The Pentagon sent tanks, armored vehicles, and containers full of other military gear to caves in Norway. It’s all for the U.S. Marine Corps, which wants to update and expand its Scandinavian stockpile.
The Corps has stashed weapons and equipment in the Norwegian countryside since the 1980s. With this setup, Marines can fly in and be ready for a fight in no time.
In addition, the Pentagon saves money by not having to keep a large force in Norway year-round. Washington already spends billions each year running huge bases across Europe.
But in the past, Marines rushing toward the sound of gunfire might have lacked firepower. Five years ago, Humvees with machine guns and missiles were the only combat vehicles in Norwegian storage, according to tables in an official Marine Corps handbook.
In August, the military added M-1A1 Abrams tanks and a number of Assault Breacher Vehicles to the bunkers. The latter are heavily armored tracks designed to blow up minefields and push through other obstacles.
The Pentagon also added M-88 tank retrievers, amphibious assault vehicles, up-armored Humvees, and various upgraded trucks to the cache. The Corps was expected to finish moving the new materiel under the mountains by the end of the month.
The American military storehouses in Norway have all the other basic equipment a Marine Expeditionary Brigade needs to get up and running. A MEB can range in size from 14,000 to 18,000 people and includes tanks, helicopters and fighter jets.
The Pentagon began planning to update the equipment in Norway last year. But the Marine Corps probably is especially happy now to have the extra vehicles as the crisis in Ukraine smolders.
Earlier this year, Russian troops took control of Ukraine’s Crimea region. The Kremlin also is backing militant separatists fighting Kiev.
In response to all of this, Washington stepped up military exercises in Europe to help calm its friends and allies. The Marines have been heavily involved in this “European Reassurance Initiative,” now called Operation Atlantic Resolve.
Troops easily could find themselves training with these new vehicles in the near future. The Marine Corps Prepositioning Program in Norway has supplied equipment for exercises in the past.
In fact, in May American forces pulled heavy armor out of depots in Germany for a massive war game. The Army also keeps Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles ready to go for training or potential crises.
Whatever the case, Marines in Europe now have far more options — and NATO is probably happy they do.