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20 Jun 2024

Royal Marines master the Baltic coastline alongside Swedish allies

Royal Marines master the Baltic coastline alongside Swedish allies
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Royal Navy Press Release
Royal Marines sharpened their ability to operate in the complex island network leading to Sweden’s capital Stockholm as NATO showed its collective might in the Baltic Sea.

Since Finland and Sweden’s membership to the alliance, nearly all of the Baltic’s 5,000-mile coastline is safeguarded by NATO nations.

For the UK’s Commando Force this means it’s more important than ever to work closely with allies to understand the terrain and increase their tactical understanding with local armed forces.

Royal Marines from Arbroath-based 45 Commando and a boat group from Plymouth’s 4 Assault Squadron trained closely with the Swedish Coastal Rangers (Kustjägarna) of the 1st Marine Regiment, mastering tactics on the islands of Utö and Musko in the Stockholm Archipelago, which is made up of 30,000 islands, rocks and skerries fanning out 50 miles into the Baltic from the capital.

The Commandos launched missions from Berga Naval Base, the main eastern coast base of the Swedish Navy, to practise raiding operations alongside the Kustjägarna.

Major Luke Norkett, Officer in command of 45 Commando’s X-Ray Company, said: “This provided a valuable opportunity to integrate with NATO partners in a region of strategic importance. 

“For us this focused specifically on establishing a relationship with the Swedish Kustjägarna Coy, who have similar operational roles to our own. 

“The interoperability training, we conducted was highly productive, illustrating where our capabilities could be easily combined during joint actions and where more effort was required for integration. 

“The speed at which the relationship developed over a relatively short timeframe was particularly satisfying and testament to the quality of personnel in both organisations.”

It was all part of wider NATO operations across the Baltic as part of the annual major military drills, known as Baltops, in the strategically vital region, which included more than 50 ships, dozens of aircraft and 9,000 personnel from 20 nations. 

For Sweden it was the first time it was participating as a fully-fledged NATO member.

Royal Marines first worked on a live fire and tactical training exercise on Utö island, which included training in fighting in woodland forested areas, operating from fortified defensive positions and time on the ranges, including with snipers from the Kustjägarna working alongside their UK counterparts.

This progressed to sharing tactics and techniques and rehearsals for raiding missions, before taking to the impressive Swedish CB-90 assault boats – armed assault craft capable of carrying 18 troops and reaching speeds of nearly 50mph – and 4 Assault Squadron’s small raiding craft for a 48-hour exercise, which focused on manoeuvring across the islands and surveillance and reconnaissance. 

Meanwhile, 148 Commando Forward Observation Battery guided in HIMARS (rocket launchers) strikes alongside their counterparts from the US Marines’ Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, US Marines Artillery and Swedish Joint Terminal Attack Controllers. 

The Royal Navy, Royal Marines and British Army Commandos of 148 are responsible for guiding the guns of the Fleet, their own 105mm howitzers of 29 Commando Royal Artillery or HIMARS with pinpoint accuracy from forward positions.

In this instance, the Swedish, US Marine and 148 Battery’s Joint Terminal Attack Controllers – who call in live air support or use handheld air defence missiles against enemy aircraft – were deployed on a Swedish CB-90 boat from which they called in the fires.

45 Commando’s front-line medics – working in what is known as a pre-hospital treatment team – were also in action, working closely with Swedish and US counterparts, concentring on moving casualties using a CB-90 ambulance.

“Since we joined NATO three months ago, it's important for Sweden to show that we, as a nation, contribute to the security and stability in the Baltic Sea region as it is our home turf as well,” said Lt. Tobias Irebro, liaison officer with the Swedish Navy. 

“It also lets us show that we are a willing contributor as a newly-joined ally. It's also very important for the Baltic countries to exercise security and stability in the region as they depend on the sea as a main logistics asset for importing and exporting.”

All of this activity deepens UK relations with the Swedish armed forces, specifically developing an understanding of their complex coastline and what is required for raiding operations in an area of strategic importance.

It builds on 45 Commando’s work with Swedish forces in the Gothenburg Archipelago, on Sweden’s eastern coast in the gateway to the Baltic, in May.

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