Canadian Armed Forces join U.S. Counterparts in SAREX

29 11 2013

SGT. JOEL DUNVILLE of the Canadian Army Advanced Warfare Centre prepares his parachute and drop bag for a jump into the scene of a simulated plane crash.
Image credit: Photo by Capt. Trevor Reid/19 Wing Public Affairs

Approximately 100 Canadian Armed Forces members joined their American SAR counterparts in the Alaska Air National Guard (AKANG), United States Air Force (USAF) and United States Coast Guard (USCG) to take part in the Arctic Major Air Disaster (MAJAID) Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX) recently.

The six-day exercise served to test the collective response to a simulated airliner crash in the quickly-changing and hostile Arctic climate of North America.

Read the Rest


In a Warming Arctic, U.S. Faces New Security and Safety Concerns

20 10 2012
By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles TimesOctober 19, 2012, 6:00 a.m.

BARROW, Alaska — In past years, these remote gray waters of the Alaskan Arctic saw little more than the occasional cargo barge and Eskimo whaling boat. No more.

This summer, when the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bertholf was monitoring shipping traffic along the desolate tundra coast, its radar displays were often brightly lighted with mysterious targets.

There were oil drilling rigs, research vessels, fuel barges, small cruise ships. A few were sailboats that had ventured through the Northwest Passage above Canada. On a single day in August, 95 ships were detected between Prudhoe Bay and Wainwright off America’s least defended coastline, and for some of them, Coast Guard officials had no idea what the vessels were carrying or who was on them.

Read the whole article at LATimes
Editors Note: The LA Times and reporter Kim Murphy provide a “Huebertian” overview of why the Arctic is important to US national security and what is and isn’t being done by the American national security planners and leaders.

Video of the Day: British Sea-Cowboys

10 10 2012

Britain’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution released dramatic footage of crew members rescuing a fisherman who had fallen overboard in Bude Bay in Cornwall, before chasing and capturing his runaway boat.

They rescued a local fisherman, who had been thrown overboard with his companion after a rogue wave hit their boat, while it was making its way out of the harbour.


The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity that saves lives at sea around the coasts of Great Britain, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, as well as on selected inland waterways.

The RNLI was founded on 4 March 1824 as the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, with Royal Patronage from King George IV of Great Britain and Ireland. It was given the prefix ‘Royal’ and its current name in 1854 by Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Ireland. It has official charity status in both Ireland and the United Kingdom.

The RNLI operates 444 lifeboats (332 are on station, 112 are in the relief fleet), from 236 lifeboat stations around the coasts of Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The RNLI’s lifeboats rescued an average of 22 people a day in 2011. RNLI lifeboats launched 8,905 times in 2011, rescuing 7,976 people. The RNLI’s lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved more than 139,000 lives since 1824. RNLI lifeguards placed on selected beaches around England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands attended to 15,625 incidents in 2011. The RNLI Operations department defines ‘rescues’ and ‘lives saved’ differently.

In 2012, the RNLI Lifeguards service was expanded to cover more than 180 beaches. RNLI lifeguards are paid by the appropriate town or city council, while the RNLI provides their equipment and training. In contrast, most lifeboat crew members are unpaid volunteers. The RNLI is funded by voluntary donations and legacies (together with tax reclaims). In 2011, the RNLI’s income was £162.9M, while its expenditure was £140.6M.

US Coast Guard: Amplifying Arctic Capabilities Through Air and Sea

4 10 2012

It takes a great amount of teamwork to complete Coast Guard missions.  Forward deployed assets like the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf, a national security cutter, cooperate with other Coast Guard units while underway to execute the Coast Guard’s 11 statutory missions.  One type of unit that supports the ship is the onboard aviation detachment.

Bertholf often sails with a deployed Coast Guard helicopter and crew, called the aviation detachment. The AVDET is under the direction of the senior pilot, an aircraft commander. The helicopters, most often MH-65 Dolphin helicopters, are used to augment or extend the range and capabilities of Bertholf’s sensors. The helicopter crews can operate covertly in total darkness, closely monitoring suspect vessels on the water or as long range reconnaissance to detect things like the ice edge in the Arctic.

Read the rest at Coast Guard Compass

USCG Ice Capabilities Center of Excellence Great Lakes

17 02 2011

US Coast Guard men and women standing the watch on the Great Lakes perform their missions in one of the nation’s most environmentally challenging areas, and one element above all others presents the biggest challenge – ice. The 2010-2011 winter season has already seen some incredible rescues, including two people stranded atop an adrift ice floe, two dozen disoriented fishermen lost during an overnight snowstorm and a snowmobiler whose machine fell through the ice. The men and women of the Ninth Coast Guard District train for these high-risk missions at the service’s Ice Capabilities Center of Excellence.

More at Coast Guard Compass Blog

US Coast Guard Commandant: Icebreakers key to Arctic presence

8 11 2010

USCGC Polar Sea (WAGB-11) alongside her sister ship Polar Star (WAGB-10) near McMurdo Station, Antarctica. (Wikipedia CC)

The Coast Guard’s top officer says the service does not have the resources to respond to a major emergency in the Arctic and is calling for funding to repair or replace its two broken heavy icebreakers.

“We need icebreakers up [in the Arctic], and right now our icebreakers are in a sorry state,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp said in an Oct. 28 interview. “They need replacement or very thorough renovation to allow the United States to sustain an active presence and support our sovereignty up there.”

The need for icebreakers in the Arctic stems from the rapid disappearance of ice in those waters. More water means more shipping traffic through the Bering Strait and other Arctic waterways. It also means massive untapped mineral reserves will be available to nations that border the Arctic, including the U.S. and Russia, creating a rush to stake sovereignty claims.

The mission of protecting U.S. sovereignty and its citizens and shipping should fall to the Coast Guard, Papp said.

“That’s our responsibility,” he said. “It’s water — we’re concerned about there being more water and more activity on the water; it’s clearly a Coast Guard responsibility.

“So, I feel the need to advocate for restoring our icebreakers or replacing them.”

The service’s heavy icebreakers, Polar Star and Polar Sea, have both been sidelined.

The Coast Guard announced in July that Polar Sea had suffered an engine breakdown and would likely be out of service until January. Polar Star is undergoing repairs and renovation and will out of service until 2013.

As a result, Papp said, the Coast Guard is suffering a brain drain of sorts, losing institutional knowledge about icebreaking operations.

“Because of the condition of the icebreakers, we are rapidly losing that expertise, and we don’t have the resources to respond up there to a major emergency,” he said.

In addition to increased shipping traffic, Papp said as the ice recedes, standard Coast Guard services such as search-and-rescue missions will be required.

“I foresee greater numbers of fishing boats, even recreational boats going up there,” he said. “And we even have residents there already in towns such as Barrow [at Alaska’s northern tip].

“[These are people] who need to be supported by Coast Guard resources. We don’t have the resources right now.”

Papp said the Coast Guard had been evaluating what resources he would need to support an Arctic mission, but he noted that sending current assets up there presented a “zero-sum game.”

“If I were to put resources up there, it would have to come at the expense of another place,” he said.

Source: Navy Times

Canada May Arm Coast Guard Icebreakers

23 10 2010

The Conservative government has revealed that it will consider arming the Canadian Coast Guard’s icebreakers as a way to bolster Arctic sovereignty.

The government has also indicated that it will review new shipping regulations in the Northwest Passage and other Arctic waters with an eye to extending mandatory registration of foreign vessels — which currently applies only to large freighters and other heavy ships — to all foreign-ship traffic in the region, regardless of size.

The proposals are part of the government’s response, tabled in Parliamant this week, to a report from the Senate fisheries committee about strengthening Canada’s presence in the North.

“My reaction is very positive,” said Senator Bill Rompkey, the Liberal chairman of the committee that issued the December report titled “Controlling Canada’s Arctic Waters: Role of the Canadian Coast Guard.”

“We need to know what vessels of all kinds are doing up there,” said Mr. Rompkey, citing terrorism, drug-smuggling and illegal immigration as potential sources of trouble in a less-frozen Far North.

The Senate committee had urged the government to equip icebreakers “with deck weaponry capable of giving firm notice, if necessary, to unauthorized foreign vessels” in Canada’s northern waters.

The government responded that it “partially supports” the recommendation and that it will “review the Canadian Coast Guard enforcement role, including the possibility of arming CCG icebreakers.”

Two of Canada’s leading experts on Arctic geopolitics also applauded the government for agreeing to study the idea of arming the country’s icebreakers.

“It makes total sense to have the capability for greater enforcement if it becomes necessary,” said University of Calgary political scientist Rob Huebert.

And Michael Byers, a University of British Columbia international law expert, said the “quiet authority of a deck-mounted gun” is a reasonable show of force in the Arctic, and does not constitute a provocation to foreign countries or “preparing for war with the Russians.”


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