The Norfolk-based USS Harry S. Truman became the first U.S. aircraft carrier to enter the Arctic Circle in nearly 30 years on Friday as it prepares to join a massive NATO exercise intended to demonstrate the alliance’s ability to respond to an attack from a major adversary like Russia.
The Truman is operating in the Norwegian Sea as part of Trident Juncture, an exercise that will take place in Norway, Iceland, Finland and Sweden and involve more than 50,000 participants, including 14,000 from the United States.
The Truman’s presence off the coast of Russia’s neighbors is yet another hallmark of a new naval strategy intended to make aircraft carrier deployments less predictable while demonstrating American might to global powers like Russia and China.
“We strongly believe that the best way to prevent conflict is to show the unity and the strength of the alliance, as we do through the Trident Juncture exercise, with all these excellent capabilities,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a news conference aboard the ship last week.
For the past two decades, Norfolk-based aircraft carriers have typically sailed across the Atlantic and through the Mediterranean Sea on their way to the Persian Gulf and back. The Truman has already returned to home port once and hasn’t sailed through the Suez Canal since its most recent deployment began in April.
“We are unbelievably excited to be operating in the Norwegian Sea,” the Truman’s commanding officer, Capt. Nick Dienna, said in a statement. “It has been over three decades since carrier aviation has been tested by this environment, and, despite the arduous weather and sea conditions, these men and women are demonstrating this ship can bring a full-spectrum of capabilities to bear anywhere in the world.”
The last time a U.S. aircraft carrier operated in the Arctic Circle was in 1991 when the USS America participated in another NATO exercise.
Trident Juncture is scheduled to run from Oct. 25 to Nov. 23 and will involve about 150 aircraft, 65 ships and more than 10,000 vehicles.
© 2018 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
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