Britain’s Commandos are preparing for a significant NATO exercise in the Arctic, marking the alliance’s most extensive training operation in the region in recent years. Over a thousand Commandos, encompassing various elements of the UK Commando Force, are being deployed to northern Norway. This deployment is part of a three-month-long rigorous preparation process, adapting to one of the most challenging environments on Earth, where temperatures can drop to as low as -50°C.
Camp Viking: The Operations Hub
The Royal Marines have established Camp Viking near Skjold, 40 miles south of Tromsø, which will serve as their operations base for the next decade. This camp is crucial for their ongoing role in the Arctic, continuing a tradition of cold weather and mountain warfare that dates back to the 1940s. The strong historical bond between Norway and the UK is further reinforced by this establishment.
Exercise Objectives and International Collaboration
The primary focus of the Commandos will be to enhance their survival, movement, and combat capabilities in the Arctic terrain. The upcoming exercise aims to test the collective defense capabilities of NATO allies, particularly in protecting the Nordic regions (Norway, Sweden, and Finland) from potential invasion threats. Major Ric Cole, a spokesperson for the Commando Force, emphasized the strategic importance of the Arctic trade routes and the necessity of supporting NATO and Scandinavian allies. This exercise will see collaboration between the UK, US, Dutch, Finnish, and Swedish forces, including Special Operations Forces and Coastal Rangers, highlighting an evolving international defense partnership in the region.
Scale of the Exercise
The exercise, now renamed Nordic Response (formerly Cold Response), is expected to involve more than 20,000 NATO troops, including 50 warships, submarines, over 110 aircraft, and participants from 14 nations. This expanded scope of the exercise reflects the changing geopolitical landscape, with Finland’s recent NATO membership and Sweden’s anticipated joining.
Pre-Exercise Training and Logistics
Before the main exercise in March, the Commandos will engage in extensive cold weather training, including survival skills enhancement and live firing drills integrating artillery and air strikes. The logistics of the deployment are complex, with the Commando Logistic Regiment setting up the necessary infrastructure at Camp Viking. The base, not a permanent facility, requires annual transportation of vehicles and equipment, and includes accommodation for 1,000 personnel, medical facilities, a canteen, and workshops.