Amid increasing Russian submarine activity in the Arctic, as well as near Norwegian waters, the U.S. Navy has ramped up its own submarine and anti-submarine operations in the area. My recent article describes a possible U.S. Navy sea drone that washed up in Scotland.
In August, notes The Drive, there was “an unusually public port visit by the secretive first-in-class submarine USS Seawolf to Norway.” Now, adds the Drive, “Norway’s state broadcaster NRK was first to report on the potential rehabilitation of the Royal Norwegian Navy’s former base at Olavsvern, near the city of Tromso, for use by American submarines on Oct. 10, 2020.”
The huge, formerly secret military base, built under a mountain, is fairly modern. It was completed near the end of the Cold War, but decommissioned afterwards in 2009. It is now privately owned and operated. After numerous visits to the site, reports NRK, according to The Drive, “a lease deal allowing for U.S. naval operations to begin there could be signed within the next week.”
Olavsvern is cavernous and its facilities will provide U.S. submarines a tremendous and secure base of operations for patrols in the Barents Sea and the Arctic.
The Drive describes these impressive facilities:
Olavsvern would not only offer an actual physical facility for American submarines to operate from in this strategic part of the world, but a robust one with 32,000 square feet of deep-water docking space, including a full dry dock for maintenance, underneath the mountain.
A 3,000-foot-long entrance tunnel, with a large blast door at the front, leads in and out of these berths. The entire base, some areas of which are nearly 900 feet underground, covers some 270,000 square feet, in total, and includes barracks, storage, and maintenance facilities above and below the surface.
Norwegian naval base Olavsvern. As of 2015, the base is leased by Russian research vessels pic.twitter.com/a0O4Vitukh
— Capt(N) (@Capt_Navy) June 17, 2017
It is unclear how long it might take for the U.S. Navy to begin operations, or what improvements the base might need, or even if U.S. submarines will fit inside the cave base, or will dock outside, using the internal facilities for personnel berthing, operations and storage. But Pentagon officials, and the U.S. Navy, appear excited by the prospects.
“The U.S. and Norway have a great relationship, and our ability to use facilities in and around Tromso would provide a strategic location for our visits,” a U.S. defense official told Breaking Defense in September, reports The Drive. “It would give us flexibility for not only the U.S. but allied countries to exercise in the High North.”
This wouldn’t be the first cave facility used by U.S. forces in Norway though. The U.S. Marine Corps still has prepositioned vehicles and other equipment for its rapid deployment forces stored in another underground bunker complex near the city of Trondheim.