Archive for March 19, 2020

ARCTIC NATION: Norway Exercise; Corona Virus; ICEX 2020; Arctic Readiness

Cold Response 2020

For the sixth time in 14 years, thousands of troops from the United States, NATO countries and Finland headed to northern Norway in early March for a massive joint exercise, Cold Response.

Between 15,000 and 16,000 service members from the United States, Norway, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Sweden are expected to participate in Cold Response 2020, said Norwegian Rear Admiral Sverre Engeness.

Anti-Armor in the Arctic

Marines fire an M41A7 Saber missile system in preparation for Exercise Cold Response 20 near Setermoen, Norway, March 3, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Devin J. Andrews)

The main aim of the exercise is to secure the Norwegian Armed Forces and allies’ ability to conduct multinational joint exercises with a high-intensity combat scenario in demanding winter conditions.

The Cold Response 2020 exercise was to take place in an area of northern Norway that stretches from the town of Narvik to the Finnmark district. The main part of the exercise will be located in the district of Troms.

Cold Response is led by the Norwegian Joint Headquarters and has been conducted biennially since 2006 – with the exception of 2018.

Cold Response 2020 map

Exercise Cold Response 2020 was slated to run from March 2 to March 28. The exercise was planned to take place primarily in the north of Norway, near Tromso. (Photo by Norwegian Ministry of Defense)

The exercise had only proceeded for two day days when something unexpected came up — the novel coronavirus, Covid-19.

The Norwegian military quarantined 1,300 personnel on a base in the northern part of the country after a case of coronavirus was confirmed among them. No one will be allowed in or out of the Skjold base in the Troms region after one person tested positive for the virus on Thursday, the Norwegian Armed Forces said in a statement. The infected person doesn’t have serious symptoms, Bloomberg News reported, March 6.

Then Stars and Stripes reported almost two dozen U.S. soldiers in Norway were in quarantine isolation after possibly encountering a Norwegian service member who tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Norwegian service member and the 23 soldiers were training at Skjold Garrison in the Troms region of Norway, the Marine Corps said in a statement. The soldiers, with the 500th Engineer Support Company, 15th Engineer Battalion, based in Grafenwoehr, Germany, have not shown any signs or symptoms of the virus and were put in isolation “as a precautionary measure,” the Marine Corps said.

Then on March 11 Norwegian Armed Forces decided to end the exercise “due to the ongoing coronavirus situation in Norway. The decision has been made in close cooperation with Norwegian civilian health authorities.”

Lieutenant General Rune Jakobsen, chief of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters, said that “By ending the exercise now, we will also avoid any unnecessary burden to the civilian health care system, for example with illness among soldiers, accidents or corona testing among personnel.”

Arctic Subs Exercise.

USS Connecticut (SSN 22) surfaces in the Arctic

The Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) surfaces in the Beaufort Sea within the Arctic Circle during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mike Demello)

Two submarines, 100 participants from five nations have pitched a temporary camp on an ice sheet in the frozen Beaufort Sea for a three-week Arctic exercise near the top of the world.

Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2020 is a biennial gathering that helps the U.S. Navy assess its operational readiness in the harsh Arctic environment. It’s also an opportunity to train with other services, partner nations and allies to maintain regional stability while improving capabilities to operate in the Arctic, according to the U.S. Navy.

ICEX 2020

USS Connecticut crew members take in their surroundings after surfacing in the Arctic Circle on March 7, 2020, during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro)

The Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) based in Bremerton, Washington, and the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Toledo (SSN 769), based in Groton, Connecticut both surfaced by cracking through the ice. The subs were scheduled to make multiple Arctic transits, a North Pole surfacing and other training evolution during the exercise.

Staying at the temporary ice camp were personnel from Britain, Canada, Japan and Norway as well as the United States.

“The Arctic is a potential strategic corridor,” between the Indo-Pacific region, Europe and the U.S. homeland, says Vice Admiral Daryl Caudle, commander of U.S. Submarine Forces.

Russian Planes on ICE(X).

An overflight of the ICEX 2020 camp by Russian spy planes bore out the admiral’s observation about the Arctic’s strategic significance.

The head of U.S. Northern Command told a congressional hearing March 11 that two Russian reconnaissance aircraft were intercepted by U.S. and Canadian fighter jets two days earlier.

Life at Ice Camp Seadragon

Partner nations flags fly over Ice Camp Seadragon during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2020.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro/Released)

Air Force General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy told lawmakers that the planes were loitering around the U.S. submarine exercise. He said the Russian aircraft loitered about 2,500 feet above a camp with an F-22 and a Canadian F-18 on their wing, Military Times reported.

Arctic Readiness.

Unlike the South China Sea and other contested areas, the U.S. Navy does not have the capability to conduct freedom-of-the-seas operations in the icebound waters of the Arctic, a key Pentagon official acknowledged recently.


U.S. Coast Guard medium ice breaker Healy in 2011. ( (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally)

With only one heavy and one medium icebreaker and no Navy ships with hulls hardened against ice, “We do have limitations in the Arctic right now,” James H. Anderson, assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities, told a congressional hearing on U.S. military readiness in the Arctic, according to the Seapower magazine website.

As we have reported previously here at 4GWAR, rising temperatures due to climate change are causing Arctic sea ice to melt, leading to rising sea levels. The dramatic sea ice decline is also opening sea lanes across a part of the world that has seldom seen heavy maritime traffic, according to the 2013 National Arctic Strategy. And that has focused the attention of governments and commercial interests across the globe on the promise of previously inaccessible riches at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, including huge untapped deposits of petroleum, natural gas and minerals like zinc, iron and rare earths.

Russia, Norway, Canada and the United States all have boosted their military presence in the Arctic at a rate not seen since the Cold War. Last year, Russia completed a large new base at Alexandra Island in the Franz Josef Land archipelago, while reopening and refitting seven former Soviet bases within the Arctic Circle. Russia also has modernized its powerful Northern Fleet. In response, the U.S. has reconstituted the 2nd Fleet, adding the North Pole to that fleet’s area of responsibility. Last October, a U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS Harry S. Truman, entered Arctic waters for the first time since 1991.

*** *** ***

USS Toledo Arrives at Ice Camp Seadragon

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Far North. The U.S. National Strategy for the Arctic Region describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests” in the region. “Those interests include national security needs, protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”



March 19, 2020 at 11:50 pm Leave a comment


March 2020


%d bloggers like this: