US nuclear-powered submarine stops in Iceland for first time
Stars and Stripes April 27, 2023
A nuclear-powered U.S. Navy submarine briefly visited Iceland this week, after the NATO ally approved such visits for the first time amid increased Russian underwater activity in the North Atlantic.
The Los Angeles-class submarine USS San Juan stopped for supplies and personnel in waters off Iceland’s west coast on Wednesday, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet said in a statement the same day.
The submarine visit came as the top U.S. military officer in Europe told Congress on Wednesday that much of Russia’s military, notably its undersea force, had not been degraded as a result of the war in Ukraine.
“Their (submarine) patrols into the Atlantic and throughout the Atlantic are at a high level most of the time … at a higher level than we’ve seen in years,” Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli told the House Armed Services Committee.
Last week, Iceland announced that it will allow U.S. submarines to occasionally visit, with the assurance that the country and its territorial waters will remain free of nuclear weapons.
The visits would help strengthen surveillance and response capabilities by allied countries, “which ensures better situational awareness and increases the safety of underwater infrastructure such as submarine cables in the waters around Iceland,” the Icelandic Foreign Ministry said in an April 18 statement.
San Juan does not carry nuclear weapons. It’s armed with Tomahawk missiles and MK-48 torpedoes, according to Navy.mil. It has a crew of about 143 and is homeported in Groton, Conn.
The frequency of U.S. submarine visits will vary depending on need. Iceland has supported U.S. anti-submarine warfare aircraft and other allied efforts at Keflavik Air Base, the foreign ministry statement said.
Meanwhile, NATO allies also have been monitoring recent Russian activity in the air that military officials have deemed unsafe.
German and British jets intercepted three Russian warplanes flying over the Baltic Sea on Wednesday with their transponder identification signals off, the German air force said.
That followed an incident near Estonia in March, when a Russian refueling plane failed to communicate with Estonian air traffic control, The Associated Press reported.