‘Are We Getting Invaded?’ U.S. Boats Faced Russian Aggression Near Alaska

“The Russian military operations in August inside the U.S. economic zone off the coast of Alaska were the latest in a series of escalated encounters across the North Pacific and the Arctic, where the retreat of polar ice continues to draw new commercial and military traffic. This year, the Russian military has driven a new nuclear-powered icebreaker straight to the North Pole, dropped paratroopers into a high-Arctic archipelago to perform a mock battle and repeatedly flown bombers to the edge of U.S. airspace.

As seas warmed by climate change open new opportunities for oil exploration and trade routes, the U.S. Coast Guard now finds itself monitoring a range of new activity: cruise ships promising a voyage through waters few have ever seen, research vessels trying to understand the changing landscape, tankers carrying new gas riches, and shipping vessels testing new passageways that sailors of centuries past could only dream of.

Russia’s operations in the Arctic have meant a growing military presence at America’s northern door. Rear Adm. Matthew T. Bell Jr., the commander of the Coast Guard district that oversees Alaska, said it was not a surprise to see Russian forces operating in the Bering Sea over the summer, but “the surprise was how aggressive they got on our side of the maritime boundary line.”

In the air, U.S. jets in Alaska typically scramble to intercept about a half-dozen approaching Russian aircraft a year, outliers on the long-range nuclear bomber patrols that Russia resumed in 2007. But this year that number has risen to 14 — on pace to set a record since the Cold War era. In the most recent case, last month, the United States responded to the approach of two Russian bombers and two Russian fighters that came within 30 nautical miles of Alaskan shores.”

US Navy needs to have more than 500 ships by 2045 to have edge against China and Russia

“The Navy wants to double its number of submarines as part of a modernization plan to build more than 500 ships by 2045 to maintain a competitive edge against other naval powers such as China and Russia, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said”

“Esper said the need to modernize the Navy is in part due to China’s own naval modernization and shipbuilding efforts. The Pentagon’s China report released Sept. 1 determined the country aims to have a “world-class” military on par with the United States by 2049. It already has the largest navy in the world at 350 ships. The United States now has 296 deployable battle force ships, according to the Navy.”

“The first priority of that plan is to have a large number of attack submarines, with a target of 70 to 80 submarines overall. This will require the Navy to build at least three next generation Virginia-class submarines every year “as soon as possible,” Esper said. The Navy now has more than 40 operational attack submarines, according to Pentagon documents.”

“Large nuclear-powered aircraft carriers also will be part of the future Navy, still considered the force’s “most visible deterrent,” he said. The Navy is also looking at “light carriers,” such as the USS America amphibious assault ship that can go to sea with vertical takeoff and landing aircraft including the F-35B fighters and the MV-22 Osprey. These light carriers would free up the bigger carriers for more of the “critical high-end fight,” Esper said.”

“Unmanned naval vessels have been discussed in a number of congressional hearings about the future of the Navy and they are included in the Battle Force 2045 plan. Esper said the future force will have between 140 to 240 unmanned and “optionally manned” surface and subsurface vessels that can perform a variety of missions including surveillance, mine-laying and missile strikes.”

“Congressional help will also be necessary to make the plan work. Esper said he wants lawmakers to stop using continuing resolutions to fund the defense budget and allow the military to divest from legacy systems so that the funds can be put towards “higher priorities.” He also said he will request that the Navy have the authority to put any end-of-year budget savings towards shipbuilding instead of the losing money when it is not spent.”