Military Capabilities

UK submarine arrives in the Arctic for joint exercise with USN

08 March 2018
RN Trafalgar-class submarine HMS Trenchant has joined two USN fast-attack submarines for joint drills in the Arctic. Source: USN

A UK Royal Navy (RN) nuclear-powered attack submarine is heading under the Arctic ice pack for the first time in more than a decade as part of a joint exercise with two US Navy (USN) submarines.

‘Ice Exercise 2018’ ('ICEX'), which started on 7 March, aims to test operational readiness in the Arctic, increase experience in the region, advance understanding of the Arctic environment, and continue to develop relationships with other services, allies, and partner organisations.

The RN last sent an attack submarine under the Arctic ice in 2007, but the exercise was cut short when an accident on the Trafalgar-class boat HMS Tireless led to the deaths of two sailors. In 2016 the RN announced it wanted to return its submarines to this strategic region and it began sending personnel on exchange to USN boats to regain experience of under-ice operations.

The five-week-long exercise in the Arctic Ocean began with the construction of temporary Ice Camp Skate following the arrival of the USN's Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) and Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768), and the RN's Trafalgar-class submarine HMS Trenchant (S91) on 7 March. Drills will include multiple arctic transits, a North Pole surfacing, scientific data collection, and other training evolutions during their time in the region.

"With every ‘ICEX’ we are able to build upon our existing experience and continue to learn the best way to operate in this unique and harsh environment," Rear Admiral James Pitts, commander of the USN’s Undersea Warfare Development Center, said in a statement. “We are constantly testing new tactics, techniques, and procedures under the ice and this exercise allows us to do so on a larger scale and alongside our UK, joint, and academic partners.”

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