Posts tagged ‘U.S. Coast Guard’

WORLD WAR CV: COVID-19 Vaccination Remains a Difficult Issue for the Sea Services

GETTING TO THE JAB.

On August 24th 2021, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin determined that requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all members of the military was necessary to protect the force and maintain readiness to defend the American people.

In the year since Austin made vaccination mandatory with President Joe Biden’s approval, the vast majority of people in uniform — nearly 2 million — have gotten fully vaccinated. As of September 7, the latest Defense Department COVID-19 statistics, 1 million, 996 thousand service members have been fully vaccinated, including 909, 699 in r the Army, 387,535 in the Navy, 200,532 in the Marine Corps and 498,541 for the Air Force and Space Force combined. More than 28,000 are considered partially vaccinated — meaning those who have received at least one dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series.

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Henry Beaty administers a COVID-19 booster shot aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge on March 23, 2022. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jesse Schwab)

However, thousands more either refused to get the jab or sought administrative or religious exemption to the vaccination requirement. While hundreds have been granted administrative exemption from vaccination, but just a few have received religious accommodation. That has led led to several lawsuits.

Almost 5,000 Sailors and Marines have been separated from the sea services since late 2021 for vaccination refusal. The Navy has received 4,251 requests for religious accommodation, the Marines 3,733. Less than 100 have been approved. However, a federal judge in Texas certified a class action by Sailors, mostly Navy SEALS, seeking a religious exemption and issued a preliminary injunction March 30, halting separation for members of the class. A similar injunction was issued against the Marine Corps on August 18 by a federal judge in Florida.

Meanwhile, seven cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy who refused to comply with the military’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate were dis-enrolled and ordered off the school’s New London, Connecticut campus in late August, SEAPOWER reported. Although a part of the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard announced a vaccination mandate for service members on August 26th, 2021. By law, the Coast Guard operates under the Defense Department as part of the Department of the Navy when war is declared and Congress directs the shift, or when the President directs the Coast Guard to switch from Homeland Security to Defense.

Fifteen cadets filed medical exemption or religious accommodation requests in September 2021. They were evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the Coast Guard’s Office of Military Personnel Policy and denied. After a series of appeals and further denials, four cadets chose vaccination. Four others resigned from the Academy and the remaining seven were removed from the school for “violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice” for not obeying orders. For more details click here to see the SEAPOWER report by your 4GWAR editor, who is also a correspondent for the magazine and its website.

On a final note, the Defense Department announced Aug. 29 a new COVID-19 vaccine, Novavax, will be available as an option at military clinics. Officials hope Novavax, which is approved by the Food and Drug Administration under an emergency use authorization (EUA) for individuals 12 years of age and older, may be more acceptable to the thousands of troops who have refused the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for religious or moral reasons.

Novavax uses technology that has been used in other vaccines required by the military, like hepatitis B vaccine. Novavax is not made with, or tested on, cells from fetal tissue. It does not use mRNA or DNA technology and does not enter the nucleus of cells, Pentagon officials said.

September 13, 2022 at 1:03 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September 2, 2022)

One of the Perks of the Job.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Abban)

Crew members look at the aurora borealis as it’s seen from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bear while transiting northward in the Atlantic Ocean, August 9, 2022.

The Bear was heading for Operation Nanook, the Canadian Armed Forces’ signature northern operation, this year in and around Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Nunavut is a massive, sparsely populated territory of northern Canada, forming most of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

The aurora, also known as the Northern Lights, is an electrical phenomenon in Earth’s atmosphere.

 

September 2, 2022 at 2:18 am Leave a comment

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

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 (March 25, 2022)

Not All Drones Fly

(U.S. Army photo by Cpl. DeAndre Dawkins)

The U.S. Coast Guard Sentinel-class cutter Glen Harris sails near a U.S Saildrone Explorer in the Gulf of Aqaba of February 13, 2022 during the international maritime exercise Cutlass Express 2022.

A saildrone is a wind and solar-powered unmanned surface vehicle (USV) (a sea-going drone) capable of collecting ocean data for up to 12 months on the open water. In October 2013, a saildrone completed the first autonomous Pacific crossing, sailing 2,248 nautical miles in 34 days from San Francisco to Hawaii, according to the manufacturer, Alameda, California-based Saildrone Inc.

The Saildrone Explorer is 23 feet long, 16 feet tal. It’s reliant on wind power for propulsion and carries a package of solar-powered sensors.

Last December (2021) U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) began testing the new USV in the Gulf of Aqaba — a narrow body of water that separates’ Egypt’s Sinai peninsula from Saudi Arabia — as part of an initiative to integrate new unmanned systems and artificial intelligence into U.S. 5th Fleet operations.

On December 13, NAVCENT launched a Saildrone Explorer USV for the first time from the Royal Jordanian naval base at Aqaba, Jordan. A month earlier, U.S. and Jordanian naval leaders announced the base would become a joint hub for Saildrone operations in the Red Sea.

The Glen Harris, homeported in Manama, Bahrain, is the third of six fast response cutters (FRCs) that are relieving the 110-foot Island-class patrol boats assigned to the Fifth Fleet’s area since 2003. Stationing FRCs in Bahrain supports U.S. Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, the Coast Guard’s largest unit outside of the United States.

The Sentinel-class is a key component of the Coast Guard’s offshore fleet, capable of deploying independently to conduct missions, including port, waterways and coastal security, fishery patrols, search and rescue, and national defense. The FRCs are 154 feet long weighing 353 long tons in displacement. They have a top speed of more than 28 knots, a range of 2,500 nautical miles, an endurance of up to 5 days at sea. The FRCs carry a crew of up to 24.

Cutlass Express is the largest multinational training event in the Middle East, involving more than 60 nations and international organizations committed to strengthening maritime security and stability by building partnerships and interoperability.

Participating nations in Cutlass Express 2022 include Comoros, Djibouti, Georgia, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, the Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The international police agency, Interpol, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime are also participating in the exercise.

March 25, 2022 at 8:37 pm 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

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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

ARCTIC NATION: Operation Nanook; U.S. Coast Guard Patrol; Arctic Fighter Jet Drill

UPDATE: Sept. 3, 2021

Operation Nanook.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Richard Snyder takes part in the Canadian military’s Operation Nanook in the Labrador Sea on August 13, 2021. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by USCGC Richard Snyder)

Two U.S. Coast Guard cutters, ranged far from home recently to participate in the annual Canadian military exercise in the Arctic, Operation Nanook 21.

The 154-foot Fast Response Cutter (FRC) Richard Snyder, and the 270-foot Medium Endurance Cutter Escanaba worked alongside two Royal Canadian Navy vessels, HMCS (Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship) Harry Dewolf and HMCS Goose Bay, to enhance their abilities to respond to safety and security issues in the High North through air and maritime presence activities as well as maritime domain defense and security exercises.

The Richard Snyder, with a crew of about 24, was the first Sentinel-class FRC deployed to the region. Based in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, the cutter primarily focuses on living marine resources and search and rescue operations, said its skipper, Lieutenant Commander Gregory Bredariol. “The FRC has fared exceedingly well in the Arctic. Our major concerns were fuel and food, and there have been no issues with either as the cutter continues to steam through the operational area and complete all training and interactions with stellar results,” he added.

Operation NANOOK, which runs this year through September 12, 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 Arctic region. In 2021 it comprised three distinct operations:

Op NANOOK-TUUGAALIK (August 3-10) A maritime defense domain and security exercise off the coast of Labrador and Baffin Island, designed to assist the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in building capacity in Canada’s northern regions.

Op NANOOK-TATIGIIT (August 10-15) An interagency territorial exercise engaging other Canadian government departments and agencies in a response to a simulated major incident and serach and rescue mission in the North.

Op NANOOK-NUNAKPUT: (August 9 – September 12) A series of presence activities along the Northwest Passage to demonstrate Canada’s ability to deploy forces in the Arctic as well as build the CAF’s domain awareness of the region.

The two U.S. Coast Guard cutters participated in the first two operations.  “The joint effort during Tuugaalik and Tatigiit included multi-ship small boat training, formation steaming, hailing and signals exercises, and more,” said Commander Ben Spector, skipper of Escanaba.. “Weather, especially in the Arctic, is a genuine consideration, and increasing sea state and fog tested us,” he said, adding the Coast Guard “remains committed to conducting operations and combined maritime exercises throughout the Atlantic and the Arctic region.”

Operation Nanook is the third of four major deployments of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Atlantic Arctic Season. In June, the tall ship Eagle visited Iceland, where Vice Admiral Steven Poulin, the Atlantic Area commander, hosted Icelandic officials for Arctic discussions. Also, in June, the cutter Maple participated in the Danish Joint Arctic Command’s annual exercise, Ex Argus, in Southern Greenland. Later this fall, the medium ice breaker Healy will make stops along the U.S. East Coast after transiting the Northwest Passage on its circumnavigation of North America.

While the Richard Snyder heads back to North Carolina, the Boston-based Escanaba, with a crew of about 100, is next slated to participate in Frontier Sentinel, an annual exercise of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, and Royal Canadian Navy.

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Patrolling with the Russians.

Two other U.S. Coast cutters, one very far from home, spent the summer patrolling the Bering and Chukchi Seas off the Coast of Alaska, with Canadian — and Russian counterparts.

In late July, the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Midgett, one of the service’s National Security Cutters, conducted combined operations and training with the Canadian coast guard Ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier in the Chukchi Sea, and a joint patrol of the U.S.-Russia maritime boundary north of the Diomede Islands with the Russian Border Guard vessel Kamchatka. Just 3.8 kilometers (2.4 miles) separate Big Diomede Island (Russian territory) and Little Diomede Island (part of Alaska), according to NASA.

Midgett is the Coast Guard’s eighth National Security Cutter and is homeported in Honolulu. Featuring advanced command-and-control capabilities, national security cutters are the flagship of the Coast Guard’s fleet, deploying globally to confront national security threats, strengthen maritime governance, and promote economic prosperity.

Midgett also did a joint transit of the Bering Strait with the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, one of the service’s two operational polar icebreakers. Air crews from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak deployed to Kotzebue, Alaska in an HC-130J Hercules aircraft, an extended-range, search and rescue airplane, to support both cutter operations, according to SEAPOWER magazine.

In addition to being a medium polar ice breaker, 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.

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Nordic Fighter Jets over Lapland.

Fighter jets from the Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian Air Forces began taking to the skies August 30 over Lapland, Finland’s northernmost region, for the Arctic Fighter Meet 21 (AFM 21) live air exercise.

Lapland Air Command will host the AFM 21 exercise at Finland’s Rovaniemi Air Base. The Finnish Air Force will take part in the exercise with F/A-18 Hornet multi-role fighters and Hawk jet trainers. The Royal Norwegian Air Force will participate with F-16 Fighting Falcons and the Swedish Air Force with JAS 39 Gripen C/D fighters, according to the Finnish Air Force.

Flight operations of the exercise will take place in Finnish airspace in the training areas used by Lapland Air Command from Monday August 30 to Friday September 3.

Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian aircraft in close formation (Photo Finnish Air Force) CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE.

The objective of the annual Arctic Fighter Meet exercises is to fly air combat training with different types of fighters, and to familiarize the youngest fighter pilots with international exercises, according to the Finns.

However, the Barents Observer notes the air exercise will take place just two weeks before Russian armed forces launch their large-scale Zapad-21 (West 21) exercise. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, this exercise is being closely monitored following Russia’s recent mobilization of an estimated 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s border with Russia and within Crimea (which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014). Russia’s military buildup in its Arctic borderlands has raised concerns for United States and other NATO nations in the Arctic (Canada, Norway and Denmark, which controls Greenland). Baltic and Nordic nations have been rattled by Russia’s antagonistic behavior since it seized Crimea. Some have reinstituted the draft or increased their defense budgets. There were numerous reports of Russia probing Nordic defenses, from an underwater vehicle  entering Swedish waters to Russian bomber flights violating Swedish and Finnish airspace.

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ENVIRONMENT: UPDATE Sept. 3, 2021

U.S. Judge’s Ruling Upsets New Alaska Oil Project 

A federal judge reversed on August 18, the U.S. government’s approval of ConocoPhillips’ planned $6 billion Willow oil development in Alaska, citing problems with its environmental analysis, according to Reuters.

The ruling is a fresh blow to a massive drilling project that Alaskan officials hoped would help offset oil production declines in the state. A ConocoPhillips spokesperson said the company would review the decision and evaluate its options for the project. (Hat Tip to High North News.)

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Coast Guard medium ice breaker Healy (U.S. Coast Guard photo)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 2, 2021 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: Maritime Unmanned Systems; NATO, Turkish, USAF Drones

Sea-Air-Space 2021. UPDATED

Among the topics frequently discussed at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space exposition August 2-4 were unmanned systems and the challenge of the Arctic. We start off with where those two topics intersect.

Droids and Drones in the Arctic.

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star breaks ice in the Chukchi Sea, in late December 2020. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Cynthia Oldham)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland – The U.S. Coast Guard is exploring the use of unmanned aerial, surface and undersea systems in the harsh and distant environs of the Arctic.

Captain Thom Remmers told a briefing at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space exposition August 2 that unmanned underwater vehicles could “very easily and capably look for environmental spills” under the ice from passing tankers or oil drilling rigs.

The first big defense industry conference to return to an in-person format since the coronavirus pandemic shut down nearly all such events in 2020, Sea-Air-Space 2021 drew thousands of visitors and hundreds of exhibitors.

At his exhibit hall briefing, Remmers discussed the Coast Guard’s creation of an Unmanned Systems Cross-Functional Working Group to lead a service-wide effort to explore how unmanned systems could help the Coast Guard execute its mission. The Working Group was created on advice from the National Academies of Sciences for the Coast Guard to  “take a more strategic and accelerated approach to exploit the capabilities of existing and future unmanned systems.”

Remmers told SEAPOWER magazine the Coast Guard has deployed unmanned aerial vehicles on some icebreakers — like the Coast Guard Cutter Healy — to look for ice floes.  Unmanned systems could also provide “a long-range persistent MDA [maritime domain awareness] type of capability that we need up there,” Remmers added.

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Drones are Helpful, But Not Enough Up North.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — Unmanned systems may be a solution for handling dirty, dull or dangerous tasks in the Arctic, but they’re no substitute for a U.S. flagged ship when it comes establishing presence in the Far North, according to a  key Coast Guard Arctic expert.

“Unmanned systems are a great tool but they don’t deliver presence,” according to Coast Guard Senior Arctic Advisor Shannon Jenkins. “Presence is a U.S. flagged [manned] sovereign vessel,” Jenkins told the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space expo on April 3. “You can’t surge into the Arctic. You have to be up there,” he explained.

Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl Schultz has said repeatedly that “presence equals influence in the Arctic” to counter a resurgent Russia, and China — which styles itself a “near Arctic nation” — from ignoring the rules-based international order and modern maritime governance as they have done in other regions like the Black and South China seas.

Maritime domain awareness in the Arctic requires more than periodic exercises. It is important to understand how the environment is changing, Jenkins said, “So that we’re better prepared for when industry changes their operations up there, so we can be prepared to be up there and regulate, enforce and protect those operations as well as the U.S. citizens up there,” he said. Full story? Click here.

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Drone Delivery Tests.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is testing out a new unmanned cargo delivery platform that can transport small amounts of cargo between Navy ships, according to SEAPOWER.

(Photo courtesy of Skyways)

And a NAVAIR official at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space expo said he expects the concept to become a program of record soon. Tony Schmidt, director of rapid prototyping, experimentation and demonstration, said a NAVAIR team was able to take the Skyways unmanned aerial vehicle and demonstrate it aboard the aircraft carrier USS Gerald Ford after just a few months. Schmidt said the Navy is highly interested in going beyond that test.

Schmidt said his team was initially approached by Military Sealift Command, which had discovered that about 80 percent of the parts they were transporting by helicopter weighed less than 10 pounds.

In July, the team took the UAV on a ship-to-ship mission from the destroyer USS Bainbridge  to the USNS Joshua Humphreys, a replenishment (refueling) oiler. In recent weeks, the team has been holding conversations with Navy officials and Schmidt said he is “pretty sure” supply by drone is going to get picked up as a program of record.

Some visitors may remember that the Navy released video last October (2020) showing electronics technicians piloting a quadcopter-style drone to deliver a small payload to the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Henry M. Jackson.

The test was successful, with the drone dropping its package on the submarine’s hull and returning to operators aboard a nearby surface ship

While short in distance and small in size, the experimental resupply, which took place near the Hawaiian Islands,  demonstrated potential for future resupply without the need for ports or nearby ships, according to Navy Times.

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Another Dangerous Job.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — The people who have to clear waterways of naval mines using minesweeper ships or human divers, have long championed unmanned systems as a way to “get the man out of the minefield.” Now the U.S. Navy has wrapped up initial operational test and evaluation of an unmanned surface vessel for countermine operations on Littoral Combat Ships. The Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) platform is expected to be ready for fielding on an LCS by the end of this summer, a Navy official told SEAPOWER.

Captain Godfrey Weekes, program manager for Littoral Combat Ship mission modules, told the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space expo in early August that initial operational capability (IOC) for the platform is planned for the fourth quarter of the current fiscal year — which ends on September 30, 2021.

The UISS platform is designed for the LCS’s mine countermeasures mission package. It “consists of a mine countermeasures unmanned surface vehicle (USV) and a towed minesweeping payload for influence sweeping of magnetic, acoustic and magnetic/acoustic combination mine types,” according to the Navy.

The UISS’s Minehunt USV is currently in contractor verification testing. Low-rate initial production of that platform should begin sometime in late fiscal 2022, Weekes said.

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Navy Version of Global Hawk.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — On it’s first test flight, the systems functioned well on a MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) equipped with a signals intelligence capability, a Navy official said.

The first MQ-4C equipped with Integrated Functional Capability-Four (IFC-4) made its first flight on July 29, mainly to test the aerodynamic characteristics of the new configuration. The test team, while evaluating aspects — such as stability and control — also checked out the performance of the mission systems and sensors.

“The sensors and systems are performing better than expected,” Captain Dan Mackin, the Navy’s Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems program manager, told the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space expo August 3.

The IFC-4 hardware and software configuration will enable the Triton to become an integral part of the Navy’s Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting (MISR&T) transition plan. As such, it will eventually replace the Navy’s EP-3E Orion electronic reconnaissance aircraft beginning in the fall of 2023. The IFC-4 upgrade also includes the Minotaur mission system now used on the EP-3E. See the full story? Click here.

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ELSEWHERE.

Air Force Global Hawk Crash.

An RQ-4 Global Hawk crashed several miles away from Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota on August 6, the Air Force announced. The unmanned aircraft went down in a rural field near Gilby, N.D., and no injuries were reported.T he cause of the crash or the drone’s condition have been identified yet by Air Force authorities.

An RQ-4 Global Hawk soars through the sky to record intelligence, surveillence and reconnaissance data in 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The latest crash marks the third time in the past 18 months that an Air Force drone has gone down, according to Air Force Magazine. Pilots deliberately crashed an MQ-9A Reaper in June 2020 after remotely piloted aircraft suffered a major fuel leak while flying over Africa. Another MQ-9 crashed that same month in Syracuse, New York, when its pilot mixed up the controls.

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NATO Seeks Arctic Underwater Robots.

NATO officials say more investment in autonomous platforms, artificial intelligence (AI) and big data will be critical to understanding how a thawing Arctic Ocean will affect military operations, planning, and infrastructure in the High North.

According to Defense News, scientists from NATO’s Center for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE) want to use autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to ensure they have continuous and sustained samples from the Arctic region. Investments in AI will be key to ensuring those systems remain in operation for long periods of time in the changing — but still austere conditions, said Catherine Warner, CMRE’s director.

“We have to improve the autonomy and the artificial intelligence of our systems,” Warner told an August 5 virtual roundtable with reporters. “We have to improve the intelligence, so that if there’s something wrong — just like with the Rover on Mars — if it knows that there’s something wrong with itself, that it can send the error codes back home so that we can try and fix it remotely,” she added.

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Turkish Sea-Going UAVs

Turkish drone-maker Baykar has released details about its newest armed drone, which designed to launch from ships packed with unmanned aircraft, Defense News reports.

“The Bayraktar TB-3, which is still in development, will be a larger and more capable model in the same family as the TB-2,” the company’s chief technology officer, Selcuk Bayraktar, said during an August 4 online presentation sponsored by Gebze Technology University.

Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 drone on the runway in 2014. (Photo by Bayhaluk via wikipedia)

“When we began this project, no fixed-wing UAV could take off from LHD-class, short-runway ships,” he explained, using shorthand for unmanned aerial vehicles and landing helicopter dock naval vessels. “We believe that the TB-3, which can stay in the air for an extended period and is equipped with ammunition, will fill a gap in this field,” Bayraktar said.

The new TB-3 drones are slated to ride aboard Turkey’s future Landing Helicopter Dock Anadolu.

August 19, 2021 at 4:04 pm Leave a comment

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