Arctic/Antarctic

Royal Navy Leads Multi-National Task Group Into High North

Royal Air Force Typhoons were part of the task group and flew in the High North for the first time.

For the first time in more than 20 years, the Royal Navy has led a multi-national task group of warships and aircraft into the High North.

HMS Sutherland, supported by RFA Tidespring, commanded a task group made up of the US Navy destroyer USS Ross and Norwegian frigate Thor Heyerdahl on a deployment to the Barents Sea.

The operation was set up to demonstrate freedom of navigation above the Arctic Circle and the nations' commitment to upholding peace in the region, according to the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

The region is considered a key area of interest for the UK as rising temperatures begin to melt sea ice - making the area, rich in natural resources, increasingly accessible.

The MOD said the High North is witnessing a "change in its security environment" and recent Russian attempts to control freedom of access and navigation in the region are a "concern" for the UK and its allies.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "The UK is the closest neighbour to the Arctic states.

"In addition to preserving UK interests we have a responsibility to support our Arctic allies such as Norway to preserve the security and stability of the region.

"It is vital to preserve freedom of navigation when melting ice caps are creating new shipping lanes and increasing the risk of states looking to militarise and monopolise international borders."

More than 1,200 military personnel from the UK, US, Denmark and Norway took part in the deployment.

An RAF Typhoon flies over HMS Sutherland in the High North - it was the first time the UK has operated Typhoons in the region (Picture: Ministry of Defence).

They were supported by US P-8 Poseidon and Danish Challenger Maritime Patrol Aircraft, along with RAF Typhoons and an RAF Voyager refuelling tanker.

It was the first time the RAF has operated Typhoons in the High North and also the first time the first time the UK has operated so far north alongside Denmark and Norway, both of whom are also part of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF).

RAF aircraft also conducted an air defence exercise to improve integration between air and maritime forces.

HMS Sutherland led the ships through a demanding series of exercises, testing their abilities to conduct surface and anti-submarine warfare in one of the world’s most challenging environments. 

Routine tasks such as replenishment at sea were also practised.

Task Group Commander and Commanding Officer of HMS Sutherland, Commander Tom Weaver, said the operation had been "thoroughly rewarding". 

Cover image: Picture taken from HMS Sutherland showing USS Destroyer Ross on the right and RFA Tidespring on the left in the far distance (Picture: MOD).