NORFOLK, Va. (March 15, 2011) - Commander, Submarine Force (COMSUBFOR) has announced that the Virginia-class submarine USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) and the Seawolf-class submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) have commenced Ice Exercise 2011 (ICEX-2011) in the Arctic Ocean. USS New Hampshire is home ported in Groton, Conn., and commanded by Cmdr. John McGunnigle, while USS Connecticut is home ported in Bremerton, Wash., and commanded by Cmdr. Michael Varney. The two submarines will conduct testing on submarine operations in Arctic waters.
“It is critical that we continue to operate and train today’s submarines in the challenging Arctic environment,” said Capt. Rhett Jaehn, the camp’s Officer-in-Tactical-Command and Deputy Director of Operations at COMSUBFOR. “ICEX 2011 is the latest in a series of Arctic exercises, which are key to ensuring our submarines are trained and ready to support U.S. interests in this region.”
The overall exercise has been planned and will be coordinated by the Navy’s Arctic Submarine Laboratory located at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego. A temporary tracking range will be built into the ice flow at the Applied Physics Laboratory Ice Station (APLIS) North of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. The camp consists of a small village, constructed and operated especially for the ICEX by the Applied Physics Laboratory of the University of Washington, and members of the U.S., Canadian, and British navies.
U.S. submarines must continue to train in the Arctic environment to refine and validate procedures and required equipment, as the Arctic Ocean serves as a route for submarines to transit between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The U.S. Submarine Force conducts these exercises in the Arctic in order to assure continued access to this unique region.
Submarines have conducted under-ice operations in the Arctic regions in support of inter-fleet transit, training, cooperative allied engagements and operations for more than 50 years. USS Nautilus (SSN 571) made the first transit in 1958. USS Skate (SSN 578) was the first U.S. submarine to surface through arctic ice at the North Pole in March, 1959. Since those events, the U.S. Submarine Force has completed more than 25 Arctic exercises at a pace of one Ice Camp every two years. Three of these have been done in conjunction with Allied submarines.