The report ‘On Thin Ice: UK Defence in the Arctic’ says “new efforts” need to be made to “regenerate” expertise in working in the region.

Madeleine Moon MP, of the Defence Sub-Committee, said:

“The changing security environment in the Arctic and the High North is a matter of growing significance to the UK, given the strategic importance of the region and the increasing level of military activity we see. The UK has previously played a leading role in defending NATO’s Northern Flank and in maintaining maritime security in the North Atlantic.

The importance of this role is now returning to significance. The UK’s capabilities to perform these tasks still exist, but they are sustained at a low level and are in high demand elsewhere. A new level of ambition backed up by adequate resources is required to meet the developing threats we have identified.”

The report concludes:

“Military activity is rising in the region in response to this new uncertainty and its strategic importance to the UK requires the Government to react. The UK sustains a range of capabilities which could play decisive roles. The recent focus on expeditionary operations in hot weather climates has however reduced the focus on the importance of sustaining specialist capability needed to operate in the Arctic and High North. New efforts should be made to regenerate this expertise.

If the definition of a leading defence nation is one which has the ability to deploy a range of capabilities anywhere in the world, then this includes the unique operating environment of the Arctic and the High North. Being able to do so is ultimately a question of resource and a question of ambition, and we call upon the Government to show leadership in providing both.”

15 COMMENTS

  1. Parts of 3 Commando, 29 RA, parts of the CHF, used to train yearly in Norway.

    I don’t know if they still do with this regularity?

    Not aware of any Infantry Battalions doing any arctic training? It’s all been about jungles and warm terrain.

    Add to these elements of SAS SBS who will always have expertise here.

    The Mountain and Arctic Warfare Cadre became Brigade Patrol Troop.

    The army’s 1st Infantry Brigade was once dedicated to NATOs AMF Land and expected to move to the flanks most likely Norway. Long, long gone like so much already.

    Expansion would mean reversing the decline in the RM and adding more SSN.

    And with the RM being redefined more as specialist maritime operations forces with the recent re rolling of 42 Commando ( a cut in reality) I don’t see that changing.

    As for her comment about activity rising in the region, that will be those pesky Russians operating in what they see as their own back yard.

    • They do still run it but I heard they couldn’t fill it with RM this year and had to grab blokes from Catterick. No idea why.

      • Traditionally the RM do this maybe the army can designate spare infantry battalions that can be used to operate in the role?

        Briefly 1 Rifles was dedicated to 3 Commando in amphibious role so why not a battalion or two for arctic?

        • Whilst true, the story I heard was it was to fill in numbers rather than “go in place of”, which begs the question, why weren’t there enough RM? I suspect due to 42’s re-tasking.

  2. For planners expecting global warming to leave the Arctic ice free in summer, it should be noted that the North West Passage has remained blocked this year despite predictions to the contrary.

  3. Arent the Royal Irish and a light cavalry regiment (can’t remember which) preparing to deploy over land with Foxhound and Jackal to train in Norway with NATO nations. To me that seems like a step in the right direction in building up cold weather capabilities.

    • at least the foxhound can’t pile in due to the tiny radiator overheating in Norway. that’s one plus for the vehicle I suppose

  4. Yet another report highlighting something the forces are expected to do, but there won’t be an increase in funding to accomplish it. It requires a completely different force structure: instead of cruise missile platforms and lots of heavy infantry and vehicles, you need more submarines, ASW frigates, MPAs, marines and amphibious capability, all of which are capabilities that have severely atrophied over the past few decades with the early retirement or lack of replacement of the Swiftsure class boats, Type 22s, Nimrod, Ocean, and cuts to the marines.

    Everyone start praying to our lord and savior Gavin Williamson

  5. We cannot defend our own shores. We dont have enough ASW aircraft, not enough frigates, the Army is cut to the bone.
    More self delusion.

    • the ability to defend the United kingdom is the elephant in the room. nobody bloody cares in Whitehall. that should be the baseline requirement. can we defend the UK in the event of invasion? no. then how can we improve this?
      threat assessments and all that shit aren’t worth a wank. people can say it won’t happen in this day and age all they like but any good student of history will tell you, things always have a way of happening again because somebody didn’t think it possible.

  6. We also need to keep one eye on the security of the BAT, at some point someone is going to go for broke in the Antarctic and the treaty won’t be worth the paper it’s written on. Interestingly the US never signed and don’t hold anyone’s ( including ours) claims in the Antarctic as as sovereign.

  7. The UK can show greater ambition in the Arctic only by showing less ambition somewhere else, given present force structures.

  8. It’s the maritime element rather than land based commitments that is the major concern. What the Russians are doing sub-surface is always the problem. Norway, Sweden and Norway who have mutual defence pacts are perfectly capable of defending their own airspace with their combination of F16,18 and Gripens and whilst having an arctic, cold weather trained battalion or two is useful the army is too thinly spread and too thin per se, to cover all bases.
    The lack of anti-sub patrol aircraft is now being addressed but the Russians see the ‘high north’ as their domain and we do not have the resources or the political will to address this. Well done to this sub-comittee however for highlighting this blind spot which the MOD comment so rarely, or ever!

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