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10 Jan 2024

Commandos head for the Arctic ahead of major NATO exercise

Commandos head for the Arctic ahead of major NATO exercise
UK MOD ' Crown copyright 2023
Royal Navy Press Release
Britain’s Commandos are heading to northern Norway ahead of NATO’s biggest Arctic exercise in a generation, as the UK underscores its commitment to security in the High North.

Elements of the UK Commando Force, including Royal Marines, Army Commandos and the Commando Helicopter Force are bound for the alliance’s northern flank.

Three months of rigorous preparations have led to this point as more than a thousand Commandos begin operating in one of the world’s most inhospitable environments, where temperatures are known to plummet to -50c and where polar nights mean the sun doesn’t ‘rise’ until the end of January.

Royal Marines established an encampment in Skjold (40 miles south of Tromsø) – known as Camp Viking – which is to be their operations hub for the next ten years as they continue to be at the tip of the Arctic spear.

The Royal Marines have a long tradition of cold weather and mountain warfare dating back to the 1940s, and continue to build on the strong bond between Norway and the UK.

The Commandos will be sharpening their ability to survive, move and fight across the tough Arctic terrain as they build up to an exercise which will test Allies’ collective ability, for the first time, to defend the Nordic regions – including Norway, Sweden and Finland – from invasion.

“The opening of Arctic trade routes and the constant threats, requires the UK to support NATO and our Scandinavian allies more than ever,” said Major Ric Cole, spokesperson for the Commando Force.

“Since World War 2 and the first use of Commandos, we have trained and operated from the fjords and inlets, pushing deep into the frozen interior. 

“The UK Commando Force remains the partner of choice for our Norwegian counterparts, and increasingly to new NATO member Finland along with Sweden, whose Special Operations Forces and Coastal Rangers will be working with the Royal Marines. 

“Together, and with US and Dutch involvement, we seek to develop a potent force capable of Defending NATO’s Arctic flank.” 

More than 20,000 NATO troops, 50 warships, submarines and other vessels and more than 110 fighter jets, helicopters and other aircraft will take part in the exercise, with the Norwegian hosts expecting participants from 14 nations.

Usually Norway hosts the bi-annual exercise. However, since Finland joined and Sweden’s expected membership to NATO, the exercise – previously called Cold Response – now encompasses the wider region and has been renamed Nordic Response.

Exercise Nordic Response will give allies the opportunity to learn how to operate across this vast and complicated environment, test new equipment and tactics, and ultimately preparing them to work and fight seamlessly alongside each other.

Before the main punch of the exercise in March, Commandos and their support units will undertake cold weather training throughout January and February – honing their survival skills, before moving onto live firing drills, integrating artillery and air strikes, before deploying over 200km inside the Arctic Circle to put it all in to practice.

Preparations for the deployment began in October when Commando Logistic Regiment arrived to ‘set up’ the winter deployment. 

Camp Viking is not a permanent base, meaning vehicles and equipment are shipped in each year from the port at Sorreisa, some 40 miles away, to set up, stores, accommodation for 1,000 people, medical centre (including pharmacy, dental and rehab facilities), a canteen with 23 chefs and 19 mechanics in the workshops keeping troops and equipment going through the long deployment. 


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