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SEPTEMBER 2020

U.S. Air Force To Deploy Approximately 150 F-35, F-22 Fighter Jets To The Arctic

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U.S. Air Force To Deploy Approximately 150 F-35, F-22 Fighter Jets To The Arctic

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The US is to soon begin deploying combat aircraft to the Arctic, according to US Senator Dan Sullivan.

Senator Sullivan pointed out that the force would be composed of both F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and F-22 Raptors.

Sullivan also said the development of Nome in Alaska as the first US deep seaport within the Arctic Circle would serve as a message to great power rivals such as Russia and China that the United States was seriously committed to projecting military power and protecting its interests in the Arctic Ocean.

This is a follow up from when on July 21, 2020, the United States Department of Air Force released its Arctic Strategy. The strategy “recognizes the immense geostrategic consequence of the region and its critical role for protecting the homeland and projecting global power,” stated Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett. The Secretary also underscored the region’s elevated importance to the Air Force and Department of Defense.

Back then, Dan Sullivan congratulated the US Air Force on the most “robust” Arctic Strategy to date.

“I applaud and commend the Air Force and Secretary Barbara Barrett for their leadership in developing the most robust Arctic strategy yet. This strategy is a testament to the Air Force’s enduring commitment to Alaska, which dates back more than 100 years when the father of the Air Force, Billy Mitchell, called Alaska the most strategic place in the world,” said Senator Sullivan. “Today the Arctic is a region of great power competition, and this new strategy focuses on making tangible investments in real capabilities – communications, cold-weather materials and radar technology, and refueling capacity – to help the U.S. respond to this competition. Additionally, I am hopeful that this document will help lay the foundation for the use of Alaska as a vital power-projection platform to both Europe and the Indo-Pacific and solidify the Arctic’s central place – geographically and metaphorically – in the future of continued great power competition.

“For the last five years, Congress – not the Department of Defense – has been leading on the issue of Arctic advocacy. Of late, however, with President Trump’s new Memorandum on Safeguarding U.S. National Interests in the Arctic and Antarctic Regions, the appointment and confirmation of former ambassadors to Arctic nations – Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett and Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite, and USNORTHCOM Commander General Terrance O’Shaughnessy’s continued robust advocacy, the executive branch seems to be getting the message about the Arctic’s importance. I believe this moment may be the inflection point for U.S. interests in the region and I am hopeful the Air Force and the rest of the Department of Defense will invest robustly in this geo-strategically-important region.”

Just days earlier, on September 8th, a US Navy destroyer held naval exercises with Norwegian and British frigates just 115 miles off Russia’s Arctic coastline.

The UK-led drills took place in international waters, but inside Russia’s claimed 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

The UK-led exercise was headed by the Royal Navy frigate HMS Sutherland, joined by the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Ross, British Royal Fleet Auxiliary RFA Tidespring, and Royal Norwegian frigate HNoMS Thor Heyerdahl, and Danish and Norwegian patrol aircraft.

The transit is the latest example of what looks to be a new normal for the Navy as more vessels move north into the Arctic, including what US and Norwegian officials say will be more US submarines calling at the refurbished port of Tromso, Norway, above the Arctic Circle.

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