U.S. and British Arctic Exercise Shows U.S. Concern For Region
by Jim Garamone, DOD News
May 16, 2020
A U.S. and British exercise underway in the Barents Sea
highlights the importance of the Arctic region in a time of climate
"Three Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyers — USS
Donald Cook, USS Porter and USS Roosevelt — are supported by fast
combat support ship USNS Supply and joined by the Royal Navy's HMS
Kent to assert freedom of navigation and demonstrate seamless
integration among allies," a U.S. Navy news release said.
This is the first U.S. exercise in the Barents Sea since the
mid-1990s, Navy officials said.
Climate change is affecting
every country on the globe, and the U.S. military must adapt to
provide defense, officials said. Whether it is increasingly
dangerous floods, longer-lasting droughts, more and more powerful
hurricanes, typhoons or cyclones, service members must change to
operate and win in these new environments, they added.
Climate change is particularly fast in the colder regions of the
globe, with glaciers and ice caps melting at alarming levels. That
change means new operational environments.
explorers looked for the fabled Northwest Passage from Europe across
the top of North America to the Pacific. The straits and islands and
bays still bear the names of Hudson, Frobisher, Ellesmere and Cook.
Many explorers died looking for the water passage, but the Arctic
ice cap was too large. It wasn't until the early 20th century that
Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South
Pole, navigated a small boat from the Pacific to the Atlantic.
But climate change has opened that possibility. The Arctic ice
cap is shrinking, and there is the possibility that a route may open
for at least part of the year. The Arctic region above Russia is
seeing the same warming trend.
May 5, 2020 - The USS Roosevelt, the USS Porter, the USS Donald Cook, the USNS Supply and the British HMS Kent participate in an exercise while conducting joint operations in the Arctic Ocean to ensure maritime security. (Royal Navy photo by photographer Dan Rosenbaum)
The first commercial ship to transit the Northwest Passage was
the SS Manhattan in 1969. The ship — refitted with an icebreaker bow
— was an oil tanker testing to see if the route would work for
carrying Alaskan crude out of Point Barrow.
without special fittings can now transit the passage. In 2016, the
passenger liner Crystal Serenity sailed from Vancouver, British
Columbia, to New York City using the route. It took 28 days.
In 2013, the first commercial bulk carrier transited the passage.
The MS Nordic Orion carried a cargo of coking coal from Vancouver to
the Finnish port of Pori.
All this presents new geostrategic
challenges, said Navy Adm. James Foggo, the commander of U.S. Naval
Forces in Europe and the commander of NATO's Allied Joint Force
Command in Naples, Italy.
"The High North is attracting
global interest, with abundant natural resources and opening
maritime routes," Foggo said in an article in Defense One.
Russia — with its long coastline on the Arctic Ocean — is
aggressively seeking to assert its preeminence in the region. The
Russians recently unveiled a new icebreaker, the Ivan Papanin, that
can carry Kalibr cruise missiles. "Who puts missiles on
icebreakers?" Foggo asked.
Russia is also deploying surface
ships and new hybrid Kilo-class submarines. "We're seeing the
Russians deploy more submarines in the North Atlantic, and these
subs are deploying for longer periods of time and with more lethal
weapon systems," the admiral said.
The Soviets had outposts
all along its Arctic coast. These were abandoned following the
dissolution of the Soviet Union. But Russia has returned to
Soviet-era outposts and built new military facilities above the
Russia at least borders on the Arctic Ocean.
China calls itself "a near-Arctic nation" and seeks to assert its
rights in the region. The Chinese are calling for freedom of
navigation in the Arctic, even as they try to suppress that right in
the South China Sea.
There will be more deployments and more
exercises in the High North, Foggo said. "The Russians are operating
with state-of-the-art nuclear submarines," he said. "That said, we
still have the competitive advantage. But they're good, and getting
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