By By Lt. Michelle Pelissero, COMSUBPAC
Commander, Submarine Forces (COMSUBFOR) officially commenced Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2020 in the Arctic Ocean with the construction of a temporary ice camp, Camp Seadragon, and the arrival of two U.S. Navy fast-attack submarines, March 4.
ICEX 2020 is a three week biennial exercise that offers the Navy the opportunity to assess its operational readiness in the Arctic and train with other services, partner nations and allies to increase experience in the region, and maintain regional stability while improving capabilities to operate in the Arctic environment.
The Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) from Bremerton, Washington, and the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Toledo (SSN 769) from Groton, Connecticut, will conduct multiple Arctic transits, a North Pole surfacing and other training evolutions during their time in the region.
“The Arctic is a potential strategic corridor - between Indo-Pacific, Europe, and the U.S. homeland - for expanded competition. The Submarine Force must maintain readiness by exercising in Arctic conditions to ensure they can protect national security interests and maintain favorable balances of power in the Indo-Pacific and Europe if called upon,” said Vice Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, Submarine Forces. “ICEX 2020 provides the opportunity for the Submarine Force to demonstrate combat and tactical readiness for sustained Arctic operations in the unique and challenging Arctic environment.”
The Navy's Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL), based in San Diego, serves as the lead organization for coordinating, planning and executing the exercise involving five nations, two submarines and more than 100 participants over the three weeks of operations.
“The United States Submarine Force has been operating in the Arctic for decades, as our Navy is called upon to protect United States sovereign rights, the Submarine Force is expected to play a large role in our Arctic defense. Exercises like ICEX 2020 provide us with the opportunity to train and integrate the undersea domain into our Arctic defense,” said Caudle.
Ice Camp Seadragon is a temporary ice camp that was established on a sheet of ice in the Arctic Ocean, known as an ice floe. Seadragon will serve as a temporary command center for conducting submarine operations and under-ice navigation exercises. The camp consists of shelters, a command center and infrastructure to safely house and support more than 45 personnel at any one time.
“ASL serves as the focal point for submarine Arctic operations by planning, embarking experienced Arctic operations specialists, maintaining the Navy's corporate knowledge on submarine Arctic matters, and developing/installing special equipment used to enhance the safety and efficiency of submarine Arctic operations,” said Howard Reese, director, Arctic Submarine Lab.
The camp gets its namesake from USS Seadragon (SSN 584), the first submarine to transit the Northwest Passage. During the transit, Seadragon conducted the first hydrographic survey of the Northwest Passage and became the first vessel to navigate under an iceberg. Since the success of Seadragon’s Arctic navigation initiatives, 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 region in support of inter-fleet transit, training, cooperative allied engagements and routine operations.
The U.S. Submarine Force has completed approximately 100 Arctic exercises.