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X almost marks the spot. The USS Hartford's aim was just a little off, and as the nuclear attack submarine surfaced through the ice of the Arctic circle, the view from the aircraft overhead shows a giant X carved into snow just to the side of the vehicle. The Arctic is fortunately an empty place, and precision surfacing isn't really the point of the vehicle. Instead, it was there as part of the ICEX military exercises, practice for the coldest war of all.

ICEX 2016 is a five-week exercise designed to assess the operational readiness of the submarine force while also continuing to advance scientific research in the arctic region. The Navy's Arctic Submarine Laboratory, based in San Diego, serves as the lead organization for coordinating, planning and executing the exercise involving two submarines, multiple nations and more than 200 participants.

By breaching the ice, USS Hartford (and its compatriot, the USS Hampton, shown above) joins a long tradition of nuclear submarines in the Arctic circle. The USS Nautilus was the first to cross under the Arctic circle in 1958. In March 1959, the USS Skate breached ice at the North Pole, and since then, many other American submarines have done the same.

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