Inside a Navy Submarine Navigating the Arctic

About 115 miles north of Alaska, a U.S. Navy submarine emerges from several feet of thick ice.

The Navy’s 68 submarines could be anywhere at any time — patrolling the Arctic and the Persian Gulf, or near Russia, China or North Korea.

Their missions are closely-held secrets, but a frigid training exercise offers a glimpse of military life deep undersea.

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Inside a Navy Submarine Navigating the Arctic

U.S. Navy sailors aboard nuclear-powered submarines have long trained in the Arctic, learning to hunt their Russian counterparts in case of war. But America’s sub force is sharpening its combat skills at the edge of the world as Russia expands military operations there.

One day in March, the black metal sail of a 360-foot attack sub armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles and torpedoes punched through the dense ice of the Beaufort Sea during Operation Ice Camp.

For many of the 152 sailors on board the U.S.S. Hampton, it is their first patrol.

In the sub’s nerve center, where sailors navigate the boat and stand watch over sonar, radio and weapons consoles, Master Chief Petty Officer Jacob Green mentors the junior officers and crew members as they carry out their duties.

Everyone calls him “Cob” — for chief of the boat.

Master Chief Petty Officer Jacob Green, the Hampton’s chief of the boat, supervising two helmsmen in delicately steering and diving the sub under the ice.

Operating a sub in the Arctic is especially challenging. First, navigation. In some areas, shallow waters force the crew to thread a narrow path between twin threats: the ice above and the ocean floor below.

Ice keels — huge chunks of overturned sea ice pointing downward — are also a hazard here. This was the case when Cmdr. Mike Brown and his crew aboard the Hampton transited through the Bering Strait.

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