A contingent of international partners has descended upon an icy spot 200 miles north of Alaska for this year's Ice Exercise 2016, where the Navy, other armed services and a variety of agencies will get practice operating in the Arctic and completing scientific research.
Led by Submarine Forces Command, the five-week ICEX 2016 will give the Navy a chance to hone its sub skills in that environment, while also doing diving, unmanned underwater vehicle tests, search and rescue training, and researching weather and other scientificenvironmental conditions up north. The exercise will include two unnamed U.S. submarines.
More than 30 organizations with upward of 200 personnel will be in and out of the camp, dubbed Ice Camp Sarbo, over the next several weeks., and will include two unnamed U.S. submarines.
Despite increasing military activity from Russia in the Arctic, officials said concerns about Russian expansion are that the country is not a factor in the exercise.
"We've been conducting ICEX for years and years and years," Capt. David Kirk, head of the Navy's undersea influence branch, told reporters Tuesday. "[It] isn't driven at all by perceived adversaries. It's an important region to operate in."
A notable loss of sea ice, both in thickness and the amount of area covered, has the Navy concerned about increased activity in the region, particularly with the possibility that more open water could create shipping lanes.
ICEX is the Navy's 27th Arctic exercise since the 1960s, and the first since 2014.
"Funding went down after the Cold War, but the Navy's interest reinvigorated in 2009 with the Navy's Arctic Road Map," said Scott Harper, head of arctic research at the Office of Naval Research.
Among the participants in the exercise are Alaska Air National Guard assets, Mobile Diving Salvage Unit 2 and SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team, as well as Royal Navy personnel and Royal Canadian Navy and Air Force personnel.
There will also be Coast Guard divers in camp, said Jeffrey Barker, deputy branch head for policy Jeffrey Barker said.
Ice Camp Sargo is set up on an ice floe and designed to house and support about 70 personnel at a time. It's about 200 miles north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, Kirk said, but because of the ice's migration, the camp is currently drifting about nine miles per day.