WASHINGTON — Three nuclear-powered attack submarines linked up and surfaced at the North Pole for the first time earlier this month on a historic mission that signaled a boosted U.S. sub presence under the Arctic ice pack, Navy officials said Friday.
The Pentagon gave few details about the subs' mission, saying only that the three attack submarines linked up and surfaced at the geographic North Pole on May 6.
"The mission of the submarines was to collect scientific data and test submarine force readiness under Arctic conditions without logistics base support," a Pentagon statement said. The announcement was held up until the three submarines, identified as the Hawkbill, the Ray and the Archerfish, returned to their home ports, Navy officials said.
They said the mission involved locating underwater currents to determine where cracks in the ice may develop and experiments to determine how torpedos and sonar and other anti-submarine warfare gear operates in frigid temperatures.
Missiles cannot be launched from under water through thick ice, requiring a submarine to surface and expose its position. But they can be fired through wide cracks or a thin ice cover.
Navy officials acknowledged that disclosure of the operation was intended to signal to the Soviets publicly that the United States was boosting its attack submarine presence in the Arctic in response to heavier concentrations of Soviet subs there.