“Media Advisory: Coast Guard cutter to return home following 97-day multi-mission Arctic deployment” –PACAREA

U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Stratton (WMSL 752) and Kimball (WMSL 756) steam in formation while patrolling the U.S.-Russian Maritime Boundary Line (MBL), in the Bering Sea, Sept. 26, 2022. This marked the first time two national security cutters jointly patrolled the MBL above the Arctic Circle. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo).

This isn’t like the Alaska Patrols I went on, which concentrated on the Aleutians/Bering Sea and never went much North of the Arctic Circle. This patrol went across the top of Alaska and apparently, this is getting to be more common.

Media Advisory

Nov. 22, 2022
U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area

Media Advisory: Coast Guard cutter to return home following 97-day multi-mission Arctic deployment

Coast Guard cutter returns home following 97-day multi-mission Arctic deployment

USCGC Stratton conducts operations offshore Little Diomede, Alaska Coast Guard cutter returns home following 97-day multi-mission Arctic deployment USCGC Stratton conducts flight operations while underway in Arctic Ocean

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version.

Who: U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752) and crew

What: Return home from multi-mission Arctic deployment

When: Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022 at 9 a.m.

Where: Coast Guard Base Alameda, 1 Eagle Rd., Alameda, CA, 94501

ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752) and crew are scheduled to return to Alameda, Wednesday, following a 97-day multi-mission deployment to the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea.

The cutter and crew departed Alameda in August to project U.S. sovereignty throughout U.S. Arctic waters, provide search-and-rescue capabilities in the region, meet with Alaskan communities and conduct an Arctic search-and-rescue exercise with international partners.

Stratton operated along the length of the U.S.-Russian maritime boundary line (MBL) from the Diomede Islands to well above the Arctic Circle, while they patrolled within the U.S. Arctic zone. Stratton also patrolled the U.S.- Canadian MBL in the Beaufort Sea, providing Coast Guard presence in the distant regions of the Arctic.

“I’m extremely proud of this crew and all they have accomplished,” said Capt. Stephen Adler, Stratton’s commanding officer. “The U.S. Coast Guard provides the Nation’s most active and visible maritime presence in the high latitudes, and coordinates with our international partners through joint exercises and professional exchanges to maintain a safe and prosperous Arctic region. The Coast Guard remains ‘Always Ready’ to preserve and protect our northern shores and waters. As more ships and people move into the Arctic, the Coast Guard will be there to ensure safety of navigation and preserve our national sovereignty, as it always has. The crew has truly lived up to our ship’s motto of, ‘We Can’t Afford Not To’ throughout our patrol.”

Stratton is one of four 418-foot national security cutters (NSC) homeported in Alameda. National security cutters are capable of extended, worldwide deployment in support of homeland security and defense missions. These cutters and crews routinely conduct operations from South America to the Arctic, where the combination of range, speed, and ability to operate in extreme weather provides the mission flexibility necessary to conduct vital strategic missions.

Media are encouraged to contact Coast Guard Pacific Area Public Affairs at pacificareapublicaffairs@uscg.mil to arrange an escort on Base Alameda to attend the ship’s arrival. Adler and crew will be available for interviews following the ship’s arrival.

“Canada Lacks Ability to Track Increasing Arctic Ship Traffic -Auditor” –gCaptain

gCaptain reports,

The Canadian government’s ability to track foreign vessels through the Arctic is woefully inadequate and the situation may get worse, according to a new report by the Auditor General of Canada.

Domestic surveillance of the region is incomplete, data that’s collected is insufficient, and there is no effective way of sharing information on maritime traffic, the watchdog said. Meanwhile, new icebreakers, aircraft, satellites and infrastructure required to fix these problems have been delayed to the point where some equipment likely will be retired before it can be replaced.

“MEDIA ADVISORY: U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker to return home after four-month Arctic deployment” –PACAREA

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version

Media Advisory

U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area

MEDIA ADVISORY: Coast Guard icebreaker returns home to Seattle after 124-day Arctic deployment

Who: U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB 20) commanding officer and crew

What: Returning to Seattle following four-month Arctic deployment

When: Friday, 4 p.m.

Where: Coast Guard Base Seattle, 1519 Alaskan Way S, Seattle, WA 98134

SEATTLE — U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB 20) is scheduled to return home to Seattle, Friday, following a historic 17,000-mile, 124-day deployment in the high Arctic latitudes that included a transit to the North Pole.

The crew’s efforts demonstrated interoperability in the Polar Region, supported U.S. security objectives, and projected an ice-capable presence in Arctic waters and the Gulf of Alaska.

Commissioned in 2000, Healy is a 420-foot medium icebreaker and a uniquely capable oceanographic research platform. Healy’s crew traversed the ice-packed Arctic Ocean to the top of the world, reaching the geographic North Pole on Sept. 30, 2022. This was only the second time a U.S. vessel had reached 90 degrees north unaccompanied.

Media are encouraged to contact Coast Guard public affairs at 206-251-3237 or uscgd13@gmail.com to arrange an escort at Base Seattle to attend the ship’s arrival. Healy’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Kenneth Boda, will be available for an interview following their arrival.

Coast Guard Cutter Stratton crew visits Kaktovik, Alaska during Arctic patrol

The Coast Guard Cutter Stratton passes underneath San Francisco’s Bay Bridge as Stratton and the crew depart on a months-long deployment to the Western Pacific in support of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, June 12, 2019. Operating under the tactical control of the U.S. 7th Fleet commander, Stratton and crew are scheduled to engage in professional exchanges and capacity-building exercises with partner nations in the Western Pacific and to patrol and operate as directed. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi.

Below is a District 17 news release. This is a bit unusual, that a cutter–not an icebreaker, would be that far into the Arctic. This is about the time of minimum ice coverage in the Arctic. Read about Kaktovik, Alaska here.

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska
Contact: alexander.j.mastel@uscg.mil

Coast Guard Cutter Stratton crew visits Kaktovik, Alaska during Arctic patrol

Members from Coast Guard Cutter Stratton visit Kaktovik, Alaska, Oct. 1, 2022, and participate in a question-and-answer session with approximately 45 community members, including roughly 30 children. Discussion centered on life in the Coast Guard, job opportunities within the organization, motivations for joining, as well as the Coast Guard’s role in the Arctic region. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Cutter Stratton)

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version.

KAKTOVIK, Alaska — Crew members from Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752) met with key leaders October 1 in Alaska’s most northeastern tribal community, while on a patrol in the Arctic Ocean.

Members from Stratton visited Kaktovik, where they met with Mayor Flora Rexford. Stratton members also participated in a question-and-answer session with approximately 45 community members, including roughly 30 children. Discussion centered on life in the Coast Guard, job opportunities within the organization, motivations for joining, and the Coast Guard’s role in the Arctic region.

Community members offered samplings of muktuk and expressed interest in more Coast Guard engagement in the community, most notably in their schools.

“We are so fortunate to have had this opportunity,” said Lt. Augustus Manzi, combat systems officer aboard Stratton. “We were met with overwhelming generosity from the community. Tribal members spent time getting to know us better and educated us on their customs and way of life. It was an incredible experience.”

The Stratton team presented a plaque to the mayor, delivered hand-knitted blankets gifted by the Alameda Navy League, and offered personalized etched glasses, knit hats and ship memorabilia to community members and their children.

Kaktovik is on the northern edge of the Arctic National Wildlife refuge and home to approximately 300 year-round residents.

CGC Stratton is a 418-foot national security cutter (NSC) capable of extended, worldwide deployment in support of homeland security and defense missions. NSCs routinely conduct operations from South America to the Arctic, where their unmatched combination of range, speed, and ability to operate in extreme weather provides the mission flexibility necessary to conduct vital strategic missions.

“Russia Launches Project 23550 Patrol Ship ‘Purga'” –Naval News

Official scale model of the Project 23550 ice-class patrol ship “Purga” for the Russian Coast Guard presented during the commissioning ceremony. Picture by Curious / forums.airbase.ru

Naval News reports the launch of a 9,000 tons, 114 meter icebreaker patrol ship for the Russian Coast Guard.

We have talked about this class before. Artist depictions of the class mounting containerized Kalibr cruise missile systems caused a bit of a stir, but we have yet to see containerized weapons on this class, nor have we seen Kalibr launched from containers against Ukraine. At this point, Russia may not have enough missiles to fully outfit its more capable combatants.

This is the first of the class for the Russian Coast Guard. The first two ships of the class were for the Russian Navy.

As I noted earlier, I really don’t think we need to mirror the Russian capability to put containerized missiles on our icebreakers, but the Polar Security Cutters will be valuable, almost irreplaceable auxiliaries, and unlike the Russians, we have very few icebreakers, so we need to be able to quickly upgrade their defensive capabilities.

These ships are in many respects similar to the Canadian Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, but they are reportedly slightly faster at 18 knots and much better armed–but only to a level similar to the OPCs, unless containerized weapons are added. I expect our Artic Security Cutters may be more like these than the Healy, though they probably will be larger than the Russian ships.

“Coast Guard could see more funding in new Senate legislation to help face Arctic challenges from Russia and China” –Stars and Stripes

USCG Cutter Bear transits out of Torngat National Park, Canada, on Aug. 9, 2022. The Bear was partaking in the Tuugaalik phase of Operation Nanook, an annual exercise that allows the United States and multiple other partner nations to ensure security and enhance interoperability in Arctic waters. (Matthew Abban/U.S. Coast Guard)

This isn’t through the budgeting process, but it is more indication of the Congress’ bipartisan support for the Coast Guard. Seems likely much of this will be incorporated in the final budget.

Stars and Stripes reports on action by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, that would provide money for the third Polar Security Cutter, establish an Arctic Security Cutter program, and provide “more options for child care, better access to affordable housing and expanded medical care and education opportunities…”

The bill would authorize $14.94 billion for the service for fiscal 2023, which begins Oct. 1. It would amount to a 21.5% budget increase from fiscal 2021.

The bill would support greater Arctic presence, combat IUU fishing, and improve polution response.

“Coast Guard, North Slope Borough Search and Rescue to conduct exercise near Utqiagvik, Alaska” –D17

Utqiagvik, the city formally know as Barrow, AK (File photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

This may look like a routine announcement, but I found it interesting because of where it is, and the fact that it will include “Coast Guard helicopters, and Coast Guard cutters” –both plural. Utqiagvik, Alaska, formerly Barrow, is the Northern most city in Alaska, 71°17′26″N, 284 nautical miles above the Arctic Circle. The helicopters will probably come with the cutters (maybe not?), but what cutters? USCGC Healy, an icebreaker, seems likely, but there has got to be at least one more. Maybe Alex Haley, out of Kodiak, or a Bertholf class NSC on Alaska Patrol?

Hopefully we will hear more.

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska

Coast Guard, North Slope Borough Search and Rescue to conduct exercise near Utqiagvik, Alaska

JUNEAU, Alaska – The 17th Coast Guard District and North Slope Borough Search and Rescue are scheduled to conduct an exercise near Utqiagvik, Alaska, August 31, 2022 through September 3, 2022.

The exercise is a small-scale search and rescue mission offshore of Utqiagvik named Operation Itqanaiyaq, meaning Get Ready or Get Prepared in Iñupiaq. The purpose of the exercise is for the Coast Guard and North Slope Borough Search and Rescue to practice procedures for maritime distress response.

The public will notice an increase in emergency responder and military presence in the vicinity of Utquiagvik during the exercise dates. The increased presence will consist of Coast Guard helicopters, and Coast Guard cutters.

“This search and rescue exercise provides a great opportunity for the Coast Guard to train alongside the North Slope Borough in an Arctic environment,” said Lt. Lindsay Wheeler from the 17th Coast Guard District. “We never know when we will need to respond with our aerial or surface assets to help find and rescue missing or injured people.”

“Coast Guard teams to deploy for summer operations in Kotzebue, Alaska” –D17

Northwest Arctic Borough Alaska incorporated and unincorporated areas Kotzebue highlighted. From Wikipedia by Rcsprinter123

Below is a D17 news release reporting deployments to Kotzebue, AK. Thought you might want to know where that is.

A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew, deployed to forward operating location Kotzebue, Alaska, conducts a pre-flight brief before flying a mission to Point Lay, July 13, 2017. FOL Kotzebue houses two Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters and crews in support of Operation Arctic Shield. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Brian Dykens.

This is not the first time helicopters have heen deployed to Kotzebue, here and here. If this follows the previous pattern, the deployment will last until about the end of October.

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska

Coast Guard teams to deploy for summer operations in Kotzebue, Alaska

Coast Guard Marine Safety Task Force conducts inspections during 2021 season  Coast Guard FOL Kotzebue Operations

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Coast Guard teams to deploy to Kotzebue, Alaska, in support of 2022 summer operations. 

Members of Sector Anchorage’s Marine Safety Task Force (MSTF) will be in the region July 6-16, 2022, for a multi-mission deployment focused primarily on facility inspections. 

“Facility inspections help mitigate the potential for oil pollution in the region,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Houvener, a marine science technician and team lead. “These facilities are crucial for providing oil to warm homes during winter months. Alaska experiences harsh environmental conditions, so it’s important to inspect the safety and integrity of such waterside facilities to decrease the risk of an oil spill.”

Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak crews are also scheduled to open a seasonal forward-operating location for aircraft mid-July in Kotzebue to reduce response time to the Bering Strait and Northern Slope regions in anticipation of historically increased maritime activity there. 

The use of forward operating locations in Alaska helps the service make the best strategic use of limited resources.

BRIDGING THE GAP: HOW THE UNITED STATES CAN IMMEDIATELY ADDRESS ITS ARCTIC CAPABILITY LIMITATIONS –Modern War

The Modern War Institute at West Point published an article that suggests that NOAA ships can help provide presence in the Arctic and that this will contribute to the defense of the Homeland.

Looks like NOAA has about 16 active ships. None are very large and I don’t think any of them are ice rated.

Certainly, NOAA has business in the Arctic, understanding the oceans is an essential part of readiness for conflict, but I don’t see them as any sort of deterrant. On the other hand I don’t see Russia’s large number of icebreakers as adding significant additional threat to US or Canadian security. They simply need a lot of icebreakers to support their economic operations in the Arctic.

Which Arctic are we talking about?

For most of the world, the Arctic is the region North of the Arctic Circle. For some reason the US defines the Arctic as including the Bering Sea and the Aleutians. That does include some pretty cold territory but really, it is not the Arctic, and there is no reason the US Navy should not be operating surface ships there, but they don’t.

I am talking about the Arctic North of the Arctic circle.

What are the military threats to North America that might come across the Arctic Ocean?

While the Russian Arctic build-up threatens Norway, maybe Iceland, and perhaps Greenland, let’s consider only North America.

Much of the Russian build up in the Arctic is defensive, and this is understandable. They have a lot of assets in the Arctic. Much of their national income comes from the Russian Arctic.

There is absolutely no chance the Russians are going to attempt to land an army in the North American Arctic as an overland invasion. It would be too difficult to move and virtually impossibe to resupply. They would be under constant attack by US and Canadian Aircraft. As a Canadian Officer once noted, if Russia landed troops in the Canadian Arctic they would need to be rescued. The most we are likely to see from the Russian Army is Special Forces assaults on sensor and associated communication  systems in the Arctic.

The largest portion of the Russian Naval fleet (30-35%) is based in the Arctic, but not because it is intended to operate exclusively in the Arctic. Much of it is based there because they don’t have better choices. The Northern Fleet has their only relatively unrestricted access to the Atlantic. Even Northern Fleet units have to transit the Greenland-Iceland-UK (GIUK) Gap (or the English Channel) to make it into the Atlantic Sea Lanes, The Baltic Fleet is surrounded by potential adversaries and would have to exit through the Danish Straits. The Black Sea Fleet is bottled up behind the Turkish straits and even after exit would have to cross the Mediterranean and through the Straits of Gibralter.

Russian Submarines do operate under the ice and may launch missiles or conduct commando raids in the Arctic.

The serious threats that could come across the Arctic Ocean will be in the air or in space–aircraft and ballistic and cruise missiles including the new hypersonics.

Coast Guard icebreakers could have a role in facilitating deployment and continuing support of sensor systems in the Arctic.

Gray Zone threats to Sovereignty

The more probable near term threats to the US come in the form of Gray Zone Ops that are intended to reshape the World’s view of normal. We have seen this with China’s Nine Dash Line and their attempts to recast rights associated with the Exclusive Economic Zone.

It appears Russia is trying to do the same. We have seen it in the Black Sea, and we are likely to see it in the Arctic.

The extent of Russia’s continental shelf is as yet undecided, but their claims are expansive.

Looks like China intends to do some resource extraction and fishing in the Arctic and they have not been particularly respectful of the rights of others.

The US Coast Guard will need to do fisheries protection inside the US Arctic EEZ and the Canadian CG inside theirs. There are probably going to be opportunities for cooperation and synergy between the two coast guards in the high North.

With the increase in traffic as ice melts, NOAA probably needs to do a lot of oceanographic research and survey work in the Arctic, but they are probably going to need to either build their own icebreakers or ride Coast Guard icebreakers to do it.

“Arctic Council boycotts Russia meetings over Ukraine invasion” –The Watch

This map show the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) within the Arctic: Canada (purple), Greenland (orange), Iceland (green), Norway (turquoise), Russia (light blue), and USA (dark blue). As sea ice reduces there will be more opportunity for ice to drift from one EEZ to another, which has implications for the potential spread of pollutants.
Credit: DeRepentigny et al., 2020

This looks important. NORTHCOM’s online magazine “The Watch” reports,

Countries of the Arctic Council declared March 4, 2022, they would boycott future talks in Russia over its Ukraine invasion, throwing international cooperation in the region into upheaval at a time when climate change is opening it up to resource exploitation.

The countries — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the United States — said they were suspending their work indefinitely and would skip planned talks in May 2022 in the northern Russian city of Arkhangelsk due to Moscow’s “flagrant violation” of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

While the action is perfectly justifiable, and marks unity between the non-Russian Arctic nations, unfortunately, it further isolates Russia and cuts another line of communications.