Navy is Exercising in the Gulf of Alaska

171121-N-IA905-1120 PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 21, 2017) The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) which is participating in Exercise Northern Edge 2019 (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Morgan K. Nall/Released)

Seventeenth District units may see a rare sight this week, as Navy units are participating in Exercised Northern Edge 2019. The US Naval Institute News Service reports,

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) is underway in the Gulf of Alaska. The carrier will participate in the joint training exercise, Northern Edge 2019 from May 13 to 24. U.S. Navy ships participating Roosevelt with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW 11), guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG-59), USS Kidd (DDG-100), USS John Finn (DDG-113) and fleet oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO-187).

“Personnel from U.S. military units stationed in the continental United States and from U.S. installations in the Indo-Pacific will participate with approximately 250 aircraft from all services, and five U.S. Navy ships. For the first time in 10 years, a Pacific Fleet aircraft carrier will be participating in the exercise,” according to a statement from the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
“Participants will serve as part of a joint task force, which will help enhance multi-service integration and exercise a wide range of joint capabilities.”

The US Pacific Fleet news release linked above is quoted below,

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – Approximately 10,000 U.S. military personnel are participating in exercise Northern Edge 2019 (NE19), a joint training exercise hosted by U.S. Pacific Air Forces, on and above central Alaska ranges and the Gulf of Alaska, May 13-24.

NE19 is one in a series of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command exercises in 2019 that prepares joint forces to respond to crises in the Indo-Pacific. The exercise is designed to sharpen participants’ tactical combat skills, to improve command, control and communication relationships, and to develop interoperable plans and programs across the joint force.

Personnel from U.S. military units stationed in the continental United States and from U.S. installations in the Indo-Pacific will participate with approximately 250 aircraft from all services, and five U.S. Navy ships. For the first time in 10 years, a Pacific Fleet aircraft carrier will be participating in the exercise.

Participants will serve as part of a joint task force, which will help enhance multi-service integration and exercise a wide range of joint capabilities.

Major participating units include: U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, U.S. Pacific Air Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Marine Corps Forces Pacific, Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command, Air Force Materiel Command, U.S. 3rd Fleet, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and U.S. Naval Reserve.

NE19 is the largest military training exercise scheduled in Alaska this year with virtual and live participants from all over the United States exercising alongside live players.

Follow the Northern Edge Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) feature page for full coverage of the exercise.

Note: U.S. Navy ships participating in Northern Edge include Carrier Strike Group 9, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW 11), USS Russell (DDG 59), USS Kidd (DDG 100), USS John Finn (DDG 113), and USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187).

Notably missing is any mention of Coast Guard participation, although I suspect Coast Guard units in fact are participating. Would appreciated any comments on actual Coast Guard participation.

“Rushing Navy Ships into the Arctic for a FONOP is Dangerous” –USNI

Map of the Arctic region showing shipping routes Northeast Passage, Northern Sea Route, and Northwest Passage, and bathymetry, Arctic Council, by Susie Harder

An interesting discussion of the Navy’s proposed Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in the Arctic which would presumably require Coast Guard assistance.

Within these stories are three different ideas: first, that the Navy is interested in expanding its physical presence in Alaska, through returning to Adak and/or a port on the Bering Strait ( Nome has been discussed for years); second, that Navy personnel need to regain operational familiarity with the Arctic environment; and third, that the Navy appears to be considering a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the Arctic for summer 2019.

The first two ideas are unremarkable. Given the dearth of infrastructure and the challenging environment, both improved facilities and practical learning opportunities are required to ensure Navy vessels and aircraft operate safely and effectively.

The third idea—conducting a FONOP in the Arctic in just a few months—is a bombshell.

I seem to remember hearing that this had been discussed, and the Commandant had taken the position that the Coast Guard could not support the idea of a Freedom of Navigation Operation given the state of our icebreaker “fleet,” but apparently the idea is still alive, at least as of mid January.

New Base at Port Clarence?

Bering Strait. Port Clarence bay is the large bight in the southeast.

Adapted from Wikipedia’s AK borough maps by Seth Ilys.

At the National Press Club Headliners Luncheon on Thursday, Dec. 6, the Commandant discussed the Coast Guard’s Arctic presence. We noted the Commandant’s remarks on the Polar Security Cutter earlier, that he was guardedly optimistic, but the US Naval Institute report on the same presentation, brings us more information about the possibility of a new port facility in Western Alaska.

Long-term, Schultz said it’s possible the Coast Guard would look to create a permanent presence in the Arctic. Most likely, Schultz said, the Coast Guard would look for a sea base, possibly in the far northern Port Clarence area. One option, Schultz said, is for the Coast Guard to install moorings to provide a safe haven. Port Clarence, Alaska, had a population of 24, according to the 2010 Census.

Port Clarence was at one time a LORAN Station, and it appears it may still have a substantial runway, so it might also develop into a seasonal air station.

The Secretary of the Navy has already expressed an interest in having a strategic port in Alaska. From the Navy’s point of view it is near the potentially strategically important Bering Strait.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz meets with Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer and Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan in Nome and Port Clarence, Alaska to discuss the construction of deep draft ports in western Alaska, Aug. 13, 2018. This would allow the Coast Guard and Navy to have a strong presence in the U.S. Arctic. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco.

“Coast Guard, DHS S&T Venture into Space with Polar Scout Launch” –CG-9

The Coast Guard Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Program, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, launched two 6U CubeSats from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, as part of the Polar Scout project. Photo courtesy of SpaceX.

The following is a release from the Acquisitions Directorate

Coast Guard Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) Program, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), today launched two 6U CubeSats from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The launch is part of the Polar Scout project to evaluate the effectiveness of space-based sensors in support of Arctic search and rescue missions. Knowledge gained from this demonstration will be used to inform satellite technology recommendations for many potential applications within the Coast Guard and across DHS.

Jim Knight, the Coast Guard deputy assistant commandant for acquisition, said in ceremonies leading up to the launch, “The Polar Scout project presents an opportunity to evaluate the most efficient way to ensure that the United States can project surface presence in the Arctic when and where it is needed while filling an immediate Search and Rescue capability gap in these remote areas.”

The CubeSats, dubbed Yukon and Kodiak, were launched into a low-earth polar orbit on a rideshare with other spacecraft from 17 different countries. This economical alternative to a costly single-mission launch ensured dozens of spacecraft from various organizations reached orbit. Success of the mission was due to public and private sector collaboration throughout the process, from developing the CubeSats to propelling them into space.

“In order to demonstrate, test and evaluate the viability and utility of CubeSats for Coast Guard missions, the Coast Guard RDT&E Program has partnered with DHS S&T to conduct on-orbit testing of CubeSats using the Mobile CubeSat Command and Control (MC3) ground network,” said Holly Wendelin, command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance domain lead.

Developed as a potential capability bridge between the current 20-year-old international search-and-rescue architecture and its future successor, “CubeSats serve as a much smaller, more cost-efficient solution that can be easily implemented over a short period of time. Each are only about the size of a shoebox,” said John McEntee, director of Border Immigration and Maritime at S&T.

In the 18 months leading up to the launch, DHS S&T handled the fabrication of Yukon and Kodiak, which are tailored specifically to detect 406 MHz emergency distress beacons. At the same time, the Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC) deployed two ground stations – one at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, and one at University of Alaska Fairbanks – using the MC3 architecture and network. The ground stations will receive all of the signals from the CubeSats during the demonstration.

DHS will begin testing and demonstrations using emergency distress beacons in the Arctic beginning in early 2019 and continuing through the summer. “The demonstrations will include downlinking 406 MHz emergency distress beacon data from the CubeSats using the deployed MC3 ground stations,” Wendelin said. “We will set the beacons off, the satellite should detect it and send signals back to the ground station.” The testing period is expected to provide critical knowledge on how CubeSat technology can be used to enhance Coast Guard and DHS mission performance.

The Polar Scout project is providing valuable insight on the process, cost and feasibility of acquiring and using organic satellites. The Coast Guard and DHS will use the knowledge gained from Polar Scout and the MC3 installs, market research and space mission design and assessments to develop satellite technology recommendations.

As Coast Guard missions become more challenging and complex, the use of small and inexpensive satellites has the potential for great impact. Potential uses for satellites include improving communication in the arctic environment, monitoring large areas for illegal activity and helping to locate persons lost at sea. Additionally, the use of satellites has the potential to reduce the time and resources spent on intensive aircraft searches as well as the risks associated with placing personnel in hazardous situations that only need sensors and communications on scene.

“Undoubtedly, the results and knowledge gained by the Polar Scout Satellite Project will lead to force-multiplying solutions for the Department, which is a big priority in this age of complex threat cycles,” said Bill Bryan, senior official performing the duties of undersecretary for the Science and Technology Directorate.

Through Polar Scout’s robust search-and-rescue satellite solution, the Coast Guard may be empowered to respond to maritime disasters with unprecedented speed, preserving lives and even cargo, along trade routes in the Arctic Circle.

A Conversation with Admiral Karl Schultz, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard–CSIS

CSIS and the United States Naval Institute (USNI) conduct an interview with Admiral Karl L. Schultz, the 26th Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, conducted 1 August, 2018.

Below I will attempt to outline the conversation, noting the topics and in some cases providing a comment.

The first question is about immigration. Coast Guard is the “away game.” minimizing the factors that push immigration to the US.

The Commandant does not expect a substantial increase in help from the Navy, because they are already heavily tasked, but would welcome any additional help.

06:30 Talk about Inland fleet. Congressional support is evident. $25M provided so far.

9:20 House Appropriations Committee decision to divert $750M from the icebreaker program to fund “the Wall” in their markup of the FY2019 budget bill. The Commandant is “guardedly optimistic”

11:30 Human capital readiness? Operating account has been flat and effectively we have lost 10% in purchasing power. Want to increase leadership training.

16:30 Support for combatant commanders.

18:00 Capacity building and partnering. Detachments working on host nation platforms.

21:00 Defense Force planning–Not going back to the MARDEZ model.

22:30 Situation in Venezuela/Preparation for dealing with mass migration.

24:30 Arctic forums–Need to project our sovereignty

29:00 UNCLOS

30:00 Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA)

32:30 Tracking cargo as an element of MDA

34:00 Cyber

36:15 High Latitude engagement/partnerships.

39:30 Perhaps the icebreaker should be the “Polar Security Cutter?”

40:00 International ice patrol, still an important mission.

41:00 CG role in response to Chinese aggressiveness in the South China Sea. In discussion with Indo-Pacific Command. Will see more CG presence there.

44:00 Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC)–on track

46:30 Border issue — passed on that

48:00 Small satellites–we are looking at them

49:00 African Capacity building/cooperation. May send an MEC.

51:30 Tech modernization. Looking at it more holistically.

Other Coverage:

This interview prompted a couple of notable posts.

SeaPower’s coverage of the discussion is here. They focused on the growth of demands on the Coast Guard.

Military.com reported on the possibility of a greater Coast Guard role in South East Asia and capacity building in Africa. It probably should be noted that the title, “Coast Guard Could Send Ship to Pacific to ‘Temper Chinese Influence’,”is a bit deceptive in that the Commandant’s remark about tempering Chinese Influence was in regard to Oceania, the islands of the Central and Western Pacific. The Commandant was quoted in the Seapower post, “In the Oceania region, there are places where helping them protect their interests, tempering that Chinese influence, is absolutely essential.”

Maritime Transportation in the Arctic: The U.S. Role–House Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure

Above you will find a video of a hearing held on June 7, 2018 regarding “Transportation in the Arctic”. You will find the subcommittee web page here. It includes the video, the list of witnesses which I have reproduced below, and the Chairman’s opening remarks.

The video does not actually start until time 21:45.

Witnesses:

  • Admiral Charles W. Ray, Vice Commandant United States Coast Guard | Written Testimony
  • Mr. David Kennedy, Senior Arctic Advisor, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Written Testimony
  • Ms. Heather A. Conley, Senior Vice President for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic, Center for Strategic and International Studies | Written Testimony
  • Dr. Lawson Brigham, Faculty and Distinguished Fellow, International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks | Written Testimony
  • Ms. Molly McCammon, Executive Director, Alaska Ocean Observing System | Written Testimony
  • Rear Admiral David W. Titley, USN (Ret.), Professor of Practice, Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, Pennsylvania State University | Written Testimony

 

As you may see, the new Vice Commandant, Adm. Ray is the first witness. He completes his prepared remarks at time 32:30.

Incidentally one of the Witnesses Lawson Brigham (prepared testimony begins at time 44:00 to 48:25) is a retired Coast Guard captain with extensive polar icebreaker experience.

Questioning begins at time 1:00:00 with the “trick question” explored further by the Washington Examiner Magazine, “The Next ‘Cold’ War: America May Be Missing the Boat in the Arctic.”

There are few surprises here. There is almost no infrastructure in the Arctic. Apparently there is a slow effort to provide better domain awareness. Only about 5% of the American Arctic waters are charted to international standards.

The most significant thing to come out in the hearing was that there is no National or Naval strategy for the Arctic Ocean. (This might be because NORTHCOM, which is air and ground oriented, has responsibility for the Arctic Ocean area.) Congress has added a requirement for development of an Arctic Strategy in the FY2019 DOD budget, and they certainly expect the Coast Guard to have a large role in the strategy.

If you don’t listen to anything else, particularly listen to John Garamendi’s remarks 1:41:30 to 1:43:30.

 

 

Norway’s Coast Guard Challenges in the Arctic

Location of Svalbard, Norway. Prepared by
TUBS

DefenseNews has an excellent article on the challenges facing the Norwegian Coast Guard around the islands of Svalbard.

You thought the USCG was small. They have less than 400 people but operate nine ocean going ships as well as inshore patrol vessels. They are part of the Norwegian Navy and have no aircraft of their own, so they don’t have the same range of responsibilities, but by any measure, they are a small force.

Global warming has increased access for fisheries and tourism. Traffic is increasing around the island of Svalbard and they are unable to meet the demanding new conditions.

We are likely to face similar problems in the American Arctic EEZ. How far is it from the nearest Coast Guard Air Station (Kodiak) to the Bering Strait? (677 nautical miles). To Barrow (822 n.mi).

How many ships do we expect to keep north of the Bering Strait? Would be surprised if it more than one.