Cold Response 2022: 35,000 Soldiers from 26 Countries in Northern Military Exercise

Cold Response 2020.

Marines and KV Bison in joint training during Cold Response 2020. Here, they practice boarding vessels. (Photo: Emil Wenaas Larsen/Norwegian Armed Forces)

“This will be the largest Norwegian-led exercise conducted in Norway since the 1980s”, says Spokesperson at the Norwegian Joint Operations Headquarters Preben Aursand. The majority of activities will take place in Northern Norway.

Cold Response is a Norwegian-led winter exercise taking place every other year with NATO allied and partner countries involved. This year’s large-scale edition will take place late March and early April. A total of 23 NATO countries, out of 30 members in total, have confirmed their participation. As have the partner countries Finland and Sweden. In addition, large parts of the overall Norwegian defense will be at work over the next couple of months.

“The majority of the exercise activities will take place in Northern Norway. Activities in the south will mainly be training before moving forces and logistics, i.e. the receiving of allied forces and personell”, says Aursand at the Joint Operations Headquarters to High North News.

Preben Aursand.

Preben Aursand, talsperson for Forsvarets operative hovedkvarter. (Foto: Brynjar Stordal / Forsvaret).

Spokesperson Preben Aursand at the Norwegian Joint Operations Headquarters. (Photo: Brynjar Stordal, Norwegian Armed Forces)

In the northern parts of the country, exercises will take place between Bodø and Porsangermoen, primarily between Nordkjosbotn and Narvik, both along the E6 inland main road as well as by the coast.

“All activities east of Tromsø will take place with smaller units”, he says.

Large dimensions

Participation in Cold Response thus equals the size of military exercises under Norwegian leadership dating 40 years back in time. It is also more than twice as large as Cold Response 2020, with its 16,000 soldiers from ten countries. The 2020 edition was also cut short half-way through, due do the Corona pandemic.

The scale nevertheless does not beat the Trident Juncture 2018 NATO exercise, which Norway hosted that year. Then, there were 50,000 soldiers from 31 alliance and partner countries participating. Trident Juncture thus still holds the record as the largest military exercise on Norwegian territory since the 1980s, however, then it was under joint NATO command.

The exercise took place in Central and East Norway, however, it also involved exercise operations up north towards Tromsø and Alta.

Why has Cold Response 2022 turned out so big?

“We invite this exercise mainly within a NATO framework, and the size of it all depends on the interest from our allied and partners. In addition, other exercise activity is included in Cold Response”, Aursand replies.

He points out how coordination is more cost-effective when it comes to operative effects. And the more participants, the better co-training within the alliance. Cold Response is, in concrete terms, an umbrella exercise for the Brilliant Jump certification exercise for NATO’s quick reaction force, the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force. This exercise commences in Southern Norway in January.

The USA and Great Britain

“The USA and Great Britain will account for the largest part of the allied forces”, he says.

A part of Norway’s defense concept is facilitating reception of allied resources if and when a crisis were to emerge.


Spokesperson Preben Aursand at the Joint Operations Headquarters

The British carrier HMS Prince of Wales will participate in the exercise, the Royal Navy announced in an 11 January press release. The American carrier USS Harry S. Truman is also expected for the exercise, with support vessels, according to Norwegian daily VG on the same day. This fleet group exercised in northern waters during Trident Juncture 2018.

The USS Harry S. Truman is currently in the eastern parts of the Mediterranean, escorted by the Norwegian frigate KNM Fridtjof Nansen. The vessels are part of an American-led assurance to NATO countries in the region in light of the Ukraine conflict. This fragile situation is probably the reason why Aursand is unable today to confirm to High North News that the carrier will attend Cold Response 2022.

Dynamic participation figures

While the interest in participation in Cold Response 2022 is impressive, the number of participating countries and soldiers will be dynamic all the way until the exercise commences in March, Aursand stresses. 45,000 soldiers were originally expected for the exercise, according to a Nordlys article in January 2021.

“These figures are changing all the way up to the exercise for natural reasons. They are related to national priorities and the various countries’ budgets. Many factors matter here, including Corona restrictions and the current security policy situation”, he says.

The Armed Forces take a series of measures to minimize infection risk during the exercise and cooperates closely with civilian health authorities and local authorities where activities will take place.

“Norwegian authorities take the pandemic seriously and have presented a series of demands to their allies before we even can receive personnel. All participants should be fully vaccinated or have recently been ill with Covid-19. This may also affect figures along the way”, Aursand elaborates.

Uss Harry S. Truman under øvelse Trident Juncture 2018.

USS Harry S. Truman during the Trident Juncture 2018 exercise. (Photo: Oda Linnea Brekke Iden, Norwegian Armed Forces)

Arctic winter competence

“The Armed Forces are already facilitating coursing and certification of allied personnel to handle climate here up north”, Aursand says and continues:

“This is very important, and a part of Norway’s Total Defense concept, including facilitating reception of allied forces if and when a crisis were to emerge.”

According to him, a particular feature of Cold Response 2022 is that it aims particular at practicing amphibia operations, also known as landing operations. These exercises combine sea, air and land forces.

“In this exercise, there is more focus on sea and air defense than what has previously been the case. Under allied reinforcement of Norway, sea and airways  are key for landing forces. Managing the transitions between the areas of sea, air and land are crucial”, he describes.

The exercise will altogether include 14,000 land forces, 13,000 sea forces on vessels, as well as 8,000 air forces and staff, according to the Armed Forces. Norway has informed about the large-scale exercise and invited observers from all member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSSE), including Russia.

With this, Norway adheres to rules of the Vienna Document, an agreement between OSCE countries about confidence-building measures in the military area.

The article has been updated after new information about Swedish participation.

Facts about Cold Response 2022

  • Cold Response is a Norwegian-led series of military exercises organized every other year with NATO allied and partner countries. The 2022 edition will take place in March and April under the command of the Joint Operation Headquarters in Bodø.
  • 35,000 soldiers from 26 countries (including Norway) will participate. This will thus be the largest Norwegian-led exercise on Norwegian territory since the 1980s. Trident Juncture 2018 was nevertheless the largest exercise in Norwegian territory since the 1980s, though under joint NATO command.
  • The 23 NATO countries sending forces to the exercise are the USA, Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Germany, Spain, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia. In addition, the partner countries Finland and Sweden will participate.
  • Allied forces have arrived in Norway ever since the fall of 2021 to train and prepare before the exercise.
  • The exercise will take place in Northern, Central and Southeasten Norway, with emphasis in the North. In the North, the exercise will play out from Bodø to Porsangermoen.

Sources: The Norwegian Armed Forces and NATO

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This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.