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Archive for the ‘Arctic’ Category

Arctic Mobility Sustainment System Tested at Army’s Cold Regions Test Center

Monday, April 29th, 2024

FORT GREELY, Alaska — Deployed Soldiers are constantly loaded down with gear, but nowhere more so than when operating in a cold weather environment.

In addition to their conventional weapons, Soldiers need to utilize heavy equipment like space heaters, cooking stoves, fuel and heavy-duty thermal tents to survive operations in the Arctic.

Candidates to serve as the Army’s Arctic Mobility Sustainment System underwent rigorous testing at U.S. Army Cold Regions Test Center, or CRTC, this winter with the help of Soldiers from the Army’s 11th Airborne stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Washington.

“When they go out in zone seven operations, this is the new stuff they will be pulling out there with them to set up shelters,” said Danielle Schmidt, assistant test officer. “We went through a lot of changes since the test started up here all based on learning what works and what doesn’t in the cold.”

The system selected as a result of this testing will eventually replace the legacy Ahkio sled and 10-person tent the Army currently uses. Testers expected and coveted extreme cold for the multi-week test, with the interior Alaska winter delivered more than they expected.

“The whole time the test was going it didn’t get above minus 20 Fahrenheit,” said Isaac Howell, senior test officer. “It was good test conditions for what we were doing, but it was difficult on the Soldiers. Sustained movement in the Arctic day in and day out at those temperatures is not easy.”

On a typical day Soldiers would pack the Arctic Mobility Sustainment System sled under test with the tent, a heater and their basic standard issue items for Arctic infantry operations. The Soldiers would then pull the sleds in either nine-Soldier squads or four to five Soldier teams with CRTC’s test personnel led the way. Moving the heavy sleds across CRTC’s hilly tundra and thickly forested areas is challenging in any conditions, but particularly so in the extreme cold and deep snow of winter.

“Our snow is so dry and powdery,” said Howell. “You don’t stand on it at all, whether you are in skis or snowshoes — you don’t go across the top of it, you go through it. You are plowing snow the entire day regardless of whether you are wearing snowshoes or not.”

After a two-and-a-half-hour movement, testers kept track of how long it took the Soldiers to emplace and erect each tent and get the space heaters operating. Following a cold weather Meal Ready to Eat for lunch, the Soldiers disassembled the tent and heater and returned to their day’s starting point following a different route. Following a survey and hot meal, the Soldiers reassembled the tents and heaters and prepared to sleep in the long, cold Arctic nights, which sometimes approached minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

“The Soldiers were instrumented for safety purposes to make sure they didn’t get too cold or hypothermic,” said Schmidt. “If they did get too cold, they could pull themselves. We had noxious gas sensors in the tents where the heaters were operating as another safety precaution.”

Despite the hardships, the participating Soldiers gave high marks to CRTC’s test crew.

“It was pretty cool being able to experience that and see what all the new equipment is like,” said Pvt. 1st Class Tyler Worrell.

By Mark Schauer

Assignment Incentive Pay to be Authorized for Airmen, Guardians Stationed at Extremely Cold Locations

Wednesday, April 10th, 2024

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) —  

Effective April 1, the Department of the Air Force approved a new incentive pay for Airmen and Guardians assigned to qualifying bases in the U.S. where the temperature is expected to drop below minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Cold Weather Assignment Incentive Pay is a single lump sum payment given to Airmen and Guardians after signing an agreement to serve a prescribed tour length of at least 12 months, depending on qualifying location.  

Locations that meet this threshold include Minot and Grand Forks Air Force Bases and Cavalier Space Force Station in North Dakota, Clear Space Force Station, Eielson Air Force Base and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, as well as Malmstrom AFB, Montana.  

“Airmen and Guardians living in extremely cold conditions faced unique out-of-pocket costs,” said Alex Wagner, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. “In addition to the assignment and retention benefits of the pay, it also comes down to making sure we do our best to take care of our service members and their families stationed at these critical installations.”  

This payment intends to ease the financial burden of purchasing certain cold weather essentials, such as extreme cold weather gear, all-season and/or snow tires, tire mounts and alignments, engine block heaters and emergency winter car kits, as well as further incentivizing assignments. 

Although AIP-CW is effective April 1, the first pay date is anticipated for July 1, 2024, meaning Airmen and Guardians who move to a qualifying location between April 1 and June 30 will receive payment retroactively.  

The amount of AIP-CW Airmen and Guardians are eligible to receive is based on criteria in the five pay levels outlined in the table below and is subject to change. 

This change follows the Department of Defenseimplementation of the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which included language authorizing special duty pay for members based in cold-weather climate conditions and the FY24 NDAA, which clarifies the temperature parameters that qualify an area as a cold-weather location. 

“We want to ensure Airmen, Guardians and their families have the resources needed to safely live and work in an extreme cold-weather environment,” Wagner added.  

The official guidance memorandum can be found here

Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

New Military Snowmobiles Launch from Polaris Government and Defense

Tuesday, March 26th, 2024

Minneapolis – March, 2024 – Two new military snowmobiles are launching from Polaris Government and Defense: the 2025 Military 650 TITAN 155 and 2025 Military 850 PRO RMK 155, built off the industry-leading technology and ride-enhancing upgrades of the 2025 Polaris Snowmobile lineup. Warfighters worldwide rely on Polaris Government and Defense to provide off-road, light tactical vehicles for the most austere conditions. Polaris militarized snowmobiles, or over-snow reconnaissance vehicles (OSRVs), are a critical component of the off-road arsenal for winter warfare.

“Many expeditionary forces turn to Polaris for arctic mobility, and we are committed to providing vehicles that continue to meet the ever-changing needs of their missions,” said Nick Francis, vice president, Polaris Government and Defense. “The all-new 2025 Military 650 TITAN 155 and 2025 Military 850 PRO RMK 155 snowmobiles are engineered with the input of our longstanding snowmobile customers. Working closely with the operators that specialize in arctic operations helps ensure these next-gen OSRVs meet the standards and requirements of today’s militaries while continuing to provide exceptional maneuver capability, utility and reliable operation during harsh winter operations.”

The 2025 Military 650 TITAN 155 and 2025 Military 850 PRO RMK 155 have several modifications for the military mission:

–        Blackout Mode – a single switch instantly turns off all lights for discreet operation

–        IR Light – infrared lighting provides visibility to operators while in blackout mode

–        White Body Panels – additional white on military snowmobiles provides camouflage

–        12V outlets – power or charge hand-held electronics and other mission essentials

–        Power Boosting Regulator – automatically provides maximum electrical power at idle and low RPMs to support the 12V outlet as well as any added accessories

–        Handlebar with Mountain Hoop – the added hoop provides better operator ride angle and control

Built on the proven Matryx platform with the quick accelerating 650 Patriot engine, the 2025 Military 650 TITAN 155 is the most capable widetrack in Polaris history. The two-person workhorse accommodates a passenger and another 125 lbs in the cargo area, as well as a hitch to tow a trailer and an additional 1200 lbs of mission-critical supplies. A powerful winch provides 1500 lbs of capacity for vehicle recovery or to move obstacles. With an all-new, patented BackTrak20 rear suspension, high-clearance independent front suspension and Trailbreaker skis, the TITAN can climb on top of the snow better than any previous model – in forward or reverse. This model also has an articulating rail, allowing the extra-long track to hinge upwards at the back, and a removeable rear snowflap for even greater mobility in reverse. The transmission has high and low gearing for controlled power distribution and added initial engine torque for heavy loads. A cooling system with radiator keeps the TITAN’s engine temp optimized during slow speed operation, while towing heavy loads and in low-snow conditions for more reliable operation and dependability.

The new 2025 Military 850 PRO RMK 155 is a nimble, lightweight snowmobile engineered for superior maneuverability for patrol and reconnaissance. The extended track and tapered tunnel increase the snowmobile’s performance in deep snow while a full-length cooler provides better cooling and greater reliability in marginal snow conditions. High elevation clutch calibration provides optimal operation at increased altitudes for this model, while Velocity shocks provide adjustability for varying rider and kit weight and size for greater control and precise handling.

Both snowmobiles are also equipped with durable, Polaris two-stroke engines and electric start, while also supporting manual, pull-start in extreme cold. Weight reduction and ergonomic upgrades provide added control while the advanced suspension improves handling, enhanced capability and agility. Calibrated shocks and a proven suspension architecture absorb bumps in shifting terrain to add a level of comfort to the ride while a narrow cockpit provides greater control, stability and precise navigation. To increase stealth, these two military snowmobiles are designed to blend in to snowy, arctic environmental conditions. A keyless ignition also comes standard on military models to simplify fleet operation. Orders for these military snowmobiles are open now directly through Polaris Government and Defense with production and deliveries also scheduled for this year.

Providing 70 Years of Winter Mobility

In arctic and mountainous snow-covered environments, Polaris military snowmobiles and tactical vehicles allow operators to move further and faster. The experts in winter mobility, Polaris has been making innovative snowmobiles for seven decades. Today’s snowmobiles are delivered mission-ready to military customers with confidence that all modifications have been validated by Polaris engineers. The dedicated team at Polaris Government and Defense also provides training courses to maximize operator effectiveness and ability for these specialty platforms.

Polaris Government and Defense also provides arctic mobility through its MRZR Alpha light tactical all-terrain vehicle. The MRZR Alpha transitions to cold-weather environments and terrain with the addition of an Arctic Mobility Kit. A fully enclosed cab helps protect occupants from weather conditions and environmental elements while a track conversion kit replaces each wheel with a separate track assembly providing off-road, all-terrain maneuver capability over snow, soft soil and mixed terrain. The full cab and tracks expand the environments the MRZR Alpha can operate in and increase an already wide range of terrain for which it is well-suited.

Polaris’ commercially modified platforms are air transportable, highly capable and a force multiplier for every service in the United States military and more than 60 allied countries. In addition to military snowmobiles, Polaris Government and Defense provides tactical wheeled vehicles like the MRZR, DAGOR and MV850.

Army Medical Developers Put Tech, Treatments to Test During Arctic Edge 24

Saturday, March 23rd, 2024

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Team members with the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity joined a multinational military and government contingent to test developing medical technologies and treatments at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, March 4-6, 2024.

As part of the U.S. Northern Command’s Arctic Edge 24 exercise, USAMMDA developers partnered with frontline military medical providers to conduct below zero medicine exercises and experiments and assess the progress of the U.S. Army’s freeze-dried plasma and extreme cold weather shelter programs.

Arctic Edge 24 is a premier venue to demonstrate how USAMMDA’s programs fit into the Army and Department of Defense’s future operating concepts, including a focus on the Arctic regions of the globe, according to U.S. Army Col. Andy Nuce, commander of USAMMDA.

“Exercises like Arctic Edge 24 are a great touchpoint for USAMMDA’s development teams because they give us a chance to interface with potential end users of devices and treatments during the development process,” said Nuce, who has helmed the activity since June 2022. “This is important for two reasons. One, it gives our teams a chance to see devices in real-world environments that we cannot fully replicate at Fort Detrick. Two, the Soldiers who are using the devices during these types of training give us incredible insight into where products are in development within the acquisition pipeline, and how we can improve the process going forward to deliver the best possible products for eventual fielding.

“In short, the Soldiers in the field are critical to our understanding of what is needed and how we can improve the development process going forward to meet their future needs in order to save lives.”

Exercises like Arctic Edge 24 align with the wider Army preparedness doctrines outlined in the forthcoming Army publication “Arctic and Extreme Cold Weather Operations” and showcase how Army medical development commands are refining their focus to meet the challenges of Arctic warfighting, including medical readiness.

The first of two USAMMDA teams attending the exercise, the freeze-dried plasma — known as FDP — developers, are working with combat medics and medical officers to continue the years-long adaptation of blood plasma in freeze-dried form for far-forward use. The lightweight and expeditionary FDP under development by USAMMDA’s Warfighter Protection and Acute Care Project Management Office is a critical advancement in blood replacement capabilities for frontline troops, according to Michelle Mason, a logistics specialist with the WPAC PMO who attended the exercise.

“The FDP program is a significant step forward to equip military medical personnel to provide urgent care at and near the front lines,” said Mason. “When Warfighters are injured, every moment is critical to improving their chances of survival.”

Blood plasma is a lifesaving tool that helps boost a patient’s blood volume to help prevent shock and aid with blood clotting, according to the American Red Cross. WPAC is developing both human and canine FDP to give future military medical providers another option when treating critically injured servicemembers and military working dogs.

For the past several years, the U.S. Army has been focusing on modernizing its forces to meet the challenges of 2030, 2040 and beyond. A main component of this wider strategy is improving lifesaving care for wounded and injured Warfighters at and near the front lines. The U.S. Department of Defense’s focus on dispersed operations, with logistics lines crossing thousands of miles of open ocean and barren tundra, makes building frontline care capacities imperative to joint force readiness, according to Mason.

“During previous conflicts, like in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. forces had unparalleled abilities to treat and evacuate the wounded to higher echelons of care, due to wide accessibility of medevac aircraft and relative proximity of secured bases with advanced medical treatment facilities and devices,” said Mason. “Those advances greatly improved survivability compared to previous U.S. wars. Today’s warfighters are preparing to fight in areas of the world that are much more austere and rugged, where the ‘front line’ will be geographically isolated, dispersed and harder to reach by air and seacraft to evacuate the critically wounded.

“This is why developing treatments like FDP is so important to the DoD’s modernization efforts,” she added. “The advantages of longer shelf life, reduced logistical burden, safety and efficacy that are built into these types of materiel solutions will be vital during future conflicts to enable medical personnel to sustain life until medevac transportation can be arranged to higher levels of care.”

The second USAMMDA contingent participating in Arctic Edge 24 works with commercial partners to assess the development of rugged, extreme cold weather treatment shelters for use in Arctic environments. When a servicemember is wounded or injured, a complex series of actions begins. Frontline medical personnel initially work to stabilize the patient by keeping airways open, applying pressure to limit blood loss and treating for shock. Next, triage priorities determine the order for movement to higher echelons of care, with the most severely wounded or injured given highest priority.

During dispersed operations in extreme climates, when medevac transportation could be limited, the need to shelter casualties in a safe, dry, and warm environment while waiting for further care is imperative to ensure the patient remains stable. The Warfighter Readiness, Performance, and Brain Health PMO team attended Arctic Edge 24 to assess the worthiness of their shelter program in the most extreme climate imaginable, according to Emily Krohn, an assistant product manager with the team.

“Extreme cold weather is a different sort of enemy to our Warfighters when they are injured or wounded,” said Krohn, who attends a dozen Army and joint force exercises each year in her role as a product manager. “The climate can be a huge challenge during combat operations because it not only limits evacuation options, but it can compound and worsen the effects of serious wounds and injuries.”

USAMMDA relies on many partners to accomplish its mission, according to Krohn. Its development experts work with others across the Army, special forces community and medical industry to conceive, research, develop and test the technologies and treatments that future Warfighters will rely on to fight and win. Exercises like Arctic Edge 24 are a perfect platform to measure the effectiveness of USAMMDA’s development programs, including extreme cold weather shelters that are rugged, expeditionary and designed to meet the needs of warfighters during future conflicts.

“The shelters we are developing with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center and our commercial partners are designed to enable frontline medics to safely evacuate casualties and provide tactical combat casualty care in a temperature-controlled environment while arranging for movement to higher echelons of care,” said Krohn. “These types of technologies are being developed to answer the challenges servicemembers and frontline providers may face in extreme cold weather.”

By T. T. Parish

Soldiers Prepare for Combat Operations in the Arctic

Friday, March 8th, 2024

WASHINGTON — Braving subzero temperatures, about 9,000 Soldiers clad in white camouflage gathered in Alaska for a joint, multinational exercise.

Soldiers engaged in 40 training events over two weeks to prepare for combat operations in the northernmost region on Earth. During the largest multinational training exercise in the Arctic to date, called Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center 24-02, the Army simulated large-scale training operations in cold weather conditions for the first time. They tested next-generation weapons and operated cold weather, all-terrain vehicles or CATV, snow mobiles to traverse the terrain.

“What we’ve learned in this exercise is you’ve got to be ready for the full spectrum,” said Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, 11th Airborne Division commander.

Five countries participated in training from Feb. 8 to Feb. 22 including a Canadian battalion and elements from Mongolia, Australia, Finland and Sweden. Exercises which align with the Army’s Arctic Strategy, stretched from Anchorage in the south to Utqiagvik, Alaska, the northernmost city in the U.S.

Climate change has made the Arctic more navigable, and as part of the Army’s Arctic Strategy, service must be ready to deter and defend against potential adversaries in the region, Eifler said. The guidance details how the service will train, organize and equip forces and partner nations.

The Army deployed an entire division during one joint exercise, which had U.S. Soldiers playing roles on both sides. Two battalions simulated enemy forces, equipped with artillery and rockets, Eifler said.

During that exercise, U.S. Soldiers learned to fight without air superiority and support. The friendly forces embarked on a 150-mile simulated, deep attack to train Army pilots to weave in and out of air defenses.

Soldiers, Airmen and Marines took part in a joint multi-battalion, joint force entry exercise into the Donnelly Training Center drop zone, north of Fort Greely. Soldiers also faced the challenge of disguising equipment in a snowy environment.

“In this battlefield, it’s very hard to be camouflaged like we used to,” Eifler said. “In some spectrums, you’re observed, whether it’s electronics, whether it’s physical, informational … across the cyber space … so we had to create windows to do a deep attack.”

Finally, troops engaged in an air assault simulation with American and Canadian Chinook helicopters, UH-60 Black Hawks and two battalions.

“That distance and scope and scale hasn’t been done before,” he said.

Soldiers also tested how the Next Generation Squad Weapon, the XM7 rifle, fared in frigid conditions and found parts of the weapon caused frostbite. Soldiers also had to adjust their survival measures. In addition to carrying more water, troops melted ice blocks and purified snow to help themselves hydrate.

“In this environment, if you stop, you freeze, and you get hypothermia,” Eifler said. “But at the same time you’re sweating, and you need more water. So that really challenged our sustainment.”

“All Soldiers require grit,” he added. “But Arctic grit … is a little bit more.”

They also had to keep electronic and digital equipment, including monitors and keyboards at a consistent temperature while sometimes operating them amid hurricane-strength winds.

Eifler said the 11th Airborne’s reactivation in 2022 gave Soldiers of that unit a greater purpose and reinvigorated Soldiers assigned to the unit. The Army also reassigned the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team under the 11th Airborne.

“The forces up here had no real unity, purpose and identity,” Eifler said. “Being aligned as a division now — as warfighting capable force has increased readiness in the Indo-Pacific and for the Arctic. The [realignment] was extremely strategic. When you don’t have an identity, it’s really tough, no matter what line of work you’re in. And that was transformational up here.”

Eifler said that Soldiers who took part in the exercise can earn an Arctic skill identifier certifying that they served in a cold weather environment. Some troops even requested extensions to continue serving in the remote location.

In the past the Army has faced challenges with Soldiers experiencing depression and feelings of isolation. Eifler said that more new recruits have requested assignments in Alaska.

“Having that mentality and having that mindset that winter’s here and summer is short, and winter’s coming tomorrow; having that attitude has really changed the culture up here,” he added. “And we’re actually retaining people that have that expertise.”

Soldiers have also leaned on the Alaskan Inuit population who have taught Soldiers how to survive in Arctic conditions. For example, Soldiers learned to use ice drills to stake tents on the frozen tundra. Soldiers flew 500 miles north to Utqiagvik to perform a rapid infiltration test of the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System or HIMARS. They tested HIMARS on a C-130 in -20 degree weather.

Pilots had to take extra steps to start Apache engines in cold weather conditions. They tackled a wide range of temperature changes from wind chills 40 degrees below to temperatures 40 degrees above. They studied the differences between light snow, heavier snow and wet snowfall, Eifler said.

“The temperature wasn’t consistent, which made it just a great testing environment to go full gamut on everything we needed to do,” Eifler said. “And then it really tested the grit of the Soldiers.”

The Soldiers treaded into new territory during the exercises. Eifler said that warrant officer pilots submitted white papers for Army manuals on how to operate Apaches in extreme cold. About 18 multinational observers took part including representatives from France, Japan, Nepal and Chile.

Next month, during Exercise Arctic Shock in Bardufoss, Norway, Army paratroopers will fly over the North Pole and perform an air entry operation. About 150 Soldiers from the 11th Airborne and 100 members of the Norwegian Army will take part in the exercise from March 18 to March 22.

“We’ll continue to push ourselves up here,” Eifler said. “And increase the scale and scope of these exercises. Because we’ve got to be better; we’ve got to be challenged. And we’ve got to help the Army resource us and structure us properly so we can meet those threats tomorrow.”

By Joe Lacdan, Army News Service