Home / US / Climate change melts on the polar ice and the Navy looks north: NPR

Climate change melts on the polar ice and the Navy looks north: NPR



An F / A-18 Super Hornet gets ready to fly from the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Alaska Gulf.

Zachariah Hughes / Alaska Public Media


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An F / A-18 Super Hornet ready to fly from USS Theodore Roosevelt in Alaska.

Zachariah Hughes / Alaska Public Media

The US Navy looks north.

As climate change melts on ice that has long blocked the region from transit and industry, the military is setting out how to expand its presence in the waters of high north, mainly the Alaska coast.

Driving push is so much of the commercial activity and development interest in the region comes from nations that the Pentagon considers rivals, such as Russia and China.

The Navy's presence in Alaska has grown and declined over the years. The state has abundant army and air force assets, with the coast guard being spread everywhere as well. The marina runs underwater exercises under the sea ice off the Alaskan north coast.

But until last year, no American airboats had been watching over the Arctic Circle for almost three decades. USS Harry S. Truman participated in sea exercises in the Norwegian Sea in October in October, the first ship to sail so far north since 1991.

For the first time in a decade, this May an air force freight group – led by USS Theodore Roosevelt – sailed to Alaska as part of Northern Edge, a two-year large-scale military exercise bringing together staff from all military branches – pilots, mariners, soldiers, sailors, and shores. Navan always participates, but this year it was out in force.

Lt. Cmdr. Alex Diaz, whose job is monitoring the traffic on USS Theodore Roosevelt flight deck.

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Lt. Cmdr. Alex Diaz, whose job is monitoring the traffic on USS Theodore Roosevelt flight deck.

Zachariah Hughes / Alaska Public Media

Backbone Daniel Dwyer commands the nine ships in the Roosevelt strike group. When he spoke on an observation deck several stories above the aircraft, he said that climate change adds a new urgency to train like this, since marine activity is increasing in Arctic waters.

"You see the shrinkage of the ice cap, the opening of lakes, more traffic through these areas," Dwyer said. "It's the Navy's responsibility to protect America through these approaches."

The Ministry of Defense sees the threat of military conflict in the Arctic so low, but it is concerned about increased activity in the region from Russia and China. A report from 2018 from the Government Responsibility Committee on the role of the Navy in the Arctic states that abundant natural resources such as gas, minerals and fish stocks become more accessible when the polarist melts and gives "competing sovereignty demands".

Defense US interests in the Arctic

When Roosevelt crossed through the Alaska Gulf, the F / A-18 Super Hornets took off and landed on a quick clip. Each start is a full body experience for those on deck and shakes everything from their shoes to their teeth. Plans are launched by a steam catcher system operated by the ship's nuclear reactors.

Some of the animals flew more than 100 miles to mainland Alaska and continued on past mountain ranges to synchronize with Air Force and Marine Corps counterparts working in airspace around Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks. Then they returned to Roosevelt. The whole journey lasts about four hours.

A map showing the position of USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Alaska Gulf.

Zachariah Hughes / Alaska Public Media


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A map showing the position of USS Theodore Roosevelt in Alaska.

Zachariah Hughes / Alaska Public Media

To land, Super Hornets suddenly struck out of the sky and hung a hook that snagged at wires that took them from full speed to full stop at 183 feet. It looked as if a car brake than a roller coaster was still beating to give riders a last shot.

"We catch anywhere from six to 25 aircraft on this recovery" cracked a voice over a speaker on the deck. "I'm not sure than [how many]. If they show up on the ball, we'll catch them."

The deck coordinated chaos with crew members and aircraft rotating through intricate maneuvers as a baroque ballet

The tire staff is called "dirty" because they wear uniforms that are color-coordinated to match their jobs. Much like candy, most of the rainbow is represented. Greens take care of takeoffs and landings. Reds handles order. Purple is about fuel and is called "grapes".

Navan says that, given what is currently expected of it in the region, crews are trained and equipped to perform their missions as well as any other nation's fleets. [19659008] "Regardless of the conditions: day, night, good weather, bad weather, flat sea, heavy lakes, it is the same procedure every time," said Dwyer that the jets take off below as a helicopter lying down on the flight deck

A Changing Focus to "High North"

Speaking at this year's Coast Guard Academy, National Security Adviser John Bolton said the military will play a role "recovering" US influence over the Arctic.

"We want the high northern region to be a low-voltage region, where no country strives to force others through military construction or economic exploitation," Bolton says to academics.

Trump Administration is expected to reveal a new Arctic strategy sometime in June. [19659008] Forecasts predicting declining ice will reliably open up North Sea paths that can reduce the time and cost of moving freight from Asia to Europe, which will result in an increase in ship traffic.

The military is sincere that the warming climate opens transit distances that sea ice has long locked in. Right now, the US Navy's presence is minimal.

The F / A-18 Super Hornet is launched by a steam-powered catapult from the USS Theodore Roosevelt during sea exercises in the Alaska Gulf.

Zachariah Hughes / Alaska Public Media


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The F / A-18 Super Hornet is launched by a steam-powered catapult from the USS Theodore Roosevelt during sea exercises in the Alaska Gulf.

Zachariah Hughes / Alaska Public Media

"If you are going to be a neighbor, you must be in the neighborhood," says vice adm. John Alexander, Third Marine Navy Commander, responsible for the North Pacific, including the Bering Sea and the Alaskan Arctic.

"We need to make sure that there is free and open transit of these waters," Alexander says.

But the fleet is facing major obstacles to expanding its presence in a maritime environment as harsh as the Arctic. According to the GAO report, most naval surface vessels are not "designed to operate in icy water".

The authors note that marine administrators have said that "entrepreneurial structures are currently lacking in expertise in the construction of winterized, ice-capable surface fighters and amphibious warships."

After years of study, the Department of Defense has not yet chosen a site and design for a strategic harbor near the Arctic which can permanently accommodate a strong marine presence.

And even if you can work in the Arctic, you still need to get there. At present, the region's water is freezing for many of the year. According to the Coast Guard, Russia has more than 40 icebreakers, including three new giant nuclear powered vessels designed to repair sea lanes along the northern sea. The US military, on the other hand, currently has only two functioning icebreakers.

This story comes from American Homefront, a military and veteran reporting project from the NPR and member states.


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