For the first time in a decade, a Royal Navy submarine has operated under the Arctic ice. HMS Trenchant surfaced in the Beaufort Sea this week, to joining two US Navy boats exercising submarine warfare skills under the polar ice cap.
Ice Exercise (ICEX) is held on a biennial basis and is run by the US Navy with participation from the RN and Canadian Navy. This year USS Connecticut and USS Hartford were joined by HMS Trenchant. The last RN submarine to participate in ICEX was HMS Tireless in 2007, although RN personnel have participated in recent such exercises. The Arctic region is increasingly becoming a focus of competition between the Russians and NATO nations. Since the Cold War, the Russians have used the Arctic as a bastion to hide their Ballistic missile submarines, while NATO has tried to develop skills to hunt and neutralise them. The mineral and hydrocarbons in the region have also attracted the Russians who have built a series of bases in the Arctic, expanded their fleet of icebreakers and claimed rights to large parts of the seabed.