Air Force Gen. Victor Renuart Jr., commander of NORAD and US Northern Command, told defense reporters in Washington Wednesday that he favors a “whole relook” at US Arctic policy, saying the current strategy in the region is “outdated” and does not reflect the developments and interests that are converging today at the top of the world. Renuart said there’s been an increase in traffic in the region, as shelf ice melts and opens up long inaccessible corridors to exploration and territorial disputes for reputed oil and gas deposits. NORAD has been active in trying to build a dialogue with the Russian military, as Russia has ramped up its power projection and training activities in the arctic. (Also read Strategic Alaska from the November Air Force Magazine). “Any time nations converge on an area to either compete for or to collectively mine natural resources, there is a possibility… that their interests will not coincide,” he said. Both Chinese and South Korean research ships have been active in arctic waters and commercial cruise vessels are now a more frequent sight, which dictates development of a search and rescue capability to serve the newly accessible areas.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.