Navy Prepares Fleet for More Arctic Missions

Navy Prepares Fleet for More Arctic Missions

The Navy is accelerating research and technology programs aimed at preparing the fleet to operate in the Arctic.

Navy leaders had been preparing to increase the services’ Arctic presence by the mid-2030s, but they are now accelerating the timetable to the mid-2020s due to the warming of the waters and the rapid pace of melting ice.

Rising water temperatures means less ice in the Arctic, creating a circumstance wherein more open waterways will emerge. As a result, the Navy is putting the final touches on a new Updated Arctic Road Map designed to help the service achieve a more Arctic-capable fleet.

The Updated Arctic Road Map is aimed at paving the way toward creating the investments and technologies needed to ensure the Navy can weather the rigorous challenges of the Arctic environment.

The Office of Naval Research has worked on gear designed to remove ice from the superstructure of a surface ship using special ice-resistant paint for ships. The Navy is also designing heating elements into the superstructure of the ship itself, said Adm. Jonathan White, Navy Oceanographer and Navigator.

The Navy is working on strengthening the hulls of some ships to ensure that they are more ice-capable as well as assessing the prospects of adding more basing infrastructure in the region, White explained.

“What aircraft can I operate up there during the day? How do I get fuel to them? We want to start to make smart decisions now that lead to an Arctic-capable force in a little over ten years,” White said.

The Navy, which says it is most likely to use amphibious assault ships or destroyers in Arctic waterways in the future, says it is working on technologies designed to make it more possible for ships to operate in the harsh Arctic conditions.

An assessment done by the Navy’s Task Force Climate Change determined that the rate of melting has increased since the time of this report. In fact, the Navy is thinking it will need to prepare for a larger Arctic presence by the mid 2020’s, White said.

Although the thinning of the Arctic ice was reported by Navy submarines in the 1990s, there have been considerable changes to the Arctic environment since that time, said Robert Freeman, spokesman for the oceanographer of the Navy.

Getting ready for possible Arctic missions is not without a wide-range of challenges, White and Freeman explained. There is not as much bandwidth, apparatus or infrastructure to support communications networks in the Arctic – and there are very few ports and bases for logistical support.



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Here come astronomical hull maintenance costs. The storms of the North Sea and similar already wreak havoc on the armored hulls of yore. This is only going exasperate issues on modern hulls. Increase the number of sub patrols and keep the surface Navy out unless you absolutely have to.

drats, time for another uniform change

now we go from purple grapes for michelin man (we need to blend in with the snow ya know)

nope, grapes will always be grapes! :)

Going north to Canada is rough enough. One time my ship was heading back to CA via the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We hit a storm, nothing but a regular north Pacific storm ya know, and we were tossed around like rats in a cage for 3 days. Everyone on board was puking their guts out and the entire 5 inch gun mount would go under water every now and then. It was crazy. I wanted to die, Or at least have the ship break apart and put me out of my misery.

The northwest passage is already open. And with the world largest petroleum reserve under it being contested between canada, russia and united-states, that makes a lot of reasons to beef up naval presence.

Meanwhile in canada (news headline):

“Canada’s Arctic nightmare just came true: The Northwest Passage is commercial ”

Ohh boy is this idea going to be popular with the rank and file spend months in the dark or in total daylight far from anything in frozen waters yeah Obamas Navy appointees will be very popular.

right because obama will still be president in 2020.

China is building ice breakers, probably not for use in the South China Sea.

The USA, if we’re going to be smart, is going to have to start investing (once again) in construction of icebreakers. At last count, I think we’re down to 3 that remain in service. It would seem prudent to consider
tripling that number.

And none of our current icebreakers are armed…

Also may be the fastest way to get ships from the East Coast to Japan at least a few months of the year

LCS Icebreaker module. The LCS will deploy Icebreaker drones to take care of this.

right after they deploy the typhoon relief module hahahahahaha

The Arctic will probably belong to patrol aircraft, manned and unmanned.

And underwater vehicles. Doesn’t leave much room for moving large ships through it, unless you feel lucky.

I have worked on ships that had hatched ringed with steam piping and asbestos insulation to prevent the doors from freezing shut so it is clear that we need to reach back into history and bring back designs sans asbestos that work. A good place to start is taking a look at our icebreaker programs and at industries that operate in these climes.

Been there 1970 on DDG.….….we lost all but mount 51.……forward.….and the crew must have lost a ton of weight.…..could keep nothing down for over a week.…..also made one run on an SSN under ice.….…nice ride.

Seems a NW passage from East Coast to Asia with hundreds of sailings would save tremendously trucking from Oakland and LA.….…and reduce prices East.….…exciting.

Given the timeline.…concept-design-procure-deliver„„„„,we are late addressing the need.….

The US and Russia have a maritime boundary agreement in the Arctic that resolved issues of access to oil and gas in the Chukchi Sea both within and beyond 200 miles from the coast, and while it is held up in the Russian Duma over some fishing issues int he Bering Sea, it has been applied without question by Russia and the US since 1989. In addition, the prospects for oil and gas beyond 200 miles is limited (USGS projections off potential hydrocarbons are much lower in that region than in the hydrocarbon provinces within the Exclusive Economic Zone). We do have a boundary dispute with Canada north of the Alaska-Canada land boundary, but we with settle that in battles of lawyers and diplomats, not ships and weapons.

For the United States, most issues of the Arctic will fall under the responsibilities of the US Coast Guard — law enforcement, customs and immigration, navigational safety and will fall under law enforcement agencies in other countries as well. This is particularly true with the extension of the northern command to the North Pole and beyond since Homeland Security and the USCG have a major role in that command. The Navy will own the undersea and under ice domain and the Air Force will have the strategic high-altitude domain, but the surface — that will be primarily a coast guard function with its aircraft, ice breakers and, eventually, ice-hardened cutters.

It’ll probably be easier to deploy oil rigs on the continental shelf than beyond it anyways.

Time for an Arctic Command…’cause commands, we like makin’ em.

It would kill the Canal and the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach; but luckily the north won’t be open all-year-round. Ships will still come to LA, offload standard containers, load to rail and send them east through the inland empire.

Compared to hunting down Taliban in valleys with funny names and getting your leg blown off above the knee or getting your jewels shredded by steel fragments?


“In the dark or total daylight”

Well…submariners will likely say “so what”? They’ve done this for decades. Don’t panic.

Before committing funds to build very expensive ice breakers it would be good to determine exactly what their mission would be and whether an alternative investment could meet that need at lower cost or with more flexibility.

We have one medium duty icebreaker (the Healey) and are now returning to service one heavy duty ice breaker (the Polar Star) while the other heavy duty ice breaker (the Polar Sea) is beyond repair for return to service. But keep in mind that we have no ports or river outlets in the Arctic that need protection or ice breaking service, the US Arctic watershed is limited to the area north of the Brooks Range, and there is only limited seasonal traffic to and from the Northwest Passage. There is no basis for comparison of the need for a US ice breaker fleet with Russia, or even with Canada. Russia has a vast Arctic watershed with three world class rivers opening to the Arctic and it has a blue water port in Murmansk as a base of arctic operations. Canada has a vast coastline among its islands and needs to consider the responsibility to keep the NWP safe for shipping. The US has potential for future oil development on the Alaskan outer continental shelf and eventually will need to manage arctic fisheries, but given the distances involved in the Arctic and the slow speed of ships going through ice, polar capable aircraft and submarines could be a better use of the billions of dollars that it would take to build or buy more ice breakers, while covering more area and addressing more incidents simultaneously.

As to surface ships in the Arctic, we will need ice-capable cutters that can sail in slightly thicker ice than the supply, cargo and fishing ships that may work the Arctic seas in the future — this is the approach of other arctic nations (Norway, Canada and even Russia, which is beginning to deploy ice strengthened ocean patrol vessels as part of its coast guard rather than using its large and expensive heavy ice breakers or its old and outdated patrol ice breakers built for the soviet navy in the 1970s).

Some of the major shipping companies point out that sailing to Los Angeles and offloading to rail is faster, safer and less expensive than building and sailing a new fleet of ice-class cargo vessels and tankers through the arctic, especially when the cost of the ships has to be paid off in only a couple months of sailing each year.

You need metrics.…..which carriers and look at say two to eight months.……also various cargoes. Define ice class.…..using ice breakers simply reinforce existing designs.….….much study needed here. Container ship can handle 500‑1000 containers.…..let’s say 1000.… would be interesting. Expanding East coast ports may be the deal breaker.…..East ports are really in poor condition.

I recall a design project conducted at Pratt School addressing Large submarine cargo boats.….under ice of course.….we looked also at towed submerged barges with cargo loads. Would be viable regardless of warming rates.

In 2007, Russia planted a titanium flag 4,300m deep on the north pole, claiming the area to be part of their continent, I did not heard about it since though.

I am not quite sure of the legal status of the north pole itself –I think it officially does not belong to anybody. But since it’s full of petroleum it’s everything except guaranteed to be free of conflict. What if China decide to celebrate its (comming soon) world first economic superpower status by declaring that north pole to belong to them and start digging for petroleum?

I concede that it’s more of a worst case scenario, but I think that it’s important be have the capability to operate in the antartic. Canada have build at least one military base in the north for search and rescue training in resolute bay in Nunavut. I am not sure whether or not there will be more.

The real “nightmare” for Canada is the challenge that it represent to its small fleet. In august 31 the HMCS Protecteur collided with HMCS Algonquin; the Protecteur was the only supply ship operating on the west coast. I can’t imagine the headache it can cause but it’s definitely a situation that any navy want to avoid. They are ordering a lot of ship but it’s unclear how many they will be able to afford.

Russia said that planting the flag on the seabed was the equivalent of the US putting our flag on the moon — a mark of achievement in exploration success but not a claim to territory. Clearly it was a demonstration of Russia’s interest and its capability to reach the arctic seabed, but no legal effect was claimed. Since then Russia has been conducting the geologic research necessary to support their claim for submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Canada and Denmark have been doing the same (the US has done the same north of Alaska, but until we join the LOS Convention we cannot submit our boundary to the Commission for international recognition). It is likely that there will be overlaps by the three claims and the three states will have to deal with the overlaps among themselves before claims can get international recognition.

Claims to the Arctic seabed beyond the 200 mile exclusive economic must be based on geologic information defining the outer limit of the continental margin (two methods are available for this determination). There is a maximum limit — a 350 mile limit applies to submarine ridges but for other types of seabed there is an alternative based on measures related to the thickness of sediment and the foot of the continental rise. The North Pole is in a unique position — it is found near the Lemonosov Ridge (between Russian Asia and the region between Canada and Greenland) which may not be a submarine ridge but a segment of the continental shelf split off from the rest of the shelf when the mid-atlantic ridge extended into the Arctic. Depending on the geological data, the 350 mile limit may well not apply and the sea floor at North Pole could fall under the jurisdiction of Canada, Denmark (Greenland) or Russia, or none of the above. If it does fall to a particular coastal sate, it will be the mineral resources of the sea floor that fall under national sovereignty, but not the water column or water surface.

In practical terms, no one is going to be digging around the north pole for many, many years. That area will be the last to see melting and it is very deep. It is conceivable that it may harbor hydrocarbon deposits, but unlikely that they will be in substantial volume. In any case, national jurisdiction in the Arctic, like the rest of the world’s oceans, is defined in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the convention’s provisions are clear that beyond 200 miles, the resources of the seabed are either under the jurisdiction of the coastal state or the International Seabed Authority. There is no right for a distant state to unilaterally claim part of the seabed that is not part of its own continental shelf. Rather than make a unilateral claim that would be rejected by all arctic states, It is likely that China would form a legal joint venture with a coastal state or would work as a lease or contractor to develop arctic oil and gas.

Regarding search and rescue, an international agreement among the Arctic states has divided the Arctic Ocean into regions of responsibility for air and sea search and rescue with each nation establishing centers to coordinate SAR operations. This was the first international convention initiated by the Arctic Council and came into force on January 19, 2013 after it was ratified by the US and the seven other arctic states.

And west coast ports, built smack in urban areas really can’t expand that much more. I guess if the Navy gave up Hueneme in Ventura, and someone built out the rail infrastructure to connect it to the main trunklines that go over the Continental Divide, it would allow for comparatively rapid expansion without smashing into urban sprawl.

Apart from the submarine-specific Arctic Submarine Lab, the Navy has absolutely no idea what it’s doing in the Arctic when it comes to operations. The Navy steadfastly refuses to engage the USCG at the operational level to learn what it means to operate in the Arctic. The USCG is our only current cadre of experience for military operations in that environment. The only other knowledge base for Arctic ops are the commercial operators (oil & gas), which the Navy also steadfastly refuses to humble itself and learn from, either. Pride and hubris rule the day. So, it’ll be the 1950–60’s over again when we send thin-hulled ships where they don’t belong, tear the hulls open (again), break the power plants (again), hurt and kill people. NAMs and NCM’s all-around touting the line, “First ever ____,” when it isn’t the first ever. Just the first for this generation.

New poster here, so be gentle. For those that think the ice is rapidly melting, would suggest they peruse the latest information available on Arctic and Antarctic ice extent. For now, Arctic ice extent way above totals seen in recent years. Antarctic sea ice now at record levels. With the big USCG icebreakers always tied to the dock in Seattle, it would be embarrassing to call on a commercial Russian icebreaker to free an icebound DD.

The inability of Operators to innovate is well known by engineers.….goes back to Billy Mitchel and Rickover . That said I assure you the professionals are ahead of this issue.….…..and if we are not ready will be blamed by operators for not providing them with solutions.……that they cannot developed.

I here see no mention of time lines associated with the real time retreat of the northern ice cap.….….…just the reality of the phenomena.

> It is conceivable that it may harbor hydrocarbon deposits, but unlikely that they will be in substantial volume.

No, this is a world-class petroleum reserve, ironically one of the most expensive to extract. Higher oil price will make it viable as much as meltdown, but it remain to be seen which one is going to make it affordable first.

“The Arctic is an area of high petroleum resource potential, low data density, high geologic uncertainty and sensitive environmental conditions. A large portion of the remaining global endowment of oil and gas resources has long been thought to exist in the high northern latitudes of Russia, Norway, Greenland, United States, and Canada. “

My point about the military presence is not that something is going to happen, but that something can happen. Quite frankly I am not an historian and I can’t make any distinction between historic situation where something might happen and where it effectively went wrong.

I think there will always be warning sign of a possible war –I am aware that north america is the most stable area of the world– but yet it would be a big mistake to ignore them because of the goodwill of the others parties.

The future is uncertain and so is the UN. Excuse my skepticism but with the next world superpower in the hand of communist, thing can go wrong. I hope not, China for now is quite pacifist –by doing abstraction of Thibet– as they implemented birth control in their cities instead of looking for more space. Very pacifist from their part but it may or may not be eternal. One day or another, they may well decide to annihilate their historical enemy named Japan. For now this is only a dispute for an island, but what is it going to look like in 10 or 30 years from now?

Again while the odds are not toward such war escalation, it’s everything except written in a book! Today we are oriented toward “pacifist” solution, it seems like an evolution over war but I am afraid that there is no such thing such as evolution in humanity. The roman empire was such an evolution that … it ended up being destroyed by barbarian.

At any time all these international convention can be void; unfortunately for anyone, some alliance are weaker than other. I believe that it would be equally a mistake to spend all resources on such unlikely scenario than ignoring them.

Hate to use actual science and math, but this chart shows sea ice totals to be within the standard deviation average of 1981 to 2010. http://​nsidc​.org/​a​r​c​t​i​c​s​e​a​i​c​e​n​e​ws/ But never allow fact to get in the way of other people wanting my tax dollars!!

Some more Liberals that thought that because they believe it to be so, they wont let their propaganda be overcome by reality.….… http://​www​.seamagazine​.com/​N​e​w​s​l​e​t​t​e​r​/​A​r​t​i​c​l​e​/​Nor

What do you mean by “within the standard deviation average of 1981 to 2010.” ? You might want to read again the section named ‘Sea ice decline and the greening of Arctic tundra’, it’s just a little bit lower on the page.

The only thing I can see from the graphic is that sea ice grow in winter and slims in the summer, and the graphic show a trend where in recent years the extend is *smaller* than the *average* (1981–2010); that is more ice is melting in the recent year than it was 10 or 20 years ago; a more distant curve from the average mean that the the melting is faster.

As simple as that.

It’s not the right forum to discuss too specifically of Canadian politics, but this is exactly what I was meaning by nightmare. Hence they should find a way to make it profitable, there is no benefits whatsoever to send an icebreaker at high cost for a boat that is merely passing through.

I don’t know if they could implement some duty fees to maintain that area open or simply ask to be paid for such service –unless it’s a critical life threatening situation– but I am sure they could find something if they want.

If you look at the grey area in the chart, which delineates the +/- 2 standard deviations, you can see that this year is within that margin of error for the average of the last 3 decades, and has been for the entire chart.

Perhaps in this movement toward Arctic surface operations, if the Navy acquires the USCG assets with ICE BREAKER designed hulls and systems incorporated in to a Super SAFEGUARD ARS 50 style vessel with USCG proven technology. The cutter Mackinaw Big Mac’s’ length is 290 ft., beam 74 ft., draft 19 ft., displacement 5,252 tons, maximum speed 16 knots. A diesel electric power plant delivers 10,000 h.p. through twin screws in the stern and one in the bow. The bow propeller is employed to churn the water beneath the ice, changing its static buoyancy. The resulting combined forward and downward motion when the MACKINAW drives its great bow onto the ice makes the icebreaker capable of breaking through 4 feet of solid sheet ‘blue’ ice. The MACKINAW has also plowed through 37 ft. of ‘windrow’ (broken) ice. It is capable of cutting a channel 70 ft. wide to accommodate the largest of the Great Lakes ore carriers. This would be one project I would be proud to contribute as a Navy LDO CHENG … Hey big Navy, I am available to take the project lead.


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