Port of Alaska in Anchorage

U.S. Lacks Ice Hardened Ships, Repair and Refueling Ports for Arctic Ops

Published: March 10, 2020

John M. Doyle, Seapower Correspondent

Unlike the South China Sea and other contested areas, the U.S. Navy does not have the capability to conduct freedom-of-the-seas operations in the icebound waters of the Arctic, a key Pentagon official conceded.

With only one heavy and one medium icebreaker and no Navy ships with hulls hardened against ice, “We do have limitations in the Arctic right now,” James H. Anderson, assistant secretary of defense for  strategy, plans and capabilities, told a readiness subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 3 during a hearing on U.S. military readiness in the Arctic.

The subcommittee chairman, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), said he doubted the Navy could today follow the route across the Arctic that Allied supply convoys took to the Soviet Union in World War II. Sullivan noted that previous Defense Department Arctic strategies called for protecting “our sovereign territory, our sea lanes through Freedom of Navigation operations (FONOPS).”

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