“The United States Needs a Deep-water Arctic Port” –USNI

Nome, Alaska location. Adapted from Wikipedia’s AK borough maps by en:User:Seth Ilys.

The US Naval Institute Proceedings for Sept has a short article by By Captain Lawson Brigham, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired) advocating development of a deep-water port in Nome, Alaska.

Interest in a deep draft port in northern Alaska has been expressed in Congress, by the Secretary of the Navy, and the Commandant of the Coast Guard. Earlier we talked about the possibility of locating this facility at Port Clarence.

Port Clarence actually seems the larger natural harbor and has some infrastructure, including a runway, left over from when there was a Coast Guard LORAN station there. Nome (terminus for the Iditarod dog sled race) has a much larger population (about 3800 vs 24) and would require less supporting infrastructure development.

Aerial view from the West of Nome, Alaska, in July 2006, by ra64

In any case it seems likely that the ability to control the Bering Strait will become strategically important some time in the future. Both are within 160 miles of the Russian side of the Strait, with Port Clarence being about 50 miles closer.

Alaska and the Bering Strait

Until that time, it seems likely that the Coast Guard may establish a seasonal air station.

Full disclosure, Captain Brigham and I attended the same Naval War College class. 

8 thoughts on ““The United States Needs a Deep-water Arctic Port” –USNI

  1. And what would be the minimum footprint in operating a Deep-Water Base in Nome, Alaska. Because the population of Nome, is just North of 3,800 and I doubt that the inhabitants of Nome would be interested doubling or even tripling it’s size…

    • Initially it is probably just going to be a stopping over place, not a homeport. If the Coast Guard has a seasonal station there it will be very welcomed by the community and will probably not exceed 100 people at any time.

      If we go to war, all bets are off.

      • I was comparing Nome, Alaska (pop.~3,866 as of January 2019) to that of Port Stanley, in the Falklands (pop.~2108 in 2017). The Multi-Services Garrison in the Falklands, stationed just outside Port Stanley proper is ~1,100 in 2018…

      • The Falklands has a permanently assigned air defense detachment including four fighters and AAW missiles. I don’t expect we will see any thing like that unless things get much more tense with the Russians.

      • The Commanding Officer is a Brevet Rear Admiral, and at least one Royal Naval Destroyer/Frigate is assigned patrol of the Falklands and St. George Island patrol. There are also Royal Marines, Royal Army (i.e. Bomb Disposal) and Royal Air Force personnel in the mix…

  2. My father worked on Project Chariot but fortunately we didn’t use a-bombs to make a deep water port at Cape Thompson.

    There’s a pretty big gap between what you can move with a helicopter, even with external loads, and what can be taken on alongside a pier that would only be accessible for a fraction of the year. I wonder if it would make more sense to consider strategic placement of LCAC’s (or a modern equivalent) at one or more locations to provide lightering from relitively unimproved ports that can land larger aircraft.

  3. i don’t think UK forces in the Falklands is a good analogy for an Alaska deep northern port. Falklands War continues to hold sway when it comes to the depth of forces deployed. British Forces South Atlantic Islands is quite large with a destroyer on rotation to add to a patrol ship and icebreaker permanently deployed. In addition the British Army maintains 1200 personal mostly on rotation and the Air Force has a rotational deployment of 4 Typhoon fighters, a refueling tanker, large transport, and 2 heavy helicopters. For perspective I believe Ketchikan has 250 personal assigned and 3 smaller cutters (two 154s and a WLB). Another better analogy could be the newly constructed Canadian Navisivik Facility on Baffin Island. Canadians are spending $130 million for a deep water port in the eastern Arctic, with only refueling facilities for the navigable season. A partner US facility in the western Arctic would seem prudent, but the question is this a high latitude seasonal refueling facility or a slightly more southern port with a more permanent presence.

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