Royal Marines test Sweden’s defences during Gothenburg exercise

Topic: Operational activityInternational partnership Storyline: 45 Commando

Royal Marines have tested Sweden’s ability to defend a strategic archipelago at the gateway to the Baltic Sea as Britain forges even closer bonds with their newest NATO ally.

The Gothenburg Archipelago sits off the coast of Sweden’s second largest city, which it takes its name from, and is in the stretch of water leading to the Baltic.

Protection of this area – and the rest of the Scandinavian nation’s 2,000-mile coastline – rests with a dedicated force: 4th Amphibious Regiment, armed with area-denial weaponry, Hellfire missiles and sea mines, and based in Gothenburg.

In theory their firepower should decimate the ranks and cause untold chaos in any invading force attempting an amphibious landing on Sweden’s shores.

Royal Marines led by Arbroath-based 45 Commando shared vital knowledge and expertise of complex amphibious raiding operations, learned how to operate in the archipelago and finally became the fearsome mock adversary charged with testing Sweden’s defences.

Exercise Borealis reached its climax with two realistic ‘raids’ as the ‘opposing’ forces went head-to-head.

The first saw 45 Commando’s X-Ray Company, with help from assault engineers and sappers from 59 Commando Royal Engineers and a specialist reconnaissance team from 30 Commando, raid Gothenburg Port to take out critical national infrastructure.

This was followed by a six-day battle in the northern area of Gothenburg Archipelago, with 45 Commando tasked with taking out defence systems to pave the way for a larger force to enter the area. 

Major Luke Norkett, in command of X-Ray Company, said: “The final scenario is highly-relevant for the Royal Marines, mirroring the likely tasking in the event of large-scale warfare, acting as an advanced force to enable follow on forces with greater mass and capital ships entry into an area of operations.

“The deployment demonstrates the high value UK places on its relationship with Sweden, understanding and operating with an important Joint Expeditionary Force partner. 

“Taking place almost immediately following Sweden’s NATO membership approval it also served to highlight NATO’s commitment to the security of the Baltic Sea.”

He continued: “The exercise provided valuable lessons for both sides; highlighting complementary, as well as areas of development, of our respective capabilities.”

For the first time, Sweden’s impressive Combat Boat 90s – armed assault craft capable of carrying 18 troops and reaching speeds of nearly 50mph – and Royal Marines small inshore raiding craft (IRC) worked together to land troops ashore.

The CB90s towed the smaller raiding craft for stealthy landings during long routes, before deploying the IRCs – which are controlled by small boat experts of 47 Commando’s 4 Assault Squadron in the final stages of an infiltration. 

Meanwhile, front-line medics – working in what is known as a pre-hospital treatment team – worked with the Swedish Hospital Group on moving casualties from the front to more comprehensive aid facilities, specifically looking at a mass-casualty scenario.

Borealis is a prelude to NATO’s biggest annual exercise in the Baltic, known as Baltops, which takes place later this month. 

Sweden is a long-standing ally of the UK and the two have operated closely for years as part of the Joint Expeditionary Force, which is a group of ten like-minded nations working together for the stability and security of northern Europe’s waterways.

Sweden became a NATO member in March, but Royal Marines were already working closely with Stockholm’s armed forces before that.

Last year, 45 Commando were involved in a national defence exercise around the capital and Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson stated then that he’d like the commandos in the country ‘next year and every year’. That is now coming to fruition.