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Lieutenant Agonis of the US Marine Corps stands in front of a tank during the Arrow 18 exercises in Niinisalo, Kankaanpää, 9 May 2018. Arrow 18 is an annual live-fire training exercise in which partner forces test the fitness of the Finnish military.

 

US Marines withdrew tanks and weapons from storage caves in secret locations in Norway and brought them to southern Finland last month. Once there, they fired tank guns and other weaponry alongside the Finnish army as part of an annual training exercise called Arrow 18.

The drills took place from May 7 to May 18 and involved around 150 armoured vehicles and 300 other military vehicles. Only 30 marines took part, but they were joined by thousands of personnel from Finland and Norway.

According to Stars and Stripes, Arrow 18 is a “Finnish-led event in which partner nations conduct live-fire war games to certify that Finnish servicemembers – most of whom are conscripted – are capable of fighting.”

The Finnish army said that the exercise “aims at enhancing interoperability in cooperation with foreign detachments” and “involves Army helicopter measures as well as Air Force flight activities.”

US marines joined the multinational exercise for the first time “in order to increase interoperability, reassure partner nations, improve readiness and reinforce relationships,” a Marine spokesman told the Marine Corps Times.

According to Stars and Stripes, the caves contain “Marine vehicles, artillery, and enough food and ammunition for a brigade of 4,600 Marines to last in several weeks of combat.”

"All of our major equipment was drawn from the caves in Norway," tank commander Capt. Matthew Anderson told Stars and Stripes. "This exercise would not have happened without the caves. The equipment, forward-staged, allows us to conduct these exercises. Without it, it's a whole lot less likely that we would have been as successful as we were."

Business Insider Nordic claims that the Marine Corps began storing gear in Norwegian caves during the Cold War “in an effort to pre-position equipment in case of conflict.” The supplies are based in a chain of six caves in the Trondheim region of central Norway, although the exact location is not known.

The drills took place at the same time as defence ministers from Finland, Sweden and the United States met in Washington to discuss military cooperation between the three countries and the overall security policy situation.

A press release from Finland’s defence ministry said that the goal was to move towards a model of trilateral defence cooperation in the future. According to the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, the Swedish defence minister Peter Hultqvist said that the agreement aims to increase stability through a heightened US military presence in Europe.

These developments come after the Finnish government announced in early 2017 that they would increase troop numbers by 20% and add to its total defence budget in response to rising tensions with Russia.

Dan Anderson – HT

Photo: Lehtikuva / Kalle Parkkinen

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