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Arctic-bound submarine slips out of San Diego

February 28, 2009 |  4:02 pm


Without fanfare, the fast-attack submarine Helena has slipped silently out of port in San Diego, bound for a classified mission described by the Navy as "testing of submarine operability and war-fighting capability" in the Arctic Ocean.

The Helena, stationed at the Point Loma sub base, will be part of Ice Exercise 2009, the Navy said. The exercise will be supported by the Applied Physics Laboratory Ice Station being built by the University of Washington on the ice north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

The submarine Annapolis, based in Norfolk, Va., will also be part of the exercise. Technicians will monitor the ability of the submarines to communicate while submerged deep in the frigid waters.

Since the Nautilus became the first submarine to reach the North Pole in 1958, the Navy has regularly sent submarines to the Arctic for training and scientific missions. The Navy's Arctic Submarine Laboratory is at Point Loma.

Among other things, submarines routinely use the Arctic Ocean as a way to transit between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, rather than the Panama Canal.

-- Tony Perry

Photo: Navy