The UK Commando Helicopter Force has completed its annual Arctic warfare training during Operation Clockwork in Norway.
The helicopter force is made up of Merlin and Wildcat aircraft, which deploy every winter to the High North, to prove they can support the Royal Marines – the UK's cold weather warfare specialists – alongside Norwegian forces and other Nato allies, in the event of an emergency.
Operation Clockwork is a chance for new pilots and crew to learn to live, fly, and maintain their aircraft in temperatures as low as -30°C by day or night.
"Operating helicopters from an ice and snow-covered landscape with the temperature dipping to the low -20°s is challenging for all squadron personnel," said Lieutenant Paul Smalley, Training Officer of 847 Naval Air Squadron which operates the battlefield Wildcat.
"Pilots need regular exposure to what we call the 'degraded visual environment' presented by the snow-covered landscape in Norway in order to maintain the skills required to operate their helicopter in the harshest of environments."
Wildcat helicopters are used in reconnaissance, moving marines and kit around the battlefield, calling in close air support, during artillery and naval gunfire strikes, and also for gathering intelligence.
To successfully complete the deployment, aircrew must perfect a series of assessments covering mountain flying, cross-country navigation, and flying in pairs.
The Merlin helicopters had to be fitted with 'onesies' to guard against extreme weather in the harsh environment.
Three troop-carrying Merlin helicopters of 845 Naval Air Squadron and four battlefield Wildcats from 847 NAS flew in from an epic 1,800-mile journey from Somerset to reach the training hub deep inside the Arctic Circle.
This comes after Britain's commandos 'outgrew' their previous site and opened a new Arctic operations base for the next 10 years.
Camp Viking in the north of Norway will act as a hub for Royal Marines as they perform their duties as the tip of the Arctic spear – the unit Britain turns to when it needs troops able to fight in extreme cold.