September 13, 2011

Navy Sheds Light on Arctic Exercises

Ever wonder what the U.S. Navy does during its annual ICEX
training in the Arctic? All Hands Television has the scoop in this
video of the 2011 exercises that runs less than 10 minutes and is worth
watching.  Watch the video here. Below I have also provided some
quick takeaways that I thought were interesting. Some of them are
intuitive but are worth highlighting:

  • As new sea lanes open up in the Arctic, the U.S. Navy and
    others plying those routes will continue to relying on research and science to
    guide the way. (Something that policymakers in Washington need to consider as
    they decide
    on non-discretionary spending cuts, including science programming
    .) In
    fact, researchers in the video stress that if the U.S. Navy and others are
    going to operate in the Arctic, they have to be prepared to operate in that
    environment – which means being very familiar with this dynamic region.  
  • The U.S. Navy provides researchers with longitudinal data to
    study climate change in the Arctic. Submarines have been storing information
    about ice thickness since the 1950s, providing researchers with data to understand
    how that thickness has been changing for more than 60 years and in the wake of
    global climate change.
  • The biggest challenge that submariners face in the Arctic is
    that, unlike in other seas around the world, they can’t surface just anywhere they want
    because of the ice thickness in parts of the Arctic Circle. Indeed, this poses
    some operational challenges that can only be addressed by training in that
    environment. For example, submarines originally surface at an angle in order to
    dampen the stress on the their hull. However, punching through three to
    four feet of ice in the Arctic requires vertical surfacing.
  • Besides submarine operations, the U.S. Navy controls and
    manages all the flight operations that support Arctic missions, including
    helicopter flights with field parties traveling to remote sites in the Arctic.

What I find particularly interesting is how much time the U.S.
Navy’s Public Affairs team put into developing this video in what seems like a
direct effort to explain why the Arctic is important to not just the U.S. Navy,
but the country as a whole. It’s a great video, and I hope we’ll see more.
Perhaps it’s the beginning of a big push to educate policymakers in Washington
just as they prepare to make important decisions about federal budget cuts this fall.