The opening of the Arctic has put Russia on high alert as the melting ice fields mean a new active border near key oil and gas reserves for the country.
According to Military Times, U.S. military officials report that the country is increasing the number of Tu-95H Bear long-range bomber flights over the Arctic, including the Bering Strait. China, too, is moving forward with plans to construct a fifth research station in the area.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy announced that it is taking steps to train personnel and mass equipment by 2030 in order to “respond to contingencies and emergencies in the Arctic.” However, current Arctic operations are marginal and limited by lagging technology, reports Military Times:
“Right now, U.S. submarine patrols are routine, but air operations are minimal and, essentially, there is no surface ship presence. The service is identifying future requirements, setting funds aside, and gaining allies and experience through four annual and two biennial exercises, [Oceanographer of the Navy spokesman Robert] Freeman said. Surface operations will increase in the coming years, but a seasonally sustained presence will require a number of changes as the harsh environment covers vast distances with little infrastructure.
To operate in the Arctic, ships must have reinforced hulls that can break through ice. Superstructures and external equipment must be able to withstand freezing rains and ice buildup. Fuel and heating/ventilation systems must be protected from frigid temperatures.
Difficultly in maintaining broadband communications must also be addressed. On top of all this, there are few nautical charts that meet modern standards or aids to navigation. Only about 5 percent of the ocean basin has been surveyed, Freeman said.”