A temporary ice encampment built on a moving ice floe in the Beaufort Sea is providing critical support for three nuclear-powered submarines.
The Seawolf class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut, Los Angeles class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford and Royal Navy hunter killer submarine, HMS Trenchant are participating in the multinational maritime Ice Exercise (ICEX) in the Arctic Circle.
Under the direction of Undersea Warfighting Development Center (UWDC), the Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL), based in southern California, serves as the lead organization for the Navy in coordinating, planning and executing the drifting ice station and the overall arctic exercise.
“We named the outpost ‘Ice Camp SKATE’ after USS Skate (SSN 578), the first submarine to surface at the North Pole in 1959 after traveling 3,000 miles in and under Arctic ice for more than a month,” said Mr. Larry Estrada, Director of the Arctic Submarine Laboratory.
“The advantage of having a camp on the ice floe is to provide a stable platform to deploy a tracking range, sensors and test equipment for the exercise,” Estrada said.
“For this year’s exercise, the Navy needed a large and very stable ice flow to support the tracking range and a fixed-wing runway,” Estrada said. “The camp uses daily aircraft flights to maintain its logistics ‘lifeline’ back in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska,” he said.
At the heart of SKATE is a multinational command centre say the US Navy. From here, camp personnel keep tabs on everybody leaving or returning to camp, monitor any changes in the weather or the ocean environment and control the movement of vehicles and aircraft.