Navy’s Arctic Ice Exercise Features Multinational Participation

March 08, 2018

Submarine Force Pacific officially kicked off Ice Exercise 2018 in the Arctic Ocean with the construction of temporary Ice Camp Skate off the northern Alaskan coast and the arrival of two U.S. Navy fast-attack submarines and one British Royal Navy submarine, March 7.

ICEX is a five-week exercise held every two years that allows the Navy to assess its operational readiness in the Arctic, increase experience in the region, advance understanding of the Arctic environment and continue to develop relationships with other services, allies and partner organizations.

The fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut from Bangor, Washington, the fast-attack submarine USS Hartford from Groton, Connecticut, and the British navy submarine HMS Trenchant will conduct multiple arctic transits, a North Pole surfacing, scientific data collection and other training evolutions during their time in the region.

Building Experience in the Arctic

“With every ICEX we are able to build upon our existing experience and continue to learn the best way to operate in this unique and harsh environment,” said Navy Rear Adm. James Pitts, commander of the Undersea Warfighting Development Center based in Newport, Rhode Island.

“We are constantly testing new tactics, techniques, and procedures under the ice, and this exercise allows us to do so on a larger scale and alongside our U.K., joint, and academic partners,” Pitts said.

The Navy’s Arctic Submarine Laboratory based in San Diego serves as the lead organization for coordinating, planning and executing the exercise, which also involves Canada, three submarines and over 100 participants over the five weeks of operations.

Ice Camp Skate is a temporary ice camp that was established on a sheet of ice in the Arctic Ocean, known as an ice floe. Skate will serve as a temporary command center for conducting submarine operations, including under-ice navigation and torpedo exercises. The camp consists of shelters, a command center, and infrastructure to safely house and support more than 50 personnel at any one time.

Team Effort

“Our Arctic Submarine Laboratory team has been working for over a year to ensure our submarine force is able to conduct dynamic torpedo and under-ice operations in this unique environment,” said Larry Estrada, director of the ASL. “This year’s camp is prepared to support the force with communications and weapons recovery.”

The camp gets its namesake from USS Skate, the first submarine to surface through open water surrounded by ice in 1958, and the first submarine to surface through the Arctic ice at the North Pole in March 1959. Since the success of Skate’s surfacing, Arctic operations have been a crucial part of the missions conducted by nuclear submarines.

For more than 70 years, submarines have conducted under-ice operations in the Arctic regions in support of interfleet transit, training, cooperative allied engagements and routine operations.

The U.S. submarine force has completed more than 27 Arctic exercises.