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Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Projecting Strength in the Arctic

Did you know that, by 2022, more advanced fighter jets will be based in Alaska than anywhere else in the world? “Whoever holds Alaska will hold the world,” declared a US general a few years before WWII and before the US conducted its first-ever mass airlift and aerial bombing operations with the Japanese invasion of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Now, the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force is urging increased attention to the importance of air power in the Arctic, where “minimal infrastructure and extreme climate severity limit how militaries can operate.” Now, “the Arctic has become even more important to the nation. Both a northern approach to the U.S., as well as a critical location for projecting American power, its geo-strategic significant is difficult to overstate,” she writes. “The Air Force operates most of our Arctic locations – from fighter and tanker bases to space-tracking systems and radar sites that detect aircraft and missiles coming over the poles…At the end of the Cold War, many considered the Arctic to be a secure border, whose frigid expanse acted as an extra layer of homeland defense. Today, technological advancements by potential adversaries are making this once forbidding border increasingly porous.” Combined with increasing accessibility for trade and natural resources driven by receding ice layers, Arctic competition is potentially in its early phase, growing towards what could become a top national priority. Russia and China have been boosting their presence and investment in the region, and former SecDef Mattis declared that “America’s got to up its game in the Arctic.” The Air Force secretary is now working to focus attention back on the Arctic, improving America’s future thinking on an increasingly critical asset.  

Source: Air power and the Arctic: The importance of projecting strength in the north

OODA Analyst

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