Commandos confront ever-evolving threats on Arctic training

Royal Marines Commandos are confronting the challenges posed by ever-evolving threats through demanding training missions in the Arctic Circle.

Battling limited daylight and temperatures as low as -30C, more than a thousand commandos are testing new kit and themselves in the dramatic landscape of the Arctic.

The Green Berets are mastering Arctic survival, movement and combat skills ahead of challenging winter exercises alongside NATO allies and partner nations, which will involve more than 15,000 troops.

Royal Navy ships are also soon moving north for the Norwegian-led exercises, called Cold Response 2020, later this month and into March.

During the exercise, commandos will use their cold weather skills to carry out amphibious raids from the assembled task group of ships off the rugged Norwegian coastline.

They will work in small teams designed to covertly disrupt enemy infrastructure and their ability to fight.

This is all part of amphibious combat training, in which Royal Marines will focus on their ability to attack coastlines incisively with devastating consequences to any potential foe.

“As we’ve seen in recent conflicts, confronting an adversary with access to modern technology means that commando forces have to deal with new challenges,” Major Jonathon Boucher Royal Marines said.

“They could have the ability to deny our communications and navigation systems. As a result, our commando forces need to be able to operate autonomously, insert at range and deal the enemy a bloody nose before quickly blending back into the environment.

 

Our commando forces need to be able to operate autonomously, insert at range and deal the enemy a bloody nose before quickly blending back into the environment.

Major Jonathon Boucher

“Ironically, utilising technology to dominate the battlespace means that commando forces need to firstly master the ‘analogue’ skills of soldiering before tackling the digital – in the modern battlefield, a map and compass is still an essential skill when GPS systems can quickly be denied or disrupted. 

“The transition to a Future Commando Force ensures that we remain at the cutting edge of warfare while firmly re-establishing our commando roots.

“As our time in Norway has shown, our ability to operate in any environment, in inhospitable terrain, makes us a complicated problem for our most professional of adversaries.”

Among those deployed to the high north are 45 Commando, the elite mountain and cold weather warfare specialists based in Arbroath, Scotland, who are held at high readiness to deploy anywhere in the world.

45 Commando are a potent force in the UK’s arsenal and are trained in operating in extreme climates around the world, from the searing temperatures of the deserts to the extreme humidity of the jungles of Belize.

This latest deployment is a statement of the UK’s commitment to the high north region in the face of increasing strategic competition.

Winter deployments to Norway have been commonplace since the Cold War, but 2020’s exercise will see land, sea and air capabilities work together to test the UK’s relationship with regional allies.

The changes to the way commandos operate is reminiscent of Churchill’s deadly strike and raiding groups of the Second World War, which were raised in response to the Nazi occupation of Norway.

These raiding groups have now been re-imagined to combat new threats on the modern battlefield.

The frozen Arctic landscape is the ideal proving ground to test these tactics, known as the Future Commando Force concept.