Subs head far north for ICEX 2009
By Andrew Scutro - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Mar 3, 2009 16:24:49 EST
Scores of sailors are headed to the frigid waters off the northern coast of Alaska for an exercise that will test undersea tactics in Arctic conditions.
Ice Exercise 2009 begins later this month and will last roughly two weeks, depending on ice conditions, according to Lt. j.g. Megan Issac, spokeswoman at Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, in Norfolk, Va.
“Everything is based on the stability of the ice,” she said.
The attack submarines that will participate are on the way. Helena left San Diego for northern waters Friday and Annapolis left Groton on Monday.
Before the submarines arrive, a temporary research camp of huts and tents is set up on the pack ice about 200 miles from the north coast of Alaska, near Prudhoe Bay. A tracking range is also set up. In addition to the two participating submarines, researchers from the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory and personnel from the Navy’s Arctic Submarine Laboratory will take part.
The most recent ICEX was held in 2007. The attack sub Alexandria and HMS Tireless of the British Royal Navy participated. Two British sailors died and one was injured aboard Tireless in an onboard explosion and fire during the exercise.
Although a British sub will not be on hand this year, Issac said several Royal Navy officers will be at the camp.
During the Cold War, U.S. submarines began operating frequently under polar ice. The first submarine to make a submerged transit across the top of the globe and reach the North Pole was Nautilus in 1958.
The polar region has been subject to increased attention lately because of the effects of climate change and potential international competition for natural resources.
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Arctic-bound submarine slips out of San Diego
4:02 PM | February 28, 2009
Without fanfare, the fast-attack submarine Helena has slipped silently out of port in San Diego, bound for a classified mission described by the Navy as "testing of submarine operability and war-fighting capability" in the Arctic Ocean.
The Helena, stationed at the Point Loma sub base, will be part of Ice Exercise 2009, the Navy said. The exercise will be supported by the Applied Physics Laboratory Ice Station being built by the University of Washington on the ice north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.
The submarine Annapolis, based in Norfolk, Va., will also be part of the exercise. Technicians will monitor the ability of the submarines to communicate while submerged deep in the frigid waters.
Since the Nautilus became the first submarine to reach the North Pole in 1958, the Navy has regularly sent submarines to the Arctic for training and scientific missions. The Navy's Arctic Submarine Laboratory is at Point Loma.
Among other things, submarines routinely use the Arctic Ocean as a way to transit between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, rather than the Panama Canal.