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The Arctic Environment: A Maritime Perspective

By Lt. Anthony Giancana Commander, Task Force 65/Destroyer Squadron 60 Public Affairs | Nov. 5, 2020

BARENTS SEA —

U.S. Navy ships routinely operate in the Arctic, demonstrated recently by Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross’ (DDG 71) operations in the Barents Sea Oct. 19 – Nov. 1 and subsequent port visit in Tromso, Norway.

Crew members on Ross are no strangers to operating in cold weather. During the ship’s first visit to the Barents Sea in Sept., Ross operated in 40 degree Fahrenheit temperatures.

Now in her second trip back, the crew experienced temperatures routinely below freezing. These frigid temperatures have not slowed down Ross as her crew continues to operate as they would anywhere else in the world.

While in the Barents, Ross has conducted two replenishments at sea with Henry J. Kaiser-class underway replenishment oiler USNS Laramie (T-AO-203). These replenishments at sea, completed in snow and sleet with a wind chill of 10 degrees Fahrenheit, highlight the resilience and capability of both crews and ships.

 “Successful operations in the Barents Sea at this time of year demonstrate our commitment to a continued presence in international waters around the world,” said Cmdr. John D. John, commanding officer, USS Ross.  “Our ability to adapt to and thrive in below freezing temperatures and adverse weather conditions is critical to maintaining a sustained presence in the Arctic.”

A lack of daylight compounded the harsh maritime environment of the Barents Sea. From sunrise to sunset the crew experienced about only six hours of sunlight.  Although nights in the Arctic were illuminated by the atmospheric phenomenon the Aurora Borealis, or northern lights.

“It was challenging working outside in these conditions, but it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be,” said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Rebecca Stephens.  “I truly enjoyed getting an opportunity to see the Northern Lights.”

This is the third time this year that the U.S. Navy has operated in the Barents Sea.

The United States is an Arctic nation and has enduring security interests in the region. We work with our Allies and partners to ensure an open Arctic by continuing to conduct land, air, and sea operations required for deterrence, presence, and security.

U.S. destroyers, based in Rota, Spain, support NATO’s integrated air missile defense architecture. In support of Sixth Fleet, these Forward-Deployed Naval Forces-Europe ships have the flexibility to operate throughout the waters of Europe and Africa, from the Cape of Good Hope to the Arctic Circle demonstrating their mastery of the maritime domain.

U.S. Sixth Fleet forces deploy throughout the European and African theater and continue to operate above the Arctic Circle to support a secure and stable region, working cooperatively with other nations to address shared challenges.