NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—The Defense Department currently sustains an impressive amount of military capability in the Arctic region through its fourth and fifth generation aircraft and there is plenty more to come as U.S. allies in the region receive and field their F-35 fighters, a DoD official said on Monday.

In Alaska, there are now 54 F-35s and combine that with the F-22 that is the “largest concentration” of fifth and fourth generation aircraft, said Iris Ferguson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Arctic and Global Resilience.

Once Finland and Canada receive their F-35s to go with the fifth-generation fighters already in use by Denmark and Norway and combine those with the U.S. Air Force fleet in Alaska, “that’s about 230-plus F-35s,” she said. “That’s amazing. There’s no higher concentration of F-35s in the world now than the Arctic region.”

There is a “clear alignment” on objectives in the Arctic between the U.S. and its allies, Ferguson said.

Ferguson was speaking as part of a panel on Arctic strategy during the Navy League’s annual Sea-Air-Space Symposium here. She was responding to a question from Rebecca Pincus, director of Wilson Center’s Polar Institute, who moderated the discussion and asked how the U.S. and Canada can work with their allies on common objectives and capacity needs in the region.

As Arctic ice melts, there is increasing human activity in the region including for science, commerce, and military purposes. The U.S. is concerned about the regional intentions of Russia, which has extensive coastline in the Arctic and more bases in the region than NATO, due to that country’s increasing militarization in the area and threats to control certain trade roues. Russia also exercises with China in the region.

In addition to a strong contingent of fighter aircraft, the U.S. Navy also brings capabilities to the Arctic. Vice Adm. William Houston, commander of Naval Submarine Forces, highlighted annual exercises the service does with allies in the high-latitudes as well off the coast of Alaska, submarine operations, and the ICE-X and ARC-X exercises where the Navy sets up ice camps with partner nations that also aids in developing interoperability.

The U.S. Coast Guard typically sends its medium icebreaker Healy into the Arctic once a year to conduct science missions, exercises, enforcement of laws and treaties and to show presence. The Coast Guard also participates on the Arctic forum with other nation’s coast guards.

Canada’s navy is building six new Arctic offshore patrol vessels that will operate through the summer navigation season, Vice Adm. Angus Topshee, commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, told attendees.

“And that’s done to make sure that we can demonstrate that consistent presence in the region,” Topshee said.

Canada’s coast guard, like the U.S. Coast Guard, is also building new heavy polar icebreakers that will be able to operate throughout the Arctic, “even at the height of winter,” he said.

The U.S. Defense Department recently said it plans to update its 2019 Arctic strategy, which will take into consideration various other U.S. strategic documents dealing with the Arctic since then, Ferguson said. Her office was established in September 2022, demonstrating the importance of a strengthened policy focus for DoD on the Arctic.

“We will be looking very closely at what kind of capabilities we need, what kind of domain awareness assets that we might need, how we can work collectively with the joint force so that it’s not siloed in individual services,” she said. “A lot of these assets are joint assets, quite frankly. It’s also really closely working with our allies and partners and understanding what specifically we can work on together.”