021. The stealth bombers took part in their first ever forward operation out of Iceland. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Victoria Hommel)

The B-2s trained with U.S. and British fighter jets over the North Sea in late August and early September. On September 8 they trained with Norwegian F-35s over the North Sea in an “advanced mission designed to test escort procedures, stand-off weapon employment and the suppression and destruction of air defenses,” according to the Air Force.

The bombers returned to Missouri on September 11, after conducting more than a dozen multinational missions.

In a September 20 statement, the Air Force said Keflavik Air Base had served as a new launch point for short-notice bomber task force missions to Europe.

In 2019, the B-2 completed a stop-and-go “hot pit” refueling at Keflavik, but “this is the first time the B-2 has operated continuously from Iceland,” Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Howard, the commander of the 110th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, said in a statement.

The U.S. military has invested millions of dollars to improve infrastructure at Keflavik, which was prominent in allied operations during the Cold War but faded in importance in subsequent years, according to the Stars and Stripes website.

*** *** ***

USCG Encounters Chinese Warships Near Alaska.

The People’s Republic of China is located more than a thousand miles from the Arctic but Beijing like to style itself a “Near Arctic Nation.”

Just how seriously China takes its interests at the top of the world came into focus in August w hen two U.S. Coast Guard cutters observed four ships from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) operating as close as 46 miles off the Aleutian Island coast.

While the PLAN ships were within the U.S. exclusive economic zone, they followed international laws and norms and at no point entered U.S. territorial waters, according to SEAPOWER. The PLAN task force included a guided-missile cruiser, a guided-missile destroyer, a general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel. The Chinese vessels conducted military and surveillance operations during their deployment to the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean.

The encounter came during a deployment of the national security cutters, Bertholf and Kimball, to the Bering Sea and the Arctic region.

“Security in the Bering Sea and the Arctic is homeland security,” said Vice Admiral Michael McAllister, commander Coast Guard Pacific Area. “The U.S. Coast Guard is continuously present in this important region to uphold American interests and protect U.S. economic prosperity.”

***

Big Drone Over Canada.

In a flight that originated from its Flight Test and Training Center (FTTC) near Grand Forks, North Dakota, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) flew a company-owned MQ-9A “Big Wing” configured unmanned aircraft system north through Canadian airspace past the 78th parallel, the company said September 10.

Long endurance drones like the MQ-9 have been unable to operate at extreme northern (and southern) latitudes, because many legacy SATCOM datalinks can become less reliable above the Arctic (or below the Antarctic) Circle – approximately 66 degrees north, SEAPOWER reported.

At those latitudes, the low-look angle to geostationary Ku-band satellites begins to compromise the link. GA-ASI has demonstrated a new capability for effective ISR operations by performing a loiter at 78.31° North, using Inmarsat’s L-band Airborne ISR Service (LAISR).

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ MQ-9A “Big Wing” Unmanned Aerial System flew in the hostile climate of the Canadian Arctic. (General Atomics photo)

The flight over Haig-Thomas Island, in the Canadian Arctic, demonstrated the UAS’s flexibility by operating at very high latitudes. The flight, which took off on Sept. 7 and returned to the FTTC on Sept. 8, was conducted with cooperation from the Federal Aviation Administration, Transport Canada and Nav Canada.

Covering 4,550 miles in 25.5 hours, it was one of the longest-range flights ever flown by a company MQ-9. The flight was performed under an FAA Special Airworthiness Certificate and a Transport Canada Special Flight Operations Certificate.

As global warming melts Arctic Ocean ice pack, leaving more open water for transit by Chinese and Russian ships, Washington is looking for new ways to keep an eye on the frigid region. One possibility: unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) that keep watch from above, the Flight Global website observed.

*** *** ***

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.”

September 23, 2021 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

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