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US fleet commander cites need for more surface ships, better infrastructure for Arctic operations

US Coast Guard cutters, such as the icebreaker Healy , deploy to the Arctic, but the US needs greater presence, said Admiral Daryl Caudle, commander of United States Fleet Forces Command. (Janes/Michael Fabey)

The US Navy (USN) must deploy more surface ships to the Arctic, and the US needs to improve its overall infrastructure for naval operations in the region to meet threats and competition in the High North, according to Admiral Daryl Caudle, commander of US Fleet Forces Command.

“We have to build a more-capable Arctic maritime force,” Adm Caudle said during a keynote speech on 6 March during the American Society of Naval Engineers' (ASNE's) Arctic & Antarctic Operations Symposium 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland.

“Nothing demonstrates presence more than surface ships,” Adm Caudle told the media after the speech.

US Coast Guard (USCG) ships do operate more in the High North, but he said their forces seemed to be pulled too thin. “It's [a] capacity issue.”

More USCG vessels would provide a “visible deterrent”, he said, adding that those coastguard forces could provide sea policing that would represent an even greater presence. “It's not just combat operations.”

During his speech, Adm Caudle said, “Following the end of the Cold War, the navy-marine corps' capabilities and operational expertise in the Arctic were not sustained at the necessary levels. Though we routinely patrol on, above, and certainly below Arctic waters, the maritime services must be prepared and postured to meet the demands of an increasingly accessible Arctic operating environment.”

He added, “We must invest in key capabilities that enable naval forces to maintain enhanced presence and partnerships. That includes the necessary cold weather-capable designs, forecasting models, sensors, high-latitude communications, and navigation systems that all world-class maritime organisations need.”

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