Melting Arctic ice opens up a new frontier: US breaches the Arctic with Marines, fighter jets and aircraft carriers

Staff Sgt. Zhaviyon Jester, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons team chief, sits in the cockpit of an F-16 Fighting Falcon while waiting for it to be towed during Trident Juncture 2018 at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, Oct. 25, 2018. This exercise ensures NATO forces are able to operate together and be ready to respond to any threat from any direction. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

Melting Arctic ice has opened up a new frontier for US military competition with Russia and China and U.S. have decided to breaches the Arctic with Marines, fighter jets and aircraft carriers

A mysterious operation and NATO – Exercise Trident Juncture 2018 was part of the U.S. military’s gradual growth in the Arctic as it grapples with the effects of melting polar ice and Russia’s and China’s increasing assertiveness in the region. The slowly evolving plan has included stationing more fighter jets in Alaska, expanding partnerships with Nordic militaries, increasing cold-weather training and designing a new class of icebreaker ship for the Coast Guard that could be armed.

The Air Force is planning to base two squadrons of advanced F-35A fighters in Alaska by 2022, supplementing a fleet of jets that already includes two squadrons of F-22 Raptors, considered the Pentagon’s best in air-to-air combat. The decision will allow the Air Force to take advantage of the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, a sprawling installation that includes 65,000 square miles of space for pilots to train.

The Army and Marine Corps increasingly have trained ground forces in Alaska. In March, a joint force of about 1,500 U.S. troops trained together in an exercise known as Arctic Edge, with some driving armored vehicles across frosty terrain and others moving on foot through frigid, snowy conditions.

The U.S. military is mobilizing to northern Europe for Trident Juncture — the largest NATO exercise since 2015.

The exercise, included more than 150 aircraft, 70 ships and 10,000 vehicles, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

A Navy aircraft carrier strike group also returned to the Arctic Circle for the first time in nearly 30 years. The aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman and ships from Carrier Strike Group Eight entered the Norwegian Sea, the first to do so since 1991, according to a U.S. 6th Fleet press release.

This is How U.S. Marines Will Take the Fight to Russia in the Arctic


About 90 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune carried out a mock air assault in Iceland as part of the initial phase of NATO’s largest war games since the end of the Cold War.

The NATO war games, called Trident Juncture 2018, begin in Norway and include more than 50,000 troops from 31 countries.

According to NATO, the purpose of Trident Juncture is “to ensure that NATO forces are trained, able to operate together, and ready to respond to any threat from any direction.”

Trident Juncture primarily takes place in Norway, but portions of the exercise also occur in Sweden, Finland and Iceland.

Norway shares a roughly 120-mile land border with Russia that some within NATO view as vulnerable. Russia’s Northern Fleet has its main base in Severomorsk, about a 3-hour drive from their shared border.

NATO fears Russia’s military build-up in the Arctic, under way since 2008 and involving the establishment and reopening of multiple military bases, could impede freedom of navigation.

Russia has also shown concern regarding regional tensions. In June, the Russian embassy in Norway warned of consequences stemming from the country’s decision to boost the number of U.S. Marines it hosts from 330 to 700, as well as open a second training area closer to the Russian border in the Troms region. Russia argues Norway is in violation of agreements the Scandinavian country made when it joined NATO and reportedly vowed not to base permanent foreign forces in the country unless threatened or attacked.

The new Navy and Coast Guard Arctic strategies would follow the national defense strategy released by Mattis in January that made countering Russia and China a priority. Both nations have shown interest in Arctic resources as the ice melts, including fossil fuels, diamonds, and metals like nickel and platinum.

Russia has more than 40 icebreakers — the U.S. military has two working ones —and stationed more troops in the region. China, meanwhile, is building its third polar icebreaker and staked a claim this year as a “near-Arctic” state, further injecting itself into policy debates.

“We’re obviously watching both the Russians and the Chinese quite closely,” said Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, who oversees Coast Guard operations in the Arctic and Pacific. “Russia, on their side of the Arctic in sort of the Northern Sea Route, is investing heavily in commercial infrastructure and in military infrastructure.”

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