BEAUFORT SEA, Arctic Circle
Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, USS Toledo (SSN 769) and Seawolf-class fast attack submarine, USS Connecticut (SSN 22) both surfaced through Arctic sea-ice March 4 during the multinational maritime Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2020 about 150 miles north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.
Both fast-attack submarines participated in the three-week biennial exercise to assess Submarine Force readiness to operate in Arctic environments, increase operational experience in the region, and develop partnerships and collaborative efforts to advance the U.S. Navy's overall understanding of the region.
"Our Submarine Force brings individuals from all over the United States and these incredible individuals train here in the Arctic to maintain readiness and capability to defend the homeland when called upon," said Rear Adm. Butch Dollaga, Commander, Undersea Warfighting Development Center. "In this critical region, we must be ready to traverse under the ice from the Pacific to Atlantic and continue to work with partner nations, and academic and technical partners to advance technology in the Arctic environment."
In order to support submarine operations, the Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL) established a remote Arctic ice station on a moving ice floe that provided a stable platform where a tracking range, sensors, communication equipment and personnel could be safely moved to and from participating submarines.
Along with practicing surfacing through the ice, the submarine force conducted endurance tests that included such standard operating procedures as loading the ship with the maximum amount of food, maintaining radio silence, accomplishing repairs at sea, and operating the ship under a rigorous training schedule.
"The Arctic is a potential strategic corridor for expanded competition. The Submarine Force must maintain readiness by exercising in Arctic conditions to ensure they can protect national security interest and maintain favorable balances of power in the Indo-Pacific and Europe, if called upon," said Vice Adm. Daryl Caudle, Commander, Submarine Forces. "In a high-interest area like the Arctic, we must always be ready to deter any future emergent threats."
In recent years, the Arctic has been used as a transit route for submarines. The most recent ICEX was conducted in 2018 with USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS Connecticut (SSN 22).
The first Arctic under-ice operations by submarines were conducted in 1947. On August 1, 1947, the diesel submarine USS Boarfish (SS-327), with Arctic Submarine Laboratory's founder Dr. Waldo Lyon onboard serving as an Ice Pilot, conducted the first under-ice transit of an ice floe in the Chukchi Sea.
In 1958, the nuclear-powered USS NAUTILUS made the first crossing of the Arctic Ocean beneath the pack ice. The first Arctic surfacing was done by USS Skate (SSN 578) in March 1959. USS Sargo was the first submarine to conduct a winter Bering Strait transit in 1960.