With the Cold War with Russia reheating again, the Pentagon is planning on dusting off the former air base in Keflavik, Iceland and refurbishing it to keep an eye on Russia’s new submarines.
The modernization of hangars at the Naval Air Station in Keflavik is a $14.4 million-dollar upgrade which will house more of the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance and sub-hunting aircraft.
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.
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.
Russia’s undersea 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.”
Iceland is a key component in the US and NATO’s anti-submarine efforts. The Russians have been constructing much better submarines in recent years, ditching the USSR’s policy of building a huge fleet of technological inferior platforms for much better ones. Under Putin, the Russian Navy is going for more quality over quantity.
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