Royal Marines Viking vehicle in Norway
Royal Marines

Vikings And Skijoring: Royal Marines Commandos In The Arctic Circle

Hundreds of Royal Marines have been deployed to the north of Norway, ensuring they are ready to operate in the harshest of conditions.

Royal Marines Viking vehicle in Norway

Royal Marines from Taunton-based 40 Commando have been refining their battle technique in the Arctic Circle by training with their Viking all-terrain vehicles.

Hundreds of Royal Marines have deployed to the north of Norway since the start of the year, ensuring they are ready to operate in one of the coldest climates on earth.

Climate change has altered the landscape in the Arctic, with new shipping routes, natural gases and minerals being revealed.

It is why the Scandinavians are worried about Russia’s intentions in the region.

 

Last year, it was announced the Royal Marines will integrate into the Norwegian Defence Plan and instead of simply training in Norway, they will be working with the Norwegians.

"It will be an interesting challenge," says Major Jim Lawson, Officer Commanding, Charlie Company, 40 Commando.

"It'll be the first time, I think, a number of us have worked in close cooperation with the Norwegians.

Maj Lawson continued: "Obviously, we come to their country and train.

"Traditionally we've done that largely on our own so actually embedding our ourself into one of their brigades.

"Understanding how all of our equipment and communication devices, how all that works together - it's going to be a great opportunity to really test ourselves and be part of their battlegroup."

It is all part of the new Arctic strategy, Royal Navy submarines will spend more time under the ice, from 2020 the UK will begin using the new P8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

For the Royal Marines deployed to Norway, Arctic warfare training is taking longer than expected due to the weather conditions, with temperatures reaching lows of -30°c.

Arctic training in Norway 040319 CREDIT BFBS
40 Commando using 'skijoring' to move.

Five weeks into their Arctic warfare training, Charlie Company have progressed from the basic survival course.

Around 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle, they are now working at integrating with their Vikings, live fire tactical training, as well as getting to grips with a mode of transport called 'skijoring' - a means of quickly transporting Marines over good ground.

Captain Roger King, Charlie Company's Second-In-Command told Forces News: "[It's] all so we can be proficient soldiers when we move on to Exercise Northern Wind, which we're working alongside NATO partners and allies as part of our collective defence."

Viking all-terrain vehicles used in Arctic training.
The Viking all-terrain vehicles used in the Royal Marines' Arctic training.

Not everyone in Norway is an Arctic veteran and for some, it is their first time on skis.

Marine Ben Rowland says they have all tried skijoring during their novices course: "You could use that if you needed to get to a position where the ground was fairly good and you had a shorter amount of time to get there and you needed to dismount to go an assault a position," he says.

"You could use that as a really quick way of transport."

Royal Marines Arctic training Norway

40 Commando has personnel in the desert and jungle but the Arctic Circle is seen as the toughest environment to operate in.

During the next ten years, 1,000 Royal Marines are committed to the Arctic deployment - ensuring they are prepared in the event they are required to protect the northern flank.

It is expected the near future will see the two allies begin to look in-depth at exactly how they would defend Norway.

"I think that's all part of the bigger plan," says Maj Lawson.

Royal Marines Arctic training Norway

"At this early stage we're probably not quite into that but clearly understanding the Norwegian defence plan and how the Royal Marines fit into that is all part of it.

"Certainly, in the next ten years as we progress through this plan, you'll see greater depth, a greater understanding as to how the Royal Marines would potentially come forward and support our NATO ally if they needed us to defend their country."

Royal Marines Arctic training Norway

In March, 7,000 NATO troops will descend on Sweden.

The Scandinavians will try to protect their land while the UK, the US and the Norwegians will act as a large enemy force from the East to see just how well their borders are protected. 

The lessons from that taken forward to next year when the bigger UK Arctic exercise, cold response begins.