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New Arctic operations base for UK commandos

8 March 2023
A new Arctic operations base will support Britain’s commandos for the next ten years as the UK underscores its commitment to security in the High North.

Newly-established Camp Viking in northern Norway will serve as the hub for Royal Marines Commandos as they continue to be the tip of the Arctic spear, the unit the UK turns to when it needs troops able to fight in cold weather extremes.

The UK has an Arctic warfare heritage going back to the Second World War but, with the re-emergence of the High North as a key theatre, the commandos needed new facilities for a modern era.

The new purpose-built Camp Viking – located in the village of Øverbygd, about 40 miles south of Tromsø – can accommodate all personnel from the UK’s Littoral Response Group (LRG), the commando-led Royal Marines force which reacts to emerging crises in Europe.

The camp is strategically located next to a Norwegian Armed Forces base and near to the established air base at Bardufoss where the Commando Helicopter Force operates. The Commando Helicopter Force is the specialist aviation support for Royal Marines.

The camp’s location is ideal for deterring threats in the region and situated so the UK can respond rapidly if needed to protect NATO’s northern flank and its close ally, Norway.

Around 1,000 commandos have deployed to Camp Viking this winter as they exercise alongside Joint Expeditionary Force and NATO allies across the unforgiving environment. The commandos deploy annually to Norway for winter training.

Major Kirk Allen, Officer Commanding of the Winter Deployment, said: “As the UK Commando Forces’ ‘home’ in the High North for the next decade, ‘Camp Viking’ is the focal point for delivery of Mountain and Cold Weather Warfare training and, is strategically placed as a Forward Operating Base to support NATO operations. 

“Its use supports Littoral Response Group regional persistent engagement with key allies and partners as a collective conventional deterrent to adversaries. 

“Capable of logistically sustaining an LRG of Royal Marines, sailors and soldiers, the location has great local training areas, is close to Sorreisa port for amphibious operations and can support the personnel, vehicles and equipment with its first-class facilities. 

“Impressively, Norway continue to invest in the site and the capability will only increase in its potential to support Commando Forces and wider UK Defence.”

This year’s winter deployment sharpens commandos’ Arctic warfare skills – surviving, moving and fighting – building up to Exercise Joint Viking, which is part of the wider Exercise JEF Warrior, which sees UK personnel working closely with Norwegian and other partner forces this month.

At its heart Joint Viking is designed to demonstrate how Norway would defend itself in harsh winter conditions and its ability to operate efficiently with allies. 

Joint Viking is part of the regular cycle of exercises in Norway, which takes place in between the large-scale Exercise Cold/Nordic Response.

As commandos began their work on Exercise Joint Viking, Commandant General Royal Marines, General Gwyn Jenkins, paid a visit to Camp Viking and the air station at Bardufoss to speak to deployed personnel.

Gen Jenkins, alongside Corps Regimental Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer First Class Nick Ollive, briefed troops as they headed onto the tactical phase of their Cold Weather Warfare Course, and went crossing country skiing with members of the Commando Logistic Regiment and Camp Viking.

“I came to Norway for the first time 30 years ago as part of the Commando Logistic Regiment,” said Gen Jenkins. 

“To come back and see the contemporary marines, commandos, sailors and soldiers operating in such an exciting, challenging environment as Norway, is a real personal thrill for me.”

Gen Jenkins also met with King Harald V of Norway – who is an honorary Royal Marines officer – and gave an update of the Corps’ activity in the country.

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