Cold Weather Training

On the frozen slopes and lakes, along the icy waters of the fjords and in skies scarred by snow flurries, the Royal Navy and Royal Marines have demonstrated their ability to survive – and fight – in the harshest environment imaginable.

From the port of Trondheim to 100 miles from the northernmost tip of Europe, warships, Naval Air Squadrons and Royal Marines Commandos have contended with temperatures down to -30˚C as they practise the art of Arctic warfare.


As a truly global force it remains vital that the Royal Navy is able to operate and fight in every environment.

It is only by training in these extreme conditions that we can prepare our people for what might be expected of them and ensure that the routines and procedures that we use on board work.

Sister frigates HMS Iron Duke and Sutherland are taking part in Exercise Cold Response to demonstrate the ability of NATO and its partner nations to defend the alliance’s northern flank.

When operating in sub-zero temperatures there is a number of routines which sailors need to adapt to maintain their ship’s operational capability.

For the men and women, it is as simple as providing clothing that both keeps them warm and allows them to carry out their work. Rotation of personnel working on the upper-deck also becomes a key consideration.

And then there’s the equipment: greasing routines are increased with lubricants specifically designed to function in the cold, moving machinery on the upper-deck is serviced more regularly and all external water systems – such as fire hydrants and spray systems – are drained to prevent freezing.

HMS Sutherland (F81)

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HMS Iron Duke (F234)

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Location Norway

operations Cold Weather Training

The main purpose of this annual winter exercise is simple: to put the Royal Marines and Royal Navy through their paces in one of the planet’s most challenging environments. Arctic Norway is often snowbound for months at a time, and the unpredictable climate presents a number of life-threatening hazards.


For decades, the Royal Marines have been the UK’s cold weather warfare specialists.

To maintain that elite title, this year green berets of 3 Commando Brigade have been training at Harstad, more than 150 miles inside the Arctic Circle, where temperatures can reach -30˚C.

They are being trained – along with their attached Royal Naval personnel – on how to survive, move around on skis and also fight in the difficult conditions.

They must ski across the mountains while carrying weapons and 70lb bergens (large rucksacks), construct makeshift shelters from brushwood, and build fires to keep warm and cook their dinner. Food is usually chicken – which they must kill themselves – and vegetables which they are taught how to prepare with only basic equipment.

Most dreaded of all the life-saving skills taught by Mountain Leaders – the Marines’ specialists in cold-weather survival and warfare – is the ice hole drill.

Participants skiing into a hole cut in the ice – and then must clamber out with their equipment using just the two poles they use to ski.

In addition to this regular training, this year Mountain Leaders have been sharing their expertise with the United States Marine Corps, the first time a Marine infantry battalion has conducted cold weather training in Norway.

42 Commando

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539 Raiding Squadron

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Extreme Environments

In all climates, on different vessels and testing terrains… The Royal Navy’s people thrive in some of the most extraordinary environments.

On ice

There is no harsher environment to live, work and fight in. Deep snow, ice, temperatures below -30°C. But with the right training, Royal Marines take all this in their stride and thrive.

Elite Fighting

Surviving and thriving as a Royal Marine across all terrains is no easy feat. That’s why we specialise in disciplines that take us up a level – like mountain leadership, heavy weapons anti-tank, or assault engineering.

Exercise Cold Response

Cold Response 2016 is a Norwegian-led joint winter exercise held in mountains and fjords of Central Norway.

Approximately 15,000 military personnel from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the USA, the United Kingdom and Norway are participating .


The fastest way to move around Norway is not skis or even the roads, but aircraft – and the Commando Helicopter Force has deployed to the Arctic in force this winter.

Merlins from 845 Naval Air Squadron – used to carry troops and heavy loads into battle – and the new Wildcats – used for battlefield reconnaissance, intelligence gathering and overwatch – deployed to Bardufoss airbase, between Tromsø and Narvik.

It’s the first time the Commando Helicopter Force of tomorrow has been together in the Arctic.

The air base lies at the heart of a number of military ranges, allowing a wide variety of training exercises for air crew, and its position in the heart of a group of mountains means the tricky task of judging cloud, weather, winds, turbulence and visibility while carrying out a military mission can be practised close to the base.

847 Naval Air Squadron

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845 Naval Air Squadron

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International partnerships

As the fifth largest economy in the world, the UK has responsibilities towards its allies and partners. But Britain also has global ambitions – namely to protect the seaways underpinning the country’s prosperity. The Royal Navy plays a crucial role in fostering these enduring and lasting alliances with other nations.

Sharing knowledge

Sharing expertise, resources and knowledge is key to a harmonious, globalised economy. Sometimes we help and train our partners and allies. Other times we benefit from their experience. This is central to strengthening bonds between nations. 

Reassuring our allies

The global trade Britain relies on also depends on the cooperation and goodwill of others. When tensions arise, our presence helps maintain stability by reassuring the powers involved – containing situations before they develop.


Warfare Specialist

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Royal Marines Commando

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