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Continued joint Chinese-Russian naval operations near Aleutians highlight need for greater regional US presence, USCG commandant says

The US Coast Guard is relying on cutters such as icebreaker Healy to provide a presence in the high latitudes. (Michael Fabey)

The joint Chinese-Russian surface action group (SAG) of about 10 naval vessels in early August that transited in waters near the Alaskan Aleutian Islands underscores the need to develop greater persistent US naval presence in the region, Admiral Linda Fagan, US Coast Guard (USCG) commandant, told Janes.

During a 7 August interview, Adm Fagan noted the importance of developing such persistent presence in the region, and said the USCG is on course to provide such operations with its proposed fleet of Polar Security Cutters (PSCs).

However, she also said, the country may need an interim platform to better provide that presence until the PSCs come online in a few years. The USCG has requested funding to secure a commercial icebreaker for the interim.

“With a commercially available icebreaker, we can get capacity into high latitudes sooner,” Adm Fagan said.

“We're an Arctic nation,” Adm Fagan said. “That's our sovereignty, our EEZ (exclusive economic zone). We want all that access for ourselves. The PSC will allow us to create year-round presence in the Arctic.”

“On-scene presence matters,” Adm Fagan said. “Most Americans don't appreciate the national security and sovereignty around our role as an Arctic nation.”

PSCs will create an additional presence in the Antarctic as well, noted Adm Fagan, whose first deck officer deployment was on the icebreaker USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10).

Until the PSCs are completed and deployed, the US still needs to be in the polar regions, even beyond the warmer months when some USCG cutters – such as icebreaker USCGC Healy (WAGB-20), Medium Endurance Cutter USCGC Alex Haley

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