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U.S. builds up Arctic intelligence network

The United States Intelligence Community´s member agencies are focusing on the Arctic.

As Russia is boosting its military presence in the Arctic, U.S. intelligence agencies are scrambling to study potential threats in the north, using both Canadian and Norwegian resources.

Over the last 14 months, most of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have assigned analysts to work full time on the Arctic, Los Angeles Times writes.

In addition to analyzing data from U.S. satellites and navy sensors in Arctic waters, the analysts process intelligence from a recently modernized Canadian listening post near the North Pole, and from the Norwegian surveillance vessel “Marjata”, the paper writes.

The U.S. intelligence focus is mainly aimed at Russia´s military buildup in the Arctic. As BarentsObserver has reported, Russia has announced plans to reopen several Soviet-era military bases and airfields along the northern Russian coast and on islands in the area.

Canadian cold war-era listening post
Canada has according to Los Angeles Times refurbished a listening post called CFS Alert at the northern tip of Ellesmere Island, some 800 kilometers from the North Pole. The listening post was once part of the Distant Early Warning line, a system of radar stations that watched for incoming Russian bombers or missiles, but has now become important in monitoring the situation in the Arctic. The station tries to intercept Russian aircraft and submarine communications and other signals intelligence, and the data is shared with U.S. intelligence agencies, the paper writes.

New intelligence vessel for Norway
Norway also cooperates closely with U.S. intelligence agencies, Los Angeles Times writes, and points to “Marjata”, the Norwegian Intelligence Service (NIS) vessel patrolling the Barents Sea since 1995.

In 2016, NIS will get a brand new intelligence vessel. The ship will, like its four predecessors, be called “Marjata”, and will be he world’s most advanced of its kind. 


The new “Marjata” spotted outside Williamsburg, Virginia. Photo from aldrimer.no

“Its task will be to systematically map all military and some civilian activity in areas close to Norway. When we have a complete picture, we can determine what the normal activity looks like. Then it will be easier to discover deviations from the norm. That is what we should discover. That is why we’re there,” Head of NIS General Lieutenant Kjell Grandhagen said in connection with the christening of the new “Marjata” in December 2014. “The vessel has a considerable better sensor capacity than its predecessor; it is larger and much faster. Together this will give us a better overview than before,”

The new intelligence vessel has for several months been staying at U.S. Naval Weapons Station Yorktown in Virginia for installment of new equipment and systems, Los Angeles Times reports.

It is still unknown where the new “Marjata” will have her homeport. Norway´s current intelligence vessel makes port calls to Kirkenes near the border to Russia.