Pentagon begins massive Arctic training exercise, in part to remind Russia and...

Pentagon begins massive Arctic training exercise, in part to remind Russia and China to play fair

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Aircraft begin lining up Monday to begin Northern Edge 2019 military exercise in the Arctic. (Staff Sgt. Bethany La Ville/Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s new focus on the Arctic roared into view on Monday with a 12-day multi-service training exercise on and above the central Alaska ranges, the Gulf of Alaska and into the Arctic.

Major participating units on Northern Edge 2019 include the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, U.S. Pacific Air Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Marine Corps Forces Pacific, Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command, Air Force Materiel Command, U.S. 3rd Fleet, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and U.S. Naval Reserve, the Pentagon said Monday.

For about a year the Pentagon has been sounding the alarm about Russian and Chinese gains in the Arctic. There has been a rush of new strategy and money for the region among the four service branches, while the Coast Guard finally received funding in the 2020 budget for a new heavy ice breaker for the north.

“This strategic outlook highlights the importance of monitoring the changing environment, continuously evaluating Navy Arctic capabilities, and developing strong partnerships with interagency and international Arctic stakeholders,” the Navy’s new Arctic strategy document, prepared earlier this year, reads in part.

The Navy will continually study and analyze “threats, opportunities, and risks” in the region through the lens of great power competition, the strategy document says.

Approximately 10,000 troops and 250 aircraft from all services and five Navy ships — including for the first time in a decade an aircraft carrier — will be participating in the Northern Edge 2019 exercise.

“The exercise is designed to sharpen participants’ tactical combat skills, to improve command, control and communication relationships, and to develop interoperable plans and programs across the joint force,” the Air Force said in a release.

It is one in a series of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command exercises set for this year to prepare joint forces for the increase competitive military climate and possible crises in the Indo-Pacific region, the Air Force said. It is the largest military training exercise scheduled in Alaska this year, with virtual and live participants from all over the United States engaging alongside on-site personnel, the Air Force said.

“Navy operations will deter aggression and enable peaceful resolution of crises on terms acceptable to the United States and our allies and partners,” the Navy document says.

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