On Friday Russia's Defense Ministry published video of what it touted as a "first-ever" maneuver to have taken place in the history of naval exercises and warfare.
No less than three nuclear-powered submarines of the Russian Navy punched through the ice simultaneously during Arctic exercises, as the surreal video reveals.
Indeed we can't recall there being any other footage like it, or any other such attempt - also given the potential for something going wrong so far north in this 'no man's land' territory.
Russian Navy Commander-in-Chief, Adm. Nikolai Evmenov, was cited in state sources as reporting the following to President Vladimir Putin of the Friday rare feat:
"For the first time in the history of the Navy, three nuclear-powered missile carriers have surfaced from under the ice."
The submarines surfaced "according to a single concept and plan at the appointed time in an area with a radius of 300 meters" and reportedly broke through a layer of ice that was one-and-a-half meters thick.
🇷🇺⚡️🇷🇺EPIC: For the first time in history, during an exercise in the Arctic, three Russian nuclear submarines performed a simultaneous ascent from under the ice at a distance of up to 300 m from each other, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, reported to Putin. #Russia pic.twitter.com/4iQCzGbGy5— RAGEX-WAR (@theragex) March 26, 2021
The US Navy has in recent years been known to conduct such ice-breaking exercises with its large subs. It is necessary in instances where subs must rise from below the ice surface and launch a missile.
According to a prior explanation of the high-risk maneuver featured in Popular Mechanics:
The Arctic is a convenient hiding spot, since sea ice provides submarines with cover making them almost impossible to detect from the air. However, that same sea ice makes communicating (or launching missiles) impossible, which means sometimes subs must crack through the ice with several thousand tons of steel.
...Typical submarines can break through about three feet of ice. Vessels that have been specifically strengthened can go through about nine feet. Even so, one careless move could damage a $1 billion sub and put the lives of 100-plus crewmembers at risk. So choosing the right spot is key.
Very likely the Pentagon is keeping a close watch on Russia's growing Arctic capabilities at a moment that multiple US military branches firm up their long-term Arctic strategies.
Below is an example of how the sub is angled below the surface...
For example, just last week the US Army published a new strategic policy document entitled Regaining Arctic Dominance, which laid out a plan to thwart Russian dominance in the far north, where it's heavily invested given that it's the major world power that lies geographically closest.
"The Arctic has the potential to become a contested space where United States’ great power rivals, Russia and China, seek to use military and economic power to gain and maintain access to the region at the expense of US interests. US National Security Strategy highlights the Arctic as a corridor for expanded strategic great power competition between two regions – the Indo-Pacific and Europe," the Army strategy document said.
Given this week's stunning triple-surfacing through the Arctic ice feat that Russia's navy appeared to pull off without a hitch, it seems Washington does have reason to worry when it comes to ambitions of "dominating" the Arctic sphere.