44 US military helicopters arrive in the port of Esbjerg

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AH-64 Apache helicopter (Spc. William R. Thompson)

United States (US) Army aircraft and equipment arrived at the Danish port of Esbjerg last week. This arrival closely follows the signing of an agreement giving Esbjerg the position of a key transit port for equipment from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the redistribution of American troops in the sea area. Baltic.

The six months since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 passed last week, as the conflict rages on. Ukrainian forces have received help from allies, including NATO and its member states. Specifically, NATO coordinates Ukraine’s requests for assistance and supports Allies in delivering humanitarian and non-lethal aid, while member states send different types of military equipment.

The port of Esbjerg, on the west coast of the Jutland peninsula in southwestern Denmark, will play an increasingly important role as a strategic hub in the coming year, due to its capabilities and the fact that it is “strategically placed in the Northern Europe Region. as stated by Captain William Stroud, Public Affairs Officer, 1st Armored Division, Combat Aviation Brigade. This collaboration between the United States and Denmark, both founding members of NATO, is in fact the third joint operation of this type, in the last 14 months, demonstrating a strong partnership.

Port of Esbjerg (MEDVIND/Bent Sørensen/Port of Esbjerg press kit)

Cargo ‘Iron Eagle’

More recently, the US Army deployed the 1st Armored Division, Combat Aviation “Iron Eagle” Brigade (1AD CAB), based at Fort Bliss, Texas, to Europe, along with 44 helicopters and 1,700 pieces of equipment weighing 1,500 tons, to the support of Operation Atlantic Resolve (OAR). The lion’s share of this equipment includes the CH-47 Chinook, AH-64 Apache, UH-60 and HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. This represents half of the 90 helicopters of 1AD CAB. This is the first example of aviation units being brought through the port, demonstrating the ability of the US military to import armour, aviation and support units to Europe via Esbjerg, moving forward.

The cargo crossed the Atlantic Ocean aboard the commercial vehicle carrier vessel “ARC Endurance”, which has a gross tonnage of 72,708 tons, a length of 264 meters and a beam of 32 meters. The ship, which sails under the American flag, was in Esbjerg port from about 9 a.m. on August 22 to 1 p.m. on August 25. The successful unloading of the equipment marks the start of a Receive, Staging, and Continued Movement (RSOM) mission, during which the U.S. Army’s 21st Theater Sustainment Command will transport the aircraft and equipment to tracking locations throughout the theater, between August 22 and September 7. “Meanwhile, US Army helicopters are expected to depart from Esbjerg port and fly to nearby Esbjerg airport,” the Army’s Europe and Africa Command said. US (EUCOM) in a press release. 1 AD CAB equipment is also deployed via the port of Alexandroupoli in Greece, which could be used to reinforce NATO positions in Bulgaria and Romania.

Danish Defense Minister and a helicopter in the port of Esbjerg (Twitter @Forsvarsmin)

Logistics and military transport

The most recent escalation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which began in 2014, has had countless ripple effects on the shipping industry, ranging from diverted shipping routes and reduced shipping capacity internal to major disruptions in the global energy sector. It has, however, boosted the cargo and logistics industries of the project, as military equipment is massively mobilized by various parties, and necessary additional infrastructure is developed accordingly. Transport nodes with good existing infrastructure also tend to play larger roles.

From a logistical point of view, the port of Esbjerg was chosen as a transit point for this shipment because it has both large areas near its docks and its surroundings, developed for the handling of the components of wind turbines. Esbjerg is the largest wind power base port in the world, with a total area of ​​over 4.5 million square meters and 12.7 kilometers of quays. As such, it has sufficient capacity to temporarily store unloaded aircraft and equipment. Moreover, the Danish government was able to act in a swift and concerted manner, signing an agreement to expand the port by the end of 2023.

Esbjerg Port (Red Star Photo/ Esbjerg Port Press Kit)

Expansion of the port of Esbjerg

The aforementioned agreement approved the necessary expansion of the port of Esbjerg, to make it more suitable as a military transit port. It was signed on August 22, 2022 by Danish Minister of Defense Morten Bødskov, Minister of the Environment Lea Wermelin, Mayor of Esbjerg Jesper Frost Rasmussen, President of Port Esbjerg Søren Gade, Major General of the Danish Army Michael Hyldegaard, and U.S. Army Major General 21st Theater Sustainment Command James Smith. Indeed, this expansion will require coordination between several ministries. “Denmark must be able to receive significantly more forces and equipment from NATO in a shorter timeframe,” the Danish Ministry of Defense tweeted.

The planned construction for the port includes the deepening of the channel to a depth of 12.5 meters in a short period of time, an extension of the port’s rail terminal and the conversion of more port land space normally dedicated to wind turbines into zones military with high security requirements, in a manner that disrupts commercial traffic as little as possible. In the short term, these adjustments will be beneficial for European security, while in the long term, when the infrastructure is no longer needed for military use, it will allow the transport of larger wind turbines for wind farms in the North Sea. , enhancing the production of green energy. As stated in a 2022 report by the Danish government, “Security policy and climate policy go hand in hand. When Denmark and Europe free themselves from Russian gas, it will weaken Putin.

The signing ceremony of the agreement at the port of Esbjerg (Twitter @Forsvarsmin)

A strategic hub for NATO

In addition to suitable infrastructure, the port of Esbjerg benefits from an advantageous geographical location and is a major intermodal hub. It is accessible by the European highway E20, which crosses Denmark, Sweden, Estonia and Russia. It is also connected to the rail network and a short distance from Esbjerg airport. It is further connected to more than 25 ports in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean Sea via six regular RoRo liner services, and is an ideal short sea shipping alternative to road transport, Sweden and the countries Baltics being easily accessible. It is also close to the Danish military training ground of Oksbol. But its strategic location goes beyond logistical convenience.

A source familiar with the matter postulates that, from a military point of view, the port of Esbjerg is an advantageous location for a NATO maritime hub. Its location at the mouth of the Skagerrak strait allows the monitoring of the flow of goods entering and leaving the area, and in particular Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave separated from the rest of the country by Lithuania and Latvia. From this location, NATO forces would be able to tell if Russia is concentrating its power in the region. Moreover, Kaliningrad can be resupplied from St. Petersburg only by air or via the North Sea. If a conflict reached this region, the Baltic states and Scandinavian countries would likely deny Russia access to their airspace and the Gulf of Finland, making the North Sea their most viable option.

Map of the Suwalki Gap (User of the Wikimedia Creative Commons license: NordNordWest https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Suwalki_Gap-de-cropped.png )

Finally, with Hamburg, Germany, it is the closest substantial port to the Suwalki Gap, a 90 kilometer corridor between Kaliningrad and Belarus. If Russian aggression threatens the Baltic republic and Poland, this is the area through which NATO troops and reinforcements are likely to be sent, making it likely that Russia will try to secure it quickly and ruthlessly, before pushing southwest. As such, the port of Esbjerg, located in the relative safety of the North Sea, is an ideal place to send reinforcements to NATO, in its attempt to curb Russian aggression.

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