Large-scale U.S. military exercises held as Russia re-opens Arctic naval base
An Army rapid deployment force will practice securing the Pentagon’s strategic missile defenses base in Alaska this week as part of annual exercises involving both conventional and nuclear forces.
Defense officials said an Army Quick Reaction Force (QRF) of 55 airborne troops, along with weapons and vehicles, will parachute into Fort Greely, Alaska, on Thursday as part of exercises called Vigilant Shield.
The QRF, made up of highly-trained, extremely mobile forces, will quickly unpack vehicles and arms and move to set up a security perimeter around the Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) field at the base—all within minutes of hitting the ground, said officials familiar with some details of the exercise. The exercises will continue through Oct. 28.
The Pentagon has deployed 26 long-range interceptors at Fort Greely and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The interceptors are a key element of the military’s limited U.S. strategic defenses against long-range missile attacks, anticipated principally from North Korea.
Military spokesman declined to reveal the scenarios for the exercises citing “operational security” fears.
The U.S. military exercises, however, follow a large-scale increase in Russian strategic nuclear bomber flights near both Alaska and California.
And the war games, involving deployment of hundreds of Canadian troops, are also being held as Russia announced last month it is reopening a Soviet-era naval base in the Arctic far-northern New Siberian Islands. Six Russian warships, including two landing ships, departed for the island with troops and supplies on Sept. 6.
The Siberian island base is about 1,000 miles from the Alaskan coast and is part of a major push by Moscow to build up its military forces throughout in the resource-rich Arctic region.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, a former Alaskan Air Command commander, said the U.S. exercises are not limited to missile defenses and appear to be a response to recent large-scale Russian nuclear exercises and bomber activity.
“Northcom is exercising its forces to demonstrate its ability to defend not only our GBI Missile site but to also show that the Alaskan Command has force projection capabilities to operate anywhere in the Alaskan NORAD Region to defend important nuclear warning sites in the Aleutian Island chain, as well as mainland Alaska,” McInerney said.
“This clearly is in response to the extensive Russian nuclear exercises that have been conducted recently and is a welcome sign that this administration has not completely disarmed our nuclear deterrent readiness,” he added.
Canada’s government recently has voiced concerns about Russian strategic bomber incursions.
The Washington Free Beacon reported Sept. 8 that Russian strategic bombers conducted practical nuclear cruise missile attacks from areas near northeast Canada.
Concurrently with Vigilant Shield, the U.S. Strategic Command on Monday launched large-scale nuclear war games called Global Thunder designed primarily to test nuclear command and control, along with other command military operations involving space, cyberspace, missile defense, combating weapons of mass destruction, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, the command said in a statement.
Full article: Army Rapid Deployment Force to Secure U.S. Missile Defense Field in War Games (Washington Free Beacon)