The US Navy goes into hiding as NATO intensifies its focus on its northern border with Russia


U.S. Navy personnel deliver an Expeditionary Medical Facility to a cave system in Arch Bay, Norway, on September 25, 2021 US Navy

  • The US Navy stationed a mobile hospital in a cave system in Norway in October.

  • The US Navy and Marine Corps have used Norway’s caves to store weapons and equipment for decades.

  • This deployment comes amid tensions with Russia that have led NATO to step up its activities in Norway.

The US Navy built a new facility in a cave system in northern Norway in October to reflect the increased focus of the US and its NATO allies on the Alliance’s northern borders with Russia.

This month the US Navy announced that Naval Forces Europe and the US Navy Expeditionary Medical Support Command had delivered an Expeditionary Medical Facility into a cave system near Arch Bay in northern Norway, about 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

EMFs have many of the same capabilities as a modern hospital and, according to Lt. Cmdr can be used for a short time. Michael Lucas, director of operations for the U.S. Navy Expeditionary Medical Support Command.

Norwegian caves are “an excellent storage solution” that allows for quick stowage and deployment of the EMF, and civil engineering support equipment already in them will aid the EMF, Lucas said in a press release.

Marine hospital cave in Norway

U.S. Navy personnel stow equipment for a medical expedition station in Bow Bay, Norway, Sept. 25, 2021. US Navy

The 150-bed mobile hospital can operate in Norway’s caves or be relocated to another European country for an emergency.

It comprises 20 intensive care beds, 130 acute beds, four operating theaters, an emergency room and a laboratory. It can also do X-ray and CT scans and hold 300 units of blood.

The facility brings enhanced medical capability to Northern Europe that “provides more opportunities to develop joint processes and procedures with NATO allies and partners in the region,” the Navy said in the press release.

Lt. Col. Anthony Skrypek, NAVEUR’s medical planner, said the project lasted three years and the move enabled training on medical and logistical processes in the Arctic, “which will improve interoperability with NATO allies and partners.”

Lieutenant General Yngve Odlo, the commander of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters, described the operation as a “clear demonstration” of the US commitment to Norway and Europe.

Cave of a marine hospital in Norway

Equipment for an Expeditionary Medical Facility stowed in Bogen Bay, Norway, on September 25, 2021. US Navy

To move the components of the facility from Blount Island Command in Florida to the caves in Norway, 195 containers and 165 construction support devices were required.

The move itself took about a month, but the time it takes to move it to another location in Europe depends on where it needs to go and what it needs to do, US Naval Forces Europe Insider told in an E -Mail with.

The US Navy had previously stationed two 500-bed fleet hospitals in Bogen Bay. These facilities were used during the Gulf War and again during the invasion of Iraq, and were then sent back to the US for repair. (EMFs replaced fleet hospitals in 2007).

The US Marine Corps has been storing equipment in caves in Norway since the early 1980s. Much of this was withdrawn for the Iraq war, but these stocks were later rebuilt and have supported exercises across Europe in recent years.

The redesign of the Corps’ armed forces likely means that some heavy equipment stored in these caves will be decommissioned. The corps also recently announced that it would reduce the number of rotations that it has carried out in Norway since 2017.

Marine Corps Norway cave

The entrances to the Bjugn cave complex in Norway with some withdrawn equipment being brought to Estonia for an exercise, June 30, 1997. Department of Defense

However, other moves suggest the US will be spending more time in Norway.

The U.S. Navy and Air Force presence there has increased in recent months, including port calls and a historic deployment of B-1B bombers earlier this year. U.S. Navy commanders also trained to sail in fjords during the exchange with the Norwegian Navy.

A contract signed this spring will allow the US to build facilities at Norwegian bases, including Evenes Airfield and Ramsund Naval Base, both of which are located near Arch Bay.

The activity comes amid heightened tensions with Russia. Russia’s military activity in the Arctic has worried Norway and its NATO allies, who have stepped up their own activities in this increasingly accessible region.

A Russian invasion of northern Norway is considered unlikely, but the EMF deployment is part of the response to what US officials are calling strategic competition in the region and around the world.

“In this era of great power competition, distributing our capabilities around the world reduces risk,” said Rear Adm. Michael Curran, director of readiness and logistics for US Naval Forces Europe, in the press release.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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