“Breaking the Ice: High Stakes in the High North” –RealClearDefense

Real Clear Defense offers a suggestion of how US policy regarding the Arctic should be shaped.

While some decry an “icebreaker gap”…, the real problem is that U.S. policy in the Arctic lacks direction. The United States needs a better approach – a new cooperative arrangement with Russia to protect the environment, maintain peace in the region, and box-out China.

The Coast Guard does need more icebreakers. It does not need nearly as many as Russia. Our thinking needs to consider our access to Antarctica, which, however quiet it may be now, may not always be that way.

“Check out these otherworldly photos from a Coast Guard cutter’s trip into the Arctic” –Navy Times Observation Post

Campbell alongside the Royal Danish Navy vessel. (Seaman Kate Kilroy/U.S. Coast Guard)

The Navy Times “Observation Post” has a series of great photos taken during USCGC Campbell’s two month deployment to waters off Canada and Greenland, most of it north of the Arctic circle. The photos feature operations with the Danish Offshore Patrol Vessel HDMS Knud Rasmussen.

Below my remarks is the Atlantic Area news release on the operation, and it is extremely well done.

Comparing the two ships:

The two ships make an interesting comparison. Knud Rasmussen is almost the same displacement as Campbell, but has a smaller crew (18) than the Webber class WPCs, while the Campbell has a crew of about 100. Campbell is 20 years older. Both have flight decks, but only Campbell has a hangar.

  • Knud Rasmussen is shorter (71.8 m (235 ft 7 in) vs 270 ft (82 m)),
  • but broader (14.6 m (47 ft 11 in) vs 38 ft (12 m)),
  • and a bit slower (17 vs 19.5 knots) on almost exactly the same horsepower (7,300 vs 7,000),
  • with much less range (3000 nmi vs 9,900).

The Danish ship is “designed to operate in difficult ice conditions mainly without icebreaker assistance” (Finnish-Swedish ice class, 1A Super) including “Summer/autumn operation in medium first-year ice, which may include old ice inclusions” (Polar Class PC 6). The Campbell is not ice rated.

The LCP, SAR2, is approaching offshore patrol vessel EJNAR MIKKELSEN a Knod Rasmussen class sister ship. (Photo: Johnny E. Balsved)

The Knud Rasmussen is equipped with three boats, one 10.8 meter (35.4 ft) launched from a stern ramp (photo above), one seven meter (23 ft), and a 4.8 meter (16 ft). The Campbell has two boats, a 26 ft (8 meter) “Over the Horizon Cutter Boat” and a 22 ft (6.7 meter) “Cutter Boat, Large.”

Both use the same Oto Melara 76 mm gun. Both have a pair of crew served 12.7mm .50 cal. machine guns. The Knud Rasmussen uses Denmark’s StanFlex system of containerized weapons. It has two StanFlex positions, one occupied by the 76mm gun, and a second one that could be used to provide a 6-cell Mk 48 Mod 3 launcher (location is not clear). Each cell could launch one RIM-7 Sea Sparrow or two Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles (ESSM) for a total of up to 12 missiles. The Danish vessel is also equipped to launch MU90 light weight torpedoes. This is normally considered an ASW torpedo, but there is no indication the Knud Rasmussen has a sonar. There are four StanFlex modules for Thales Underwater Systems TSM 2640 Salmon variable-depth active/passive sonar, but those are most likely to go on the four Thales class patrol frigates. The torpedo does have a minimum navigational depth of only three meters (10 ft).

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area
Contact: Coast Guard Atlantic Area Public Affairs
Phone: (757) 452-8336
After Hours: uscglantarea@gmail.com
Atlantic Area online newsroom

U.S. Coast Guard conducts joint Arctic operations, scientific research off Greenland

Argus Campbell smallboat and iceberg
Joint ops with the Danish navy Greenland's Premier Kim Kielsen aboard Campbell 

Editors’ note: To view more imagery or download please click images above and visit http://bit.ly/WMEC909Arctic

KITTERY, Maine — U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Campbell (WMEC 909) returned to homeport Tuesday, following a two-month deployment supporting joint Arctic operations off Greenland’s western coast.

Campbell’s crew contributed to joint exercises, research and development efforts, and critical diplomatic engagements while covering more than 11,500 miles (10,000 nautical miles).

“I am very proud of the efforts and adaptability of every one of Campbell’s crew who demonstrated the ability to operate and execute our mission aboard one of the finest Famous-class cutters in the fleet, said Capt. Thomas Crane, commanding officer of Campbell. “Their dedication to duty and commitment to the Coast Guard helps to affirm the United States as an Arctic nation. It is also a credit to the name Campbell and our five predecessors. In addition to notable narcotics seizures and being the command ship for the 1996 TWA 800 recovery, we are now the first 270-foot medium endurance cutter to earn the Arctic Service Medal.”

Campbell sailed with additional support, including an embarked MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and aviation detachment consisting of two pilots and four aircrew, including a rescue swimmer. In all, eight shipriders augmented the 100 person crew during the patrol, assisting in operations, providing health services, and documenting the journey.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to be a part of this historic mission and am glad our crew’s experiences will be shared with family, friends, and future generations,” said Crane. “Going to sea is challenging and requires personal sacrifices both from our crew and loved ones left onshore. Still, the camaraderie, teamwork, and pride of our crew are the reasons I go to sea. Campbell is a great ship with a great crew able to execute missions of strategic national significance amid a global pandemic.”

In early August, Campbell departed Kittery for Nuuk, Greenland, to participate in joint search and rescue exercise operations with French and Royal Danish naval assets.

“This effort strengthens international partnerships and provides a foundation for standard operations in the rapidly developing Arctic maritime environment,” said Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, commander U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area. “As interest and maritime traffic in the area increases, the importance of the U.S. Coast Guard’s interoperability with allied partners becomes more critical to ensuring we protect national and shared security interests. Exercising our unique blend of polar operational capability, regulatory authority, and international leadership across the full spectrum of maritime governance is vital to the future of the Arctic.”

The Kingdom of Denmark defense force’s Joint Arctic Command Search and Rescue Exercise ARGUS included 13 simulated coastal and open-ocean scenarios, evaluating processes and interoperability through communications testing, vessel towing evolutions, rescue boat training, and helicopter sea and land operations.

Campbell’s crew employed its embarked Dolphin crew extensively, conducting joint evolutions and professional maritime exchanges with the Royal Danish navy vessels HDMS Knud Rasmussen and HDMS Triton. They also applied NATO procedures to test interoperability with regard to ship controlled approaches, launch, recovery, and hoisting. The crews conducted joint U.S.-Danish surface and air operations in Eternity Fjord and Disko Bay, Greenland, the most active iceberg-producing area globally.

Professional exchanges with HDMS Knud Rasmussen provide an opportunity to gain valuable navigation knowledge along Greenland’s coastline and fjord system. Campbell patrolled the Labrador Sea waters, Davis Strait, and the Baffin Bay, navigating Greenland’s largely uncharted western coast, including ice-laden bays and fjords, often using rudimentary sounding data as electronic charts are unavailable for the area. Throughout the patrol, Campbell safely completed over 200 helicopter evolutions, including 16 joint evolutions with the Danish navy.

In support of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association, International Ice Patrol, and Coast Guard Research and Development Center, Campbell’s crew conducted testing of specialized equipment and resources in the Arctic environment. They deployed oceanographic research buoys across Baffin Bay, the Labrador Sea, and the North Atlantic to measure ocean currents and wave heights that influence iceberg drift and deterioration.

“This valuable data can provide a better understanding of the lifecycle of icebergs that impact transatlantic shipping lanes,” said Mike Hicks, of the International Ice Patrol.

IIP also analyzed 317 synthetic aperture radar and multi-spectral images from satellites to monitor iceberg danger during Campbell’s operations. This effort, led by IIP’s Lt. Don Rudnickas, denotes the first time in history, novel, scalable, and tailored iceberg warning products were produced with only satellite observations, depicting iceberg danger at higher granularity using oceanographic models to provide forecasted iceberg positions.

“This input significantly shapes the future of iceberg warning products in the North Atlantic and expands the capability of IIP to provide direct, tailorable support to vessels operating independently; an ability beyond the IIP’s statutory mission, but one that is likely to become highly desired with increasing Arctic operations,” said Hicks.

Mr. Matthew Lees was the RDC Demonstrations Liaison and coordinated technology evaluations for the patrol. These included:
– An Iridium Certus Terminal which helped provide internet access for the crew to maintain communications with Atlantic Area;
– Two different enhanced night vision goggle devices improved law enforcement and flight operations, even integrated into ship’s display screens;
– A Long Range Acoustic Device, also known as an LRAD, was evaluated for enhanced communications with vessels at longer distances;
– A handheld Glare Helios Green Laser tested for similar stand-off hailing capabilities.

The crew also learned essential lessons using a FiFish Remotely Operated Vehicle in cold weather to conduct underwater inspections.

“As cruise ship and commercial vessel traffic increases through the Northwest Passage, Campbell’s recent patrol highlights our commitment to ensuring the safety and security of U.S. citizens,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Allan, commander Coast Guard 1st District. “This was also a fantastic demonstration of how we work with our partners as we seek to respect sovereignty, maximize the use of our assets, and promote environmental stewardship.”

They facilitated multiple key diplomatic engagement opportunities throughout their Arctic deployment. Campbell’s crew welcomed aboard Danish Maj. Gen. Kim Joergensen, commander of Joint Arctic Command, and Mr. Sung Choi, U.S. consul in Nuuk. Campbell’s diplomatic work was underscored by the opportunity to host Greenland’s Premier, Mr. Kim Kielsen, signifying the importance of international cooperation for the region.

“Campbell’s efforts continue the United States’ strong relationship with Greenland, furthering a positive foundation for how the Coast Guard will interact and operate in the region,” said Poulin. “As an Arctic nation, cooperation and understanding of the dynamic and ever-changing Arctic operating environment is vital. The U.S. Coast Guard is the primary polar and Arctic surface operator of the U.S. military. The Coast Guard is committed to working collaboratively with like-minded partners through exercises like ARGUS strengthening global maritime security, regional stability, and economic prosperity.”

“Steer Clear of the Polar Regions” –USNI

 Photo: Official USCG Polar Star Facebook

The US Naval Institute Blog has a new post. Its bottom line,

For Semper Paratus to move beyond a mere slogan, the Coast Guard should steer clear of the Poles, decommission the two heavy icebreakers, and redirect resources toward coastal operations to better secure the homeland. As the smallest armed force, the Coast Guard must proactively roll back the nefarious reach of transnational human smuggling and narcoterrorism for the sake of national security. Leave the Poles to the Navy and to private sector research-and-development firms.

I am not going to comment, but I am sure someone will.

“Arktika Nuclear-Powered Icebreaker Completes Sea Trials” –Naval News

The lead nuclear icebreaker “Arktika”, project 22220 (LK-60Ya), built at Baltic Shipyard JSC (part of United Shipbuilding Corporation JSC) for Atomflot FSUE, is entering the first stage of sea trials. St. Petersburg, 12.12.2019 (c) JSC United Shipbuilding Corporation

Naval News reports that the world’s largest icebreaker, “Arkika,” has completed sea trials. This is the first of five Project 22220 nuclear powered icebreakers.

This class is quite remarked for its number of ships, their size, their speed, their power, and for their small crew size.

These are dual displacement icebreakers designed to operate in rivers as well as the Arctic Ocean, using huge amounts of ballast water.

Dimensions:

  • Displacement:33,530 t (33,000 long tons) (dwl) 25,540 t (25,140 long tons) (min)
  • Length: 173.3 m (569 ft) (overall), 160.0 m (525 ft) waterline
  • Beam: 34 m (112 ft) (maximum), 33 m (108 ft) waterline
  • Draft: 10.5 m (34 ft) (dwl) 8.65 m (28 ft) (minimum; operational)
  • Propulsion: three shafts, total 60 MW (80,461 HP)
  • Speed: 22 knots.
  • Crew: 75

Even larger Project 101510 ships, capable of breaking up to 4-metre-thick (13 ft) ice, are under construction. They will be 209 metres (686 ft) in length, with a beam of 47.7 metres (156 ft) with four shafts providing 120 megawatts (161,000 hp).

Polar Security Cutters and Coast Guard ASW

The US Naval Institute Proceedings web page has a couple of Coast Guard related articles that did not appear in the print version of Proceedings,

I have reproduced my comments on these topics below.


In regard to arming the Polar Security Cutters (the author seemed fixated on cruise missiles. We did discuss this topic earlier here)

There are limits to what we want to put on ships bound for Antarctica, since they have to be open for inspection. On the other hand if we ever do have a near peer conflict involving the Arctic or Antarctic, these will become rare and essential naval auxiliaries. As such they will probably operate with other vessels, including more powerful warships if appropriate, but that does not mean they should not be able to defend themselves against the possibility of leakers. We need to make provision for last ditch defense with systems like SeaRAM.

Meanwhile the fact that they are law enforcement vessels means they should be able to forcibly stop any private or merchant vessel regardless of size. So far it seems they will have at most, 25mm Mk38 Mod3 guns.

The follow on Medium Icebreakers or Arctic Security Cutters, which are unlikely to go to Antarctica, are more likely to be more heavily armed from the start.


Coast Guard ASW (comments were generally surprisingly adverse):

It is a fact that in WWII most U-boats were sunk by aircraft, but about a third (about 230) were sunk by surface vessels, primarily those of our allies Britain and Canada.

Even when surface vessels did not sink U-boats, they often performed valuable service in blocking access to convoys and in rescuing mariners from sunken ships.

US Naval vessels only sank about 38 U-boats. Coast Guard cutters and Coast Guard manned Navy ships were involved in sinking a disproportionate number of those (ten) for various reasons. Most of the US Navy effort went into the Pacific and most of the USN effort in the Atlantic at least through mid-1943, was in escorting high speed troop convoys than largely avoided contact with U-boats.

Circumstances we will face in any near peer conflict may be very different.

The advantages provided by code breaking in WWII are unlikely.

The advantages provided by radar equipped aircraft detecting U-boats charging their batteries or transiting the Bay of Biscay on the surface during the night no longer exists.

The Chinese surface and air threat would divert the most capable USN assets from ASW tasks.

Unlike the Japanese during the Pacific campaign, the Chinese are likely to make a concerted effort to disrupt our logistics train.

We simply do not have enough ASW assets.

Augmenting Coast Guard cutters to allow them to provide ASW escort and rescue services for ships that are sunk by hostile subs, in lower threat areas, is a low cost mobilization option that can substantially increase the number of escorts at low cost.

This could be facilitated by augmenting cutter with USN Reserves. Navy reserve ASW helicopter squadrons could be assigned to fly from cutters.
LCS ASW modules could be placed on cutters and manned by reactivated Navy reservists with LCS ASW module experience.

Our few US merchant ships need to be protected and when inevitably, some are sunk, we need someone to rescue those mariners, because they have become a rare and precious commodity.

The crews of the Coast Guard Cutters Midgett (WMSL 757) and Kimball (WMSL 756) transit past Koko Head on Oahu, Hawaii, Aug. 16, 2019. The Kimball and Midgett are both homeported in Honolulu and two of the newest Coast Guard cutters to join the fleet. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West/Released)


In answer to this comment from James M

Add : For (millions)

ASIST : 6.263
Mk 32 SVTT : 3.237
SLQ-25 Nixie: 1.727
AN/SRQ-4 LAMPS III: 4.625
VDS/MFTA combo: 14.802
ASW Combat Suite: 33.684
64.338 total. I am sure something could be arrived at for less. I look at this as what it takes to fit out an NSC the whole way. For one, OPC will never fit that VDS/MFTA on its stern. At best it would be a Nixie, maybe a container towed sonar we don’t yet use, and the mods for MH-60R. It would be good to know the plan for MUSV as it might help the equation. After all, the 64.338 would buy 2 MUSVs without payload. It could also buy an additional FRC.

So, we could equip ASW equip all eleven projected Bertholf class National Security Cutters (NSC) for less than the cost of a single frigate.

Why do you believe the VDS/MFTA would not fit on the Offshore Patrol Cutter? It is fully as large as the NSCs and does not have the boat launch ramp cut into the stern. They are also substantially larger than the LCSs.

OPC “Placemat”

Second 270 Goes to the Arctic

As part of the Operation Argus search and rescue exercise, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma (WMEC 908) and HDMS Triton (F358), a Royal Danish navy vessel, conducted towing evolutions off Greenland Aug. 18, 2020. Interoperability and rescue responses are vital in the high latitudes of the Arctic. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Kate Kilroy/Released)

Below is a press release reproduced in its entirety. This operation seems to represent a significant change in Coast Guard operations. This is the first reference to a Coast Guard “Arctic Patrol” I have seen other than WWII historical references. Significantly this is on the Atlantic side. When I have seen the Coast Guard participate in this exercise in the past, it was with a buoy tender. Here we have participation by two 270 foot WMECs. We talked about this exercise earlier here. It seems to mark a change for the US Navy as well as the Coast Guard with a Navy destroyer participating as well. 

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area
Contact: Coast Guard Atlantic Area Public Affairs
Office: (757) 398-6521
After Hours: (757) 641-0763
Atlantic Area online newsroom

U.S. Coast Guard carries out support of joint Arctic missions

As part of Operation Nanook, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma (WMEC 908) maneuvers with vessel from the Royal Canadian navy and coast guard, the Danish navy, and French navy, in the Atlantic Aug. 9, 2020. Strong partnerships are imperative to success in the Arctic. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Kate Kilroy/Released) Royal Danish navy members attached to HDMS Triton (F358) ran through search and rescue exercises aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma (WMEC 908) as part of the joint Arctic Operation Argus, Aug. 20, 2020, off Greenland. The Triton crew dispatched small boat crews to board the Tahoma, responding to the ‘distress call’ made by Tahoma. The scenario included multiple ‘injured’ parties and a pipe casualty exercise. Each ship’s crew shared techniques throughout the engagement, leading to a successful evolution. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Kate Kilroy/Released) Coast Guard Cadet 1st Class Rochelle Parocha looks on to the Royal Canadian Navy supply vessel Asterix after guiding in the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma (WMEC 908) during approach drills as part of Operation Nanook in the Atlantic in mid-August 2020. Strong partnerships are imperative to success in the Arctic. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Kate Kilroy/Released)

 Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Fetzner, Lt. Katy Caraway, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Calvin Christianson, an aviation maintenance technician, crew an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter on search and rescue maneuvers above Greenland, Aug. 19, 2020. The team comprises the aviation detachment aboard U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma (WMEC 908), taking part in joint Arctic Operations Nanook and Argus strengthening relations with strategic partners. They carried out multiple search and rescue drills involving lost hikers along the Arctic Trail and boaters in distress along Greenland's coast. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Kate Kilroy/Released) The HDMS Triton (F358), a Royal Danish navy vessel, approaches Greenland as seen from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma (WMEC 908), Aug. 15, 2020. Both vessel crews are participating in the 10th year of Operation Nanook. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Kate Kilroy/Released) As part of Operation Nanook, a Royal Danish navy MH-60 Seahawk Helicopter crew conducts cross-deck maneuvers over the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma (WMEC 908) in the Atlantic Aug. 10, 2020. Strong partnerships are imperative to success in the Arctic. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Kate Kilroy/Released)

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma (WMEC 908) became the first Coast Guard 270-foot medium endurance cutter crew to cross the Arctic Circle, Aug. 17, 2020. They took part in joint Arctic Operations Nanook and Argus, (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Kate Kilroy/Released) As part of Operation Nanook, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma (WMEC 908) boat-crew participates in a search and rescue exercise with the HDMS Triton, a Royal Danish navy vessel Aug. 17, 2020 off Greenland. Operation Argus part of Nanook, focused on search and rescue interoperability, highlights the importance of cooperation between international partners. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Kate Kilroy/Released) As part of the Operation Argus search and rescue exercise, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma (WMEC 908) and HDMS Triton (F358), a Royal Danish navy vessel, conducted towing evolutions off Greenland Aug. 18, 2020. Interoperability and rescue responses are vital in the high latitudes of the Arctic. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Kate Kilroy/Released)

Editors’ Note: Click on images to view more or download a high-resolution version.

KITTERY, Maine  — The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Campbell (WMEC 909) will relieve the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma (WMEC 908) on Arctic patrol, Sunday near Greenland.  

In mid-July, Tahoma began operations for the overall two-month patrol to the Arctic in support of joint operations Nanook and Argus, to secure the maritime domain, protect resources and strengthen partnerships. 

“I’ve been doing this for more than 33 years and thought I’d seen everything until I saw how positively this crew responded. There’s nothing more humbling than being surrounded by such a great crew. Their families and friends should all be proud of them; that they accomplished something important and accomplished it with style. They represented themselves, their families, their Service, and their country as well as could ever be expected. The finest traditions of the Coast Guard are alive and well within the Tahoma crew,” said Cmdr. Eric Johnson, commanding officer, Tahoma. 

As the Nation’s primary maritime presence in the Polar Regions, the Coast Guard advances our national interests through a unique blend of polar operational capability, regulatory authority and international leadership across the full spectrum of maritime governance.  

“The Coast Guard has been in the Arctic for over 150 years,” said Capt. Thomas Crane, commanding officer, Campbell. “This signature exercise began in 2007. We are committed to enhancing our multinational capability to operate effectively in the dynamic Arctic domain, strengthening the rules-based order through the presence and joint efforts, and adapting to promote regional resilience and prosperity. We are proud to bring USCGC Campbell back to Greenland as the previous Campbell (W32) supported Coastal Operations in and around Greenland during World War II.”

These exercises evaluate interoperability and build relationships between responders to identify shortfalls in communication and coordination of efforts. Each agency holds individual capabilities that complement each other’s efforts and bolsters the overall success of the regional defense and SAR system. The purpose is to continue building and improving operational cohesion between different agencies and the Coast Guard.

Tahoma participated in patrols and mutual exchanges with partners as part of Operation Nanook. Inuit for polar bears, Nanook is an annual joint exercise and the Canadian armed forces’ signature northern operation, which comprises a series of comprehensive, joint, interagency, and multinational activities designed to exercise regional defense and secure our polar regions. The Coast Guard is primarily supporting Nanook-Tuugalik, a defense readiness and security exercise, with multiple foreign partners off Northern Canada involving U.S. Navy 2nd Fleet, Royal Canadian navy and coast guard, the Danish navy, French navy, Royal Canadian air force, and multiple Canadian federal, state, local, and tribal agencies. This year crowns a decade of Operation Nanook.

Both Tahoma and Campbell participated in Operation Argus, a three-day search and rescue exercise in Greenland’s coastal search area with the Danish navy, French navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and Air Greenland. Campbell will also conduct exchanges, fisheries boardings to safeguard resources and protect domestic fisheries and serve as a platform for research and innovation.

“We continue to work with our allies and partners to ensure a safe, secure, and cooperative Arctic, even as our aspiring near-peer competitors maneuver for strategic advantage in the area,” said Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, commander, Coast Guard Atlantic Area. “We are leaning forward, and our persistent presence continues to counter those entities’ efforts as the strategic value, economic, and scientific importance of the Arctic grows.”

Tahoma and Campbell’s home port is the historic Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. Both cutters have a crew of roughly 100 who regularly patrol the Atlantic from Canada to the Caribbean. Like the other Famous-class cutters, they are designed and built for multi-mission operations, including law enforcement, search and rescue, marine environmental protection, and defense readiness.

Due to COVID-19, the service is taking extensive precautions and closely monitoring all operations. As needed, unit schedules adapted to ensure missions occur as planned. Any port calls or personnel exchanges are evaluated for risk and conducted in close coordination with the host nation and relevant agencies.

“Russian navy will create an Arctic group of tanker ships of Project 23130” –NavyRecognition

Project 23130 is a series of medium-size replenishment oilers developed by the Spetssudoproect JSC and built by Nevsky Shipyard for the Russian Navy. (Picture source Nurlan Aliyev Twitter account)

NavyRecognition reports that the Russian Navy is building a fleet of six ice-capable underway replenishment tankers. The ships are relatively small,

“Project 23130 tanker has a displacement of 9 thousand tons. It is 130 meters long and 21 meters wide. The maximum speed is 16 knots. The autonomous navigation can last two months. The maximum range is 8 thousand nautical miles. The tanker can operate in 0.8-meter thick Arctic ice.”

But on the other hand the US Navy has nothing comparable.

The article also seems to point to a serious shortage of underway replenishment vessels in the Russian Navy.

“Coast Guard Sails Medium Cutter North of Arctic Circle as Nanook Exercise Kicks Off” –USNI

The US Naval Institute News reports that

“The Coast Guard for the first time in years sent one of its medium-endurance cutters to the Atlantic Ocean north of the Arctic Circle, as the sea service joins the U.S. and Canadian navies for a yearly maritime exercise.”

This is Operation NANOOK-TUUGAALIK 2020, the maritime portion of Operation NANOOK. In past years, when the Coast Guard participated, we usually sent a buoy tender. I don’t believe it has ever happened before, but this year the US Navy is sending a destroyer. According to Naval Technology,

“Participating assets include USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) guided-missile destroyer, the Royal Canadian Navy ships HMCS Glace Bay, HMCS Ville de Quebec, and MV Asterix; DDG 116, US Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) 46.2, the US Coast Guard cutter USCGC Tahoma, French Navy coastal patrol vessel FS Fulmar, and the Royal Danish Navy frigate HDMS Triton.” (Photos below–Chuck)

The Navy seems to be particularly concerned about doing small boat ops in the Arctic environment.

“We’ve really heavily relied on partners, including the Coast Guard, who have recent experience operating there,” he said.

Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian G. Reynolds/Released)

Canadian frigate HMCS Ville de Quebec

Danish frigate HDMS Triton F358 in Reykjavik – Iceland (2016). Photo credit: CJ Sayer via Wikipedia

Royal Canadian Navy supply ship MV Asterix (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jimmie Crockett/Released)

Canadian navy Kingston-class maritime coastal defense vessel HMCS Glace Bay (MM 701) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rafael Martie/Released)

FS FULMAR P740. Description: Owned by French Navy and crewed by Gendarmarie. Built as fishing vessel ‘Jonathan’1991 at Boulogne,re-built 1996/97 at Lorient for French Navy as patrol boat, LOA 39M; beam 8.5M; draught 4.7M. Displmt:680 tons full load. Note French Coastguard (AEM) stripes on bow. Vessel based on St.Pierre et Miquelon,off S.West coast Newfoundland.Photo credit © tabarly

USCGC Tahoma (WMEC-908)

New Zealand Adds One of a Kind Ice Class Underway Replenishment Vessel

HMNZS Aotearoa Logistics Support Vessel

Naval News reports that the New Zealand Navy has commissioned what I believe is a one of a kind vessel, a Polar class underway replenishment vessel, HMNZS Aotearoa (not that it is an icebreaker, no icebreaking bow).

There is an excellent description of this ship here.

(Anyone know if the Polar Security cutters can do underway replenishment?)

Unlike US Navy replenishment ships, this will be armed and have a military crew.

I doubt the ice-strengthening and winterization really cost a whole lot. With the Arctic opening up, maybe the Navy should be thinking about something like this.

Wintering Over in the Arctic

A large number of research teams conduct very different experiments

As you may know, there is currently an expedition underway utilizing the German Icebreaker Polarstern to winter over in the Arctic, drifting with the ice. A German friend and blogger, Sven, pointed me to a 19 Sept 2019 German language interview that provides background on the purpose of the expedition and how it was to be conducted. The original article has more pictures and links to additional information. Using Google Translate I have provided a rough English translation below. Hopefully Deutsche Welle will forgive me. 

MOSAiC: Great Arctic Expedition Launches
For a year, the research vessel Polarstern will drift frozen through the Arctic Ocean. Researchers want to better understand the influence of the Arctic on the climate, says tour manager Christian Haas in the DW interview.

Deutsche Welle: On 20 September, a large-scale expedition of the Alfred Wegener Institute will take off with the research vessel Polarstern to the Arctic. What is it going to be about?
Christian Haas: On the expedition, we want to better understand the processes and energy flows between the air, the ocean and the ice. For this purpose, we will be freezing in the Arctic for a whole year with our research icebreaker Polarstern.
The processes and conditions there change greatly over the course of the seasons. In winter, we examine the factors that affect the freezing and growing of the ice. In the summer, the situation reverses. Then the ice melts and the ice sheet breaks open to form ice floes.
As the ice is several years old, it is necessary to know the interplay between winter freezing and summer melting in order to be able to assess whether the ice is getting thicker or thinner.

The polar star will drift through the Arctic Ocean with the ice. How exactly does it work?
The sea ice of the Arctic becomes only a few meters thick. Because it is so thin, it can easily break and be driven away by winds and currents, so it is constantly moving. We use this movement, the so-called ice drift, to drift from Siberia over the North Pole to Greenland.
It also has a crucial advantage to drive with the same ice, because we can only judge how the ice is exposed to all the external influences and changes.

There have already been some expeditions to the Arctic. What makes MOSAiC so special?
The special thing about MOSAiC is that we are really there over the course of a year, i.e. throughout the freezing and melting season, and we can observe the processes in all their diversity. We are also a huge team of researchers from 19 nations. A total of 300 scientists are involved.
But everyone will only be on board for two months. We take turns and travel with Russian icebreakers to the POLARSTERN and away again. There are a total of six sections of the journey, each with 50 scientists on board. I myself will be there from December to February.

And what will be your task on the ground?
I am the tour leader of the expedition for my journey section. That means I take overall responsibility for the whole company during the two months. Our group deals with the properties of ice, with a focus on ice ceiling measurement.
In order to measure the thickness of the ice, it was necessary to drill holes earlier, which is very complex. We have developed a new procedure at the AWI. Using electromagnetic probes, we can measure the conductivity of the subsurface.
The ice is solid and therefore a bad electrical conductor while the salt water underneath is very good. This allows us to determine the distance between ice and water, i.e. the thickness of the ice, very precisely.
We will then compare the data with satellites, in particular the European CryoSat, which has been launched specifically for ice ceiling measurement. So we can then observe how the ice grows and becomes thinner.

You spoke of a variety of processes being investigated. What are the other groups exploring?
The main aim is to investigate why the thickness of the ice changes. This depends on a huge number of influences, such as the air temperature and humidity of the winds, solar radiation and also how much heat gets from the water to the ice.
All these factors are measured simultaneously in high temporal resolution – all with the question “How does this affect the thickness of the ice?”

Working at home and in the Arctic is certainly different. They have been there many times. What are the working conditions there?
Of course, there are risks that we do not have. You can get frostbite, break into the water or meet polar bears. I’ve met many polar bears. Everyone who moves in the Arctic carries a gun with them.
However, the Polarstern has never fired a shot at a polar bear. Because they are primarily curious and come because of it. Since they are also very anxious, they can easily be expelled with noise. So these are not risks that pose great dangers if you behave correctly.
The far bigger challenges are more in the extreme situation of being so far away from home, for so long. Especially in winter we work in complete darkness. In addition, we are constantly there with many other people, there is no more privacy.
In addition, all the means of communication that we are used to here, i.e. the Internet, satellite communications and telephone, are only possible to a very limited extent. Because there is only one satellite communication system that still works north of 75 degrees North.

Nevertheless, this expedition is very important – keyword: climate change?
The whole world is worried about climate change. The Arctic is the hotspot, or the epicenter of global climate change. Because in the Arctic we are seeing the most significant climate changes.
These are also particularly well observed due to the retreat of the ice. The Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the world. That’s why you have to go to the Arctic to understand what’s happening there and to be able to make predictions for the world.
And how is sea ice doing at the moment?
The area of arctic ice in summer has decreased by more than 50 percent in the last 40 years. Now, in September, the ice retreats most every year before expanding again in autumn and winter.
This year we are seeing the second smallest sea ice extent ever observed in the Arctic. From this point of view, it is good that MOSAiC is starting this year. This means that the initial conditions are among the most extreme and we are just looking at how the Arctic has changed in recent years and what the state of the ‘new Arctic’ is.