U.S. to restore Cold War-era base in Iceland with eye towards deploying Russia sub hunters

There is money in the 2018 defense budget to begin restoration of a Cold War-era base in Iceland as the U.S. and NATO race to respond to Russian submarine threats in the region.

Specifically, $14.4 million would be spent to refurbish hangars at Naval Air Station Keflavik to accommodate more U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft, which are used to hunt submarines.

“The move comes as new Russian nuclear and conventional submarines have been making more frequent trips through the area known as the “GIUK gap” — an acronym for Greenland, Iceland, and the United Kingdom — the route for the Russian Northern Fleet to enter the Atlantic Ocean.”

Both the U.S. and Iceland have agreed to rotate more U.S. surveillance planes through the region next year.

“Inside the alliance, there is concern over NATO’s ability to locate and track the new Russian submarines as they move silently into the open ocean. NATO officials have admitted that the past two decades of anti-piracy operations near Africa and support for ground operations in the Middle East have distracted from the anti-submarine mission which was at the core of the Cold War mission in the Atlantic.

“After allowing its naval forces to fall into disrepair in the 1990s, Russian President Vladimir Putin set out on a major military overhaul in the 2000s, clawing back capability by designing and building new diesel- and nuclear-powered boats, making them quieter, more lethal, and longer-legged than their Soviet predecessors.”

Today, the Russian submarine fleet “is in the best state it has been in since the fall of the Soviet Union,” said Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert at the Center for Naval Analyses. “A lot of effort has been spent on drilling, training, and readiness.”

During the Cold War the Soviets fielded about 400 subs, but today the Russian undersea fleet numbers only about 50. That said, today’s submarines are much more technologically advanced than older Soviet-era subs.

“This time they’re going for quality rather than quantity,” added Magnus Nordenman of the Atlantic Council. [source]

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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