Coast Guard ramping up for Arctic season as Arctic Domain Awareness flights continue

JUNEAU, Alaska – The Coast Guard will resume Arctic Domain Awareness flights about every two weeks beginning March 17 continuing through fall testing capabilities, identifying challenges, surveying sea ice and monitoring vessel traffic in U.S. Arctic waters.

“We must understand the Homeland Security context in the Arctic,” said Rear Adm. Gene Brooks, commander of Seventeenth Coast Guard District, “what risks certain vessels pose to the maritime community and infrastructure, the Arctic environment, and Native Alaskan culture and lifestyle.”

Last year’s observed maritime activity in U.S. Polar regions include:

(1) Two instances of minimal ice-strengthened industry vessels, with a total of six vessels involved, being beset or nearly beset in late-summer ice west of Barrow.

(2) Each village had six to 10 small personal vessels, less than 30 feet in length, engaged in subsistence hunting. These vessels travel up to 90 miles out to sea with little or no personal protective equipment.

(3) Ten to 20 re-supply vessels routinely transit Western Alaska and the U.S. Arctic to provide goods and services to regional villages and Western Canadian Arctic.

(4) Small pieces of sea ice, roughly the size of a sedan, are often missed by current technology. While inconsequential for icebreakers, this sea ice represents a significant hazard for the remainder of the Coast Guard’s surface resource portfolio.

“Because C-130s are capable of doing more than marine surveillance,” said Brooks, “We use these flights to carry scientists, interagency partners and media representatives.”

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