31 juillet 2018 | International, Terrestre

A new cold war: How the Army is preparing for a fight in the Arctic


As Russia beefs up its Arctic presence with new units, equipment and weaponry for the cold weather fight, the Army has slowly begun to shift some resources to improving its own capabilities — though it lags behind its Arctic allies and lacks large-scale capacity to train or provide high numbers of troops for a potential Arctic battle.

Melting polar ice is opening a region once thought nearly impenetrable to competition for shipping traffic, natural resources and potential land grabs some experts think could start a new Cold War.

In recent years, Canada, Norway and Russia have realigned their focus to improving and expanding their Arctic capabilities.

Along with those neighboring nations, which include Denmark, Finland and Sweden, the United States and United Kingdom all have varying levels of competing claims on Arctic resources.

It wasn’t always so.

As recently as 2012, experts such as Siemon Weizeman with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute were analyzing cooperative efforts between Russia, the United States and other Arctic nations.

In the U.S. Department of Defense 2013 Arctic Strategy, Russia is barely mentioned.

But following the 2014 war in Ukraine, stoked by Russia, leaders have shifted their view about the nation’s role in the Arctic.

In that time, Russia has pushed resources in that direction. Its 2014 Russian Military Doctrine paper for the first time included the task of “protecting Russian interests in the Arctic.”

So far, that’s included building up to 40 heavy icebreaking ships, more than a dozen new airfields, 16 deep-water ports, a broad range of tactical airpower, dedicated training centers, and stationing of paratroopers, counterterrorism, electronic warfare and other forces in the region, said Maj. Gen. Laurie Hummel, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, at a June conference on Guard interests in the Arctic. The talk was put on by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Those ground forces include naval infantry and two army brigades on the Kola Peninsula, with aims to guard the Northern Sea route.

And all of that is tied together under a recently established Russian Arctic Strategic Command, Hummel said.

In addition, although China does not border the Arctic, it has “aspirational” goals for the region and wants to exploit sea lane passages for shipping and fishing waters, she said.

In January, China released its first Arctic strategy white paper titled the “Polar Silk Road.”

The paper focuses on Arctic shipping routes and states a cooperative goal for infrastructure and other development. China’s polar strategy echoes its One Belt One Road policy in Africa, which seeks partnerships to provide natural resources such as oil, gas and minerals.

The Chinese government is looking to a liquefied natural gas project in northern Russia called Yamal to supply it with millions of tons of fuel a year upon program fruition.

These and other factors are pushing key U.S. military and government leaders to look at how to shore up Arctic capabilities.

“It is time for our nation to have a comprehensive and overarching arctic strategy,” Hummel said at the Wilson Center conference.

Shifting priorities

Right now, the U.S. military’s ground forces under U.S. Army Alaska, which falls under Indo-Pacific Command, includes a combined force of only 25,000 active duty, National Guard and Reserve troops.

That’s about 2.5 percent of the entire force.

In recent years, the Army has increased unit training in the Arctic, including airborne operations in 2014, armored vehicle deployment exercises in 2015, and the return of the 75th Ranger Regiment to Alaska for training for the first time since 2001.

As of 2016, the Northern Warfare Training Center hosted an estimated 1,400 troops annually for training in an arctic region.

The Northern Warfare Training Center in Alaska provided the following numbers of troops trained there over the past decade:

  • Cold Weather Leaders Course — 3,025
  • Cold Weather Orientation Course — 1,188
  • Basic Military Mountaineering Course — 1,440
  • Advanced Military Mountaineering Course — 150
  • Mountain Warfare Orientation Course — 360
  • Military Ski Course — 36
  • Total all events (some not listed) — 7,100

NWTC focuses on small units and training unit leaders in effective cold weather and mountaineering skills. It seldom hosts large units, said John Pennell, spokesman for U.S. Army Pacific Command.

Other training areas are available, though they are more accurately classified as subarctic than Arctic, and that has major implications.

In 2015, Fort Drum, New York, home of the 10th Mountain Division, was reclassified from Zone 5 to Zone 7, which put it in the ranks of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, and Camp Ethan Allen in Jericho, Vermont.

The shift pushed an additional $12.5 million in funding for equipment and infrastructure to the site.

Some Army funding has also gone to upgrade individual equipment for soldiers at Fort Drum, Fort Wainwright and in Italy.

New items include new gloves, headgear, sleds and skis.

In June, the Army posted a Request for Information from industry on building an over-the-snow vehicle capable of operating in 50-below conditions.

Dubbed the Joint All Weather All Terrain Support Vehicle, or JAASV, it would replace the decades-old Small Unit Support Vehicle, or SUSV, a tracked vehicle that typically supports an infantry platoon-sized element.

How cold is too cold?

New equipment, even a new vehicle, doesn’t necessarily equal a force ready to perform in truly Arctic conditions.

Capt. Nathan Fry, the officer-in-charge of the U.S. Army Mountain Warfare School’s training division, told Army Times that people unfamiliar with Arctic environments often confuse “northern training,” which can be cold weather or high-altitude focused, with Arctic training.

But the two are not equal.

As Fry noted, gear that works well in freezing conditions can fail spectacularly when temperatures drop to minus-50 Fahrenheit.

He would know. For the past few years, he’s been one of the U.S. representatives on the Guerrier Nordique team that spends weeks in Arctic and sub-Arctic areas of Canada.

The exercise began in 2012 and was, in some ways, a small-scale attempt to recapture lost lessons of Arctic warfare that were explored regularly and in depth by the U.S. military throughout the 1940s and 1950s, as the United States prepared for a potential Cold War through operations such as Ice Cap in Greenland, Nanook, Snow Chute, Snow Drop, Snow Fall and Snow Storm.

There must be a better understanding of the differences between cold weather and Arctic training, Fry said.

Some think that if soldiers can fight in minus-10-degree weather, then they can do it at 60 degrees below zero.

“That’s just not true,” Fry said. “It’s just like the mountain warfare fight, it’s really tricky.”

Fry left active duty Army service in part to go to his current post at the Guard-run mountain warfare school and push for more work and preparation in the Arctic sphere.

Outside of the annual Arctic Eagle Exercise with U.S. Army Alaska and the recent Fort Drum conference, Fry said he’s not seen a lot of improved Arctic policy.

“From my foxhole, I haven’t seen a whole lot of forward progress,” Fry said.

But the interest is there.

Fry said that his school has seen a drastic increase in demand for mountain and cold weather training, and they began running extra classes to meet the need. And next year’s calendar is filling quickly.

Though a byproduct of the school’s mountain and cold weather training can better inform soldiers on how to plan, survive and fight in some ways in extreme conditions, it is not Arctic focused.

Items that are simple in normal weather conditions — how much fuel will people and vehicles need to stay warm and conduct operations? What rate of travel can be expected for either mounted or dismounted soldiers? How much water will soldiers need? — are complicated in extreme cold weather.

Soldiers can have a frozen 5-gallon water jug but not be able to use it.

“If I can’t melt it, then I can’t drink it,” Fry said. “Lack of fuel will absolutely shut you down.”

While some cold weather training teaches students to use snow, the amount of water yield from snow is far less than ice. And leaders must plan for fuel use to melt the snow or the ice in ways they wouldn’t have to in a desert or woodland environment.

Fitting it all in


And most training, from that being done in Alaska, Vermont or New York, is at the small unit, tactical level.

“We are not thinking in terms of a staff exercise,” Fry said. “We’re not testing brigade staff on how to conduct resupply missions in cold weather environments.”

And that’s a problem when soldiers are in extreme, austere environments where the only resources are those that they bring with them.

Fry pointed to work that the Marines have long done with the Norwegians as something the Army should consider. Marines rotate a force of 300 to Norway for extended joint training. That number was recently more than doubled to 700.

One suggestion the captain has might be to value Arctic training the same way the Army does airborne qualifications, including with a Skill Qualification Identifier.

That number makes it easier for leadership to track how many soldiers have the appropriate training. And that mentality, coupled with an integrated Arctic focus similar to that given to airborne training, would help commanders prioritize unit training to emphasize those qualifications and seek more training opportunities.

For example, the 10th Mountain Division is designated as a light infantry unit.

That means that although its soldiers have access to mountain training and the current commander has emphasized “putting the mountain back into 10th Mountain,” without Army-directed prioritization those skills can fall to the bottom of the checklist.

Small changes, such as a Skill Qualification Identifier, can direct the focus of commanders and resources, Fry said.

“It’s like being in the 82nd Airborne Division,” Fry said. “Do we do range time or refresher jumps? Somehow they fit it all in.”


Sur le même sujet

  • Japan to export defense tech to Vietnam under new agreement

    21 octobre 2020 | International, C4ISR, Sécurité, Autre défense

    Japan to export defense tech to Vietnam under new agreement

    HANOI, Vietnam — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first overseas summit since taking office last month, agreed with his Vietnamese counterpart to step up defense and security cooperation in the face of China’s expanding influence in the region. In talks in Hanoi on Monday, Suga and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc set a basic agreement allowing Japan to export defense equipment and technology to Vietnam. Japan has been pursuing such pacts in recent years to bolster ties with Southeast Asian countries and sustain its own defense industry. Suga said his four-day trip to Vietnam and later Indonesia was key to pursuing multilateral economic and security cooperation to counter China’s growing power and protect sea lanes in disputed areas of the South China Sea. “Vietnam is crucial to achieving our vision of ‘the Free and Open Indo-Pacific,’ and our valuable partner,' ” Suga told a news conference after his meeting with Phuc. “Japan, as an Indo-Pacific nation, will continue to contribute to the peace and stability in this region.” Suga said Vietnam, at the center of the region, was the most suitable destination for his first trip abroad as Japan’s leader. Neither of the two leaders mentioned China by name in their news conference. Phuc said the peace and stability of the South China Sea should be protected by the rule of law, not unilaterally by force or threats. “Vietnam appreciates that Japan, one of the world’s leading powers, is actively contributing its efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region and in the world,” Phuc said. In a speech later Monday at Vietnam-Japan University, Suga said that Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” concept and “ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific,” formulated by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2019, share values such as rule of law, openness, transparency and freedom. Suga expressed strong support for their vision, and said together Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations can achieve a peaceful and prosperous future. “Unfortunately in this region, there is a move in the South China Sea that goes against the rule of law and openness stated in this ASEAN Outlook, and Japan strongly opposes any attempt that escalates tensions in the South China Sea,” Suga said in his speech, hinting at China’s growing assertiveness in the area. Japan already has defense equipment transfer deals with the U.S., Britain and Malaysia, among other countries. Vietnam is a 12th partner, while Japan is still negotiating deals with Indonesia and Thailand. In its first actual delivery of such exports, Japan in August exported a radar surveillance system to the Philippines. Details of possible equipment sales were not mentioned, but Suga called the agreement “a major step” for a bilateral defense cooperation, saying he expects further developments. Japan partially lifted its ban on military equipment and technology transfer in 2014 as part of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to build Japan’s defense capabilities. Suga and Phuc signed other agreements to cooperate in a range of economic fields and on anti-terrorism measures. The two sides also agreed to ease entry bans and allow short-term business visits and reopen flights between Vietnam and Japan. Such travel has been very tightly restricted due to the pandemic, but both countries have managed to somewhat stabilize COVID-19 outbreaks. Suga also promised to provide support for Vietnamese workers in Japan affected by the pandemic’s hit to the economy. Vietnamese accounts for more than half of the foreign workers Japan has accepted in recent years to make up for its declining and aging population. Japan is one of Vietnam’s top trading partners with two-way trade of $28.6 billion so far this year. Japan is also Vietnam’s largest overseas aid donor, providing $23 billion as of 2019 and accounting for more than a quarter of Vietnam’s foreign loans. The government has been trying to entice Japanese companies to invest in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries to lessen Japan’s dependence on manufacturing and other businesses in China. On Monday, Japan and Vietnam agreed on the need to cooperate on diversifying supply chains — a lesson Japan learned from its dire shortages of surgical masks and protective gowns earlier this year due to heavy dependence on Chinese imports. In August, Vietnam agreed to buy six coast guard patrol boats worth $345 million from Japan. The country is seeking to improve its maritime defenses amid China’s continuing development and militarization of artificial islands in contested waters of the South China Sea. Progress in talks between ASEAN and China over the disputes appears to be at a standstill. Suga’s predecessor Abe also chose Vietnam as the first country he visited after taking office. Suga is the first foreign head of a state to visit Vietnam since the country closed its borders to contain COVID-19. https://www.defensenews.com/global/asia-pacific/2020/10/19/japan-to-export-defense-tech-to-vietnam-under-new-agreement/

  • Hawaii to receive $2.6B to improve Army facilities across state

    4 mai 2018 | International, Terrestre

    Hawaii to receive $2.6B to improve Army facilities across state

    Anna Hrushka Army installations across Hawaii will receive $2.6 billion in funding over a 32-year period to build and upgrade facilities, as part of he Army’s Hawaii Infrastructure Readiness Initiative. According to a statement released by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Army will begin with an initial five-year investment of $350 million in military construction “to improve the shortfall of aviation facilities at Wheeler Army Air Field that are necessary to support a number of new aircraft the Army has brought to Hawaii in recent years, including AH-64 Apaches with the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade.” The initial funding will also be used to improve operations facilities at Schofield Barracks. “This long-term plan to upgrade and build new facilities represents the Army’s commitment to Hawaii and our key role in the region,” Schatz said in a statement. “The planned funding is critical to Hawaii, to the Army’s success, and to our national security. Fulfilling this plan will require timely and predictable funding, and the Department of Defense has my commitment to provide just that as we get back to the regular business of passing appropriations bills on time.” https://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/news/2018/05/02/hawaii-to-receive-2-6b-to-improve-army-facilities.html

  • Lockheed gets $1.4B contract for F-35 sustainment

    14 mai 2018 | International, Aérospatial

    Lockheed gets $1.4B contract for F-35 sustainment

    By: Valerie Insinna WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin on Monday won a $1.4 billion contract to sustain the global F-35 enterprise for the U.S. military and international customers. According to Lockheed, the contract provides for “air system maintenance; pilot and maintainer training; depot activation; sustaining engineering; Automatic Logistics Information System (ALIS) support, data analytics and predictive health management; and supply chain logistics” for all U.S. and international F-35s through April 30, 2019. Of the $1.4 billion sum, about 73 percent will be paid by the U.S. Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy, while the other 27 percent will be covered by international customers. The cost of sustaining the F-35 has been a growing concern for leaders across the Defense Department, from F-35 joint program executive officer Vice Adm. Mat Winter to Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. Bloomberg reported in March that the Air Force could be forced to cut as many as 590 F-35As from its 1,763 program of record should sustainment costs not improve. While Air Force leadership, including Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein, have said they have no plans to slash the program, reducing F-35 sustainment costs to that of fourth generation fighters like the F-16remains a big priority. Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin vice president of F-35 global sustainment, addressed the sustainment cost issue in a news release. “We are taking aggressive actions to improve F-35 aircraft availability and reduce sustainment costs. As the sustainment system matures and the size of the operational fleet grows, we are confident we will deliver more capability at less cost than legacy aircraft,” she stated. The company has already taken some steps to try to improve readiness and repair costs, including expanding the supply chain, buying spare parts ahead of need to boost availability and achieve economies of scale, and investing in diagnostic and data analytics technologies, it said. So far, more than 280 F-35s have been delivered and operate from 15 bases worldwide. https://www.defensenews.com/air/2018/04/30/lockheed-gets-14b-contract-for-f-35-sustainment/

Toutes les nouvelles