The Arctic Ocean borders several nations and is an important waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. With a submarine's ability to operate under the ice, training is necessary to maintain a working knowledge of a region that is constantly changing. Navigating, communicating and maneuvering are all different in an arctic environment than any other ocean environment as there are surfaces both above and below the submarine.

Arctic submarine operations are important to national defense. Assured access to all the world’s maritime operating areas requires technical proficiency in all operating areas.

The Navy’s submarine force must be highly trained in Arctic-water operations to provide assured access to strategic areas worldwide.

One reason the Arctic Ocean is a strategically important area is Alaska has more than 1,000 miles of Arctic coastline. Also, the continents of the Northern hemisphere – Europe, Asia, and North America – all share the Arctic Ocean. All the major capitals of the Northern Hemisphere are within 3,500 nm of the Arctic Ocean.

The Ice Exercise (ICEX) program is the long-standing means by which our submarine forces develop and hone their Arctic operational and war fighting skills in order to meet these challenges.

The primary purpose of ICEX is to improve submarine Arctic operability and warfighting. Though ICEX is not an environmental endeavor, the US Navy has a program to collect environmental data incidental to the technical/tactical testing and provide it to the scientific community.

Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL) serves as the focal point for submarine arctic operations, coordinating arctic cruise planning, embarking experienced Arctic Operations Specialists, maintaining the Navy's corporate knowledge on arctic matters, and developing/installing special equipment used to enhance the safety and efficiency of arctic operations.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of USS Nautilus (SSN 571) being the first submarine to conduct a submerged transpolar crossing and reach the North Pole in 1958. Since the success of Nautilus' voyage, arctic operations have been a crucial part of the missions conducted by nuclear submarines.

For ICEX 2009, the U.S. submarine force will be establishing a temporary ice camp in the Arctic Ocean where submarines will be able to train in an Arctic environment. The final date on the camp will be dependent on the condition of the ice, but the current timeline puts the approximately two-week camp sometime in the middle of March 2009.

The Navy contracts with the Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington (APL/UW) to handle the camp construction and logistics. The camp will be called “APLIS-09” for “Applied Physics Lab Ice Station.” The primary purpose in establishing the camp will be to support classified testing of submarine systems and Navy operational use in an Arctic environment.

The camp will be staged out of Prudhoe Bay, AK. The exact location will also depend on ice conditions at the time the buildup starts. Small fixed-wing aircraft are used to ferry personnel and equipment to/from the camp, limiting us to a radius of 200-250 nm from Prudhoe Bay.

The submarine participants for ICEX are Los Angeles class attack submarines USS Annapolis (SSN 760), home ported in Groton, Conn. and USS Helena (SSN 725), home ported in San Diego, Calif.

The testing we will be conducting is aimed at improving submarine operability and warfighting capability in the arctic environment. ICEX provides the submarine force with opportunities to test combat systems, sonar systems, communications systems, and navigation systems in an under-ice environment.

Total camp population will be about 60 people. These will be a mix of U.S. Navy and allied naval personnel, Navy civilians from the Arctic Submarine Laboratory, APL/UW support personnel, and contracted cooks/pilots.


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