Commander, Submarine Forces (COMSUBFOR) officially kicked off Operation Ice Camp (ICE CAMP) 2024 in the Arctic Ocean on March 8, 2024, after the building of Ice Camp Whale and arrival of two U.S. Navy fast attack submarines.

ICE CAMP 2024 is a three-week operation designed to research, test and evaluate operational capabilities in the Arctic region. In addition to U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Space Force participation in the exercise, personnel from the Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Canadian Navy, the French Navy, the United Kingdom Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy are participating.

Previously known as Ice Exercise (ICEX), the operation partners with the Arctic Submarine Laboratory and was elevated to an operation to better reflect the Navy’s priority in the Arctic region. ICE CAMP will meet national security objectives, as outlined in the Department of Defense and the Department of the Navy Arctic Strategy, to maintain an enhanced Arctic presence, strengthen alliances and partnerships, and build a more capable Arctic naval force. The first iteration of this event took place in 1946.

“Our Joint Force’s ability to operate in all domains, to include the Arctic, is vital to our national security. For over 70 years our Submarine Force has been operating in the Arctic Ocean, facilitating research and developing the operational flexibility to deter and respond to crises anywhere,” said Rear Adm. Andrew Miller, commander, Undersea Warfighting Development Center. “Collaborating with our allies and partners in the most extreme of environments allows us to strengthen cooperative partnerships and maintain our enhanced global presence.”

The Navy’s Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL) is a Fleet Support Detachment of commander, Undersea Warfighting Development Center (UWDC). ASL, based in San Diego, is the “Center of Excellence” for Arctic matters for the U.S. submarine force. ASL serves as the lead organization for coordinating, planning and executing the operation involving representatives from five nations and more than 200 participants over the five weeks of operations. The Arctic is experiencing a trend of diminishing sea ice extent and thickness creating the likelihood of increased maritime activity in the region, including trans-oceanic shipping and resource extraction.

“Ice Camp Whale provides our teams the opportunity to conduct their research in one of the harshest and most demanding environments in the world,” said Howard Reese, director, Arctic Submarine Laboratory. “We are responsible for developing and maintaining the expertise to allow the Submarine Force to safely and effectively operate in this unique environment. We are able to take what we learn from this environment and apply the lessons to real world operations.”

The camp, named Ice Camp Whale, will serve as a temporary command center for conducting operations and research in the Arctic region. The camp is temporary and is established on a sheet of ice in the Arctic Ocean, known as an ice floe, to support testing submarine systems and other Arctic research initiatives. The camp consists of shelters, a command center, and infrastructure to safely house and support more than 60 personnel at any one time.

“ICE CAMP really is one of our squadron’s bread and butter exercises, it’s a stellar opportunity for us to apply our ski-flying training and highlight how unique 440 Squadron’s capabilities are within the Royal Canadian Air Force,” said Royal Canadian Air Force Pilot Capt. Graham Neely. Neely is the Operations Officer from 440 (T) Squadron out of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada flying the CC-138 Twin Otter supporting ICE CAMP.

“It’s been quite refreshing to be involved in such a well-oiled military operation as ICE CAMP,” Neely emphasized. “Our crew is having nothing short of a great time here – the flying is fantastic, the weather is crisp, the atmosphere is great, and morale is high. We’re stoked to be part of this starting lineup and doing what we can to contribute to the team!”

The camp gets its namesake from the USS Whale (SSN 637), a Sturgeon-class nuclear-powered attack submarine that was commissioned on Oct. 12, 1968 and the third submarine to reach the North Pole when it surfaced there on April 6, 1969. Submarines have conducted under-ice operations in the Arctic regions in support of inter-fleet transit, training, cooperative allied engagements and operations for more than 60 years. USS Nautilus (SSN 571) made the first transit in 1958. USS Skate (SSN 578) was the first U.S. submarine to surface through Arctic ice at the North Pole in March of 1959.

Since those events, the U.S. Submarine Force has completed 98 Ice Exercises – ICE CAMP 2024 is the 99th – the last being conducted in 2022. This year’s iteration has been elevated to an operation to better reflect the Navy’s priority in the Arctic region.

“ICE CAMP provides the necessary training to maintain a working knowledge of a constantly evolving region where navigating, communicating, and maneuvering in an Arctic setting in which the acoustics, sea life, salinity, and ice keels present a very challenging maritime environment,” stated Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command and naval component commander, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command. “While we will continue to seek peace in the Arctic, history always demonstrates that peace comes through strength. ICE CAMP and other Joint and International evolutions will help sustain our Navy’s continued proficiency in the Arctic while maintaining an enhanced presence, strengthening cooperative partnerships and building a more capable Arctic force.”