Morgan Artyukhina . Sputnik International
The US Navy wants to lease an abandoned Norwegian cave base on the edge of the Barents Sea to run submarine patrols on Russia’s doorstep, according to a recent report.
Norwegian public broadcasting outlet NRK reported on October 10 that Oslo and Washington could ink a deal for the US Navy to use the Olavsvern naval base, located near the northerly city of Tromsø, before the week is out.
The Norwegians started building the base in the Balsfjorden inlet in the 1960s, but it wasn’t completed until after the Cold War was over, and was subsequently sold to one private owner after another. However, with the United States once again looking to turn up the heat on Moscow, Washington has shown interest in putting the base to use.
NRK noted the facility is presently controlled by a group of Tromsø stakeholders, the most prominent of which is the city’s mayor, Gunnar Wilhelmsen, but another company, WilNor Governmental Services, could take over at the end of the year. According to NRK, the US’ potential deal is with WilNor.
Norwegian Minister of Defense Frank Bakke-Jensen told NRK the Norwegian Armed Forces have also considered using Olavsvern for storage.
The cavernous facility, dug out of solid rock underneath a mountain, has a variety of valuable facilities for US Navy submarines. The facility includes 270,000 square feet of space, including 32,000 square feet of deep-water docking space, a dry dock and other maintenance facilities, a barracks, storage areas and of course, nearly 900 feet of solid rock above, to protect it from any attack, according to The Drive.
At present, the Navy is forced to bring aboard supplies and personnel by small watercraft in the nearby Malangen fjord. The US Navy’s secretive USS Seawolf nuclear attack submarine was spotted in August paying a visit to the fjord. Observers were puzzled by the sub’s appearance, as it was far from its normal base in the Pacific and is believed to contain a slew of sensitive monitoring equipment, but many concluded it was intended as a public signal to Russia.
Sputnik reported at the time on the renewed interest shown by Washington in the icy Barents Sea, a span of cold water between Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, Novaya Zemlya and the northernmost parts of Scandinavia. When NATO warships sailed there in May 2020, it was the first time in 40 years for a western warship.
Norway isn’t the only country with naval bases nestled inside mountains like some kind of James Bond villain hideout: China’s Yulin Naval Base sits on southern Hainan Island, opening up to the South China Sea, and Sweden built a base for submarines and destroyers at Muskö, on the Baltic Sea, that it recently reactivated. The Soviet Union had a cave base, too: the Balaklava facility in Crimea, which is now a museum.