AF senior leaders visit Arctic

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force senior leaders from Headquarters Air Force and major commands will visit multiple locations in the Arctic region Sept. 7-13, 2017, to better understand the challenges of operating in the region. 

The visit is especially important due to changes in the Arctic’s climate and environment, which have increased activity in the area. 

“Our job as Air Force leaders is to ensure we’re ready to counter threats when and where they arise, and that means preparing to operate in all environments,” said Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson. “This is an opportunity for us to gain first-hand understanding of this challenging environment and what we need to be successful.” 

This visit to locations in Alaska, Canada and Greenland is part of the Air Force’s effort to develop an Arctic strategy nested under the Department of Defense objectives. DoD’s objectives are to prevent and deter conflict in the Arctic and prepare to respond to a wide range of challenges and contingencies, with an ultimate goal of a secure and stable region where U.S. national interests are safeguarded and nations work together to address challenges. 

“The Arctic is key strategic terrain…Russia is taking aggressive steps to increase its presence there,” said Secretary of Defense James Mattis in a written statement to Congress. “I believe that our interests and the security of the Arctic would benefit from increasing the focus of the Department of Defense on this region.” 

In Alaska, leaders will observe training, missile defense and cold weather operations as well as domain awareness capabilities and limitations. In Canada, meetings will focus on Canadian partnership, North American Aerospace Defense Command and early warning systems. The trip’s final stop in Greenland will provide leaders with an opportunity to observe airfield and port operations, infrastructure, skiway and ice sheet changes and discuss challenges, strategy and partnerships with the Danish Joint Arctic Command. 

The U.S. has a vital Arctic neighbor and partner in Canada. Other key allies and partners in the Arctic include Norway, Iceland, Denmark, all NATO allies, and NATO’s Enhanced Opportunity Partners, Sweden and Finland. These nations work together in numerous forums to address shared regional concerns (e.g., fisheries management, shipping safety, scientific research).