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US government report cites naval operational challenges and geopolitical tensions because of Arctic climatic shifts

The USCG and the USN are deploying more cutters and other surfaces ships into Arctic waters. (Janes/Michael Fabey)

A new Arctic landscape being sculpted by climatic changes is recasting US naval concepts and the global geopolitical framework associated with the region, according to a US Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.

“The diminishment of Arctic ice is creating new operating areas in the Arctic for [US] Navy (USN) surface ships and [US] Coast Guard (USCG) cutters,” the CRS said in its updated report Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress released on 5 July.

“The navy has increased deployments of attack submarines and surface ships to the Arctic for exercises and other operations,” the CRS reported.

The CRS cited several key points relating to the navy and coastguard in the Arctic that have emerged over the past 10 to 15 years.

Search and rescue (SAR) in the Arctic is a mission of increasing importance, particularly for the coastguard, and “one that poses potentially significant operational challenges”, the CRS said.

More complete and detailed information on the Arctic as an operating area is needed to more properly support expanded navy and coastguard ship and aircraft operations in the region, the CRS reported.

The navy and the coastguard currently have limited infrastructure in place in the Arctic to support expanded ship and aircraft operations in the Arctic, the CRS noted.

“Improved communication abilities are needed because existing US military communications systems were designed to support operations in lower latitudes rather than in the polar regions,” the CRS said.

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