Britain already leads the Joint Expeditionary Force, a quick reaction maritime task force intended to complement the work of Nato, which includes Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden – five of which are official Arctic states.
The Royal Marines deploy annually to Northern Norway for winter training and we were pleased to learn that the UK has increased the scale and frequency of cold-weather training and exercises in the High North.
In March 2023, the UK established a new Arctic operations base in Camp Viking in Northern Norway to serve as a hub for Royal Marines Commandos.131 The Minister told us that the number of UK personnel with recent experience of operating in Arctic conditions “will be higher now than at any point since the early 1990s”
In the maritime sphere however, Russia is making investments that the UK cannot match.
Russia already operates deep-diving mini submarines that can work at extreme depths. larger mothership vessels which act as a host both for these deep-diving mini subs and, potentially, a range of unmanned underwater vehicles and surface vessels that can be used for maritime sabotage, such as the Admiral Vladimirsky, which is officially classed as an oceanographic research vessel.
Under last year’s Maritime Doctrine, it aims to develop a new fleet of Arctic-capable surface vessels, port and coastal infrastructure, and deploy autonomous sensor stations and unmanned underwater vehicles.
While Britain has launched two new Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance (MROS) vessels, these are operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
The report concludes: “The Royal Navy has only one ice-capable patrol ship, and the Royal Air Force’s fleet of maritime patrol aircraft may be insufficient to maintain a constant presence in the High North alongside a long-term deployment to the Indo-Pacific and protection of the nuclear deterrent.
We are concerned that high aspirations worldwide without a clear sense of how the Arctic fits into the UK’s wider global priorities could lead to overstretch. “
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