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NEWS | Oct. 15, 2021

Ice Pilots: Navigators of the Arctic

By By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Alfred Coffield

Arctic operations specialists (AOS) are commonly referred to as ice pilots, and they maneuver submarines through dangerous waters of the Arctic.
More specifically, ice pilots embark Navy submarines and act as the commanding officer’s advisor for navigation and safe operation in the Arctic. They are responsible for training crews to operate in the challenging and harsh environments under the Arctic ice, and they navigate the boat through different types of ice.
Jason Cooper, an AOS with Underwater Warfighting Development Center (UWDC), Detachment Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL), works closely with Commander, Submarine Forces (COMSUBFOR) in Norfolk, Virginia.
There are only 21 Ice Pilots employed by the Navy to date, and as the newest, Cooper is enjoying every minute of the job.
“I spent 30 years active duty as a submariner, and I get to work with the best Sailors in the world’s most powerful Submarine Force,” Cooper said. “Most submariners won’t get the chance to operate in the Arctic; I get to do it full-time with ASL.”
As the ASL representative for COMSUBFOR, Cooper is responsible for providing recommendations and analysis to the Operations Command Center with regard to submarine operations in the Arctic. He also serves as the embarked AOS and technical director for major submarine ice exercises (ICEX) in direct support of Arctic deployments by the Submarine Force.
Cooper expects to participate in future ice exercises as a pilot for submarines.
ASL is responsible for developing and maintaining expertise in Arctic specific skills, knowledge, equipment, and procedures to enable the submarine force to safely and effectively operate in the unique Arctic Ocean environment.
The Atlantic Fleet Submarine Force numbers 32 submarines and more than 15,000 highly trained and motivated officer, enlisted, and civilian personnel providing submarine support to the Atlantic, Arctic, Eastern Pacific, Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic’s principal responsibility remains the operation, maintenance, training and equipping of submarines in support of fleet and national tasking.