First-of-a-kind, at least in public: A Norwegian flag on top of the ballistic missile launch hatches of a US strategic submarine showing off its nuclear deterrence capabilities outside Norway. Photo: Commander, Submarine Forces

Norwegians embark US nuke submarine in a rare flex of force

It is not often you see a US ballistic missile submarine at surface in the Norwegian Sea. Even more rare is photos made public of Norwegian military and politicians flexing nuclear weapons jointly together with the United States Strategic Command.
July 10, 2024


The submarine is USS Tennessee (SSBN 734), an Ohio-class ballistic missile carrier. Under the hatches are 20 Trident II missiles with up to 12 nuclear warheads each. The submarine is together with its 13 sister vessels the most frightening weapon of mass destruction operated by the United States.

Norway, a founding member of NATO, has all since 1949 precluded the stationing of any nuclear weapons on its territory or in its ports. This as a pre-emptive measure of assurance towards the Soviet Union, later Russia.

The submarine popped up outside the west coast of Norway on June 23 in what appears to have been a carefully, long-time planned show of force.

Although the surfacing nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine appeared well outside Norwegian territorial sea, it was accompanied by a E-6B Mercury strategic communication plane which landed at Rygge airport south of Oslo.


The E-6B Mercury strategic communication plane landed at Rygge and was met by a group of Norwegian officials. Photo: Commander, Submarine Forces


The plane provides for communication between the submarine and the US nuclear strategic command.


At Rygge, US commanders welcomed onboard and gave a brief to Norwegian military officers, as well as personnel from the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Among them was state secretary Eivind Vad Petersson.

The aircraft “flew to Norway as part of an engagement program with key NATO allies and partners” … and “accompanied the USS Tennessee (SSBN 734) to the Norwegian Sea as it conducted operations in European theater, and provides communications with U.S. Navy ballistic missile submarines and other strategic forces,” the Commander of the US Submarine Forces wrote in a short post on Facebook after the visit.


The E-6B Mercury plane flew over the USS Tennessee when visited by Norwegian navy and ministry officials west of Ålesund. A P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance plane where also flying low (in front) over the submarine. Photo: Commander, Submarine Forces


“They had an important meeting onboard the USS Tennessee,” the Norwegian Armed Forces writes on X following Navy Commander Trond Gimmingsrud’s visit onboard the submarine. Together with a representative from the Norwegian Ministry of Defence, he met with Robert Gaucher, commander of the US Naval Submarine Forces, Submarine Force Atlantic.

The Ministry in Oslo has not replied to questions from the Barents Observer in regard to content of the meeting.

The US Submarine Forces says in another Facebook post that “the intent of the visit is to strengthen cooperation between the United States and Norway and demonstrate U.S. capability, readiness, flexibility.”

The US navy has posted several photos from inside the submarine when visited by the Norwegians. 


Chief of the Norwegian Navy, Trond Gimmingsrud (left), onboard the USS Tennessee somewhere outside the coast of Ålesund on the northwest coast of Norway. Photo: Commander, Submarine Forces


US ballistic missile submarines are normally not surfacing and showing off like the episode in late June outside Norway. The subs are built to patrol in secret and can be submerged for months. Their exact locations are never known to outsiders, but waters in the North Atlantic, normally south of Iceland, is believed to be important.

Military analytical publication The WarZone links the show off of an American ballistic missile submarine outside Norway to the first-of-a-kind visit to Havana, Cuba, by the Russian Northern Fleet nuclear submarine Kazan in mid-June. 

The Kazan’s visit to Cuba was a clear signalling, and so is the USS Tennessee outside Norway, the online magazine says. 

The Russian Yasen-M class multi-purpose submarine is nowadays likely back in the North Sea area, and is expected to sail into the Baltic Sea soon to join the Main Naval Parade in St. Petersburg on July 28.

As previously reported by the Barents Observer, six warships from the Northern Fleet, including three submarines, will join the Naval Parade. In early August, the Russian navy is expected to conduct a naval exercise somewhere in the waters around the Scandinavian peninsula. 


The Norwegian and US navy commanders flew out to the warship USS Normandy from where they went over to the USS Tennessee. Photo: Commander, Submarine forces




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