UK Sets Up New Arctic Base in Northern Norway

Royal Marines
Royal Marines during exercise in Northern Norway. (Source: UK Ministry of Defence)  

The UK continues to step up its Arctic engagement and partnership with Norway in the region. A new base, Camp Viking, will be established south of Tromsø and house troops of the UK’s Littoral Response Group.

The Royal Navy announced that it had reached an agreement with Norway to establish a new operations base in North Norway around 120 kilometers south of Tromsø near the village of Øverbygd.

The facility will serve as a staging ground for Royal Marines Commandos as part of the UK’s greater engagement in the region. The new facility, called Camp Viking, will accommodate personnel from the country’s Littoral Response Group (LRG), a special unit designed to respond to emerging crises in the European theater. 

The announcement highlights the UK’s and Norway’s Arctic cooperation, going back to the Second World War when British troops were engaged in the High North. The new base has become necessary for “a modern era” according to the statement.

“The UK’s relationship with Norway cannot be under-estimated – there is a long-standing relationship between the Royal Marines and Norwegian counterparts which intensified in the early 1970s onwards when northern Norway and Svalbard were recognised as integral to the defence of NATO’s Northern Flank,” explains Klaus Dodds. 

Arctic Policy Framework

The announcement follows on the heels of the updated UK Arctic Policy Framework announced just last month. The opening of Camp Viking is significant Dodds says, as it aligns directly with the UK’s Defence Contribution in the High North (2022) and the Joint Declaration to promote bilateral strategic cooperation between the UK and Norway (2022).

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In those documents the UK stressed the importance of working more closely with allies in the European Arctic. And Norway holds a special role in this regard Dodds explained stating:

“Norway is primus inter pares” – first among equals. 

The announcement is a further signal that Norway and its NATO allies are keenly aware of deterring threats at its Northern Flank. Norway also recently signed a new bilateral defense agreement with the US.

Norwegian defense infrastructure

Further to the south at Rygge air station the US committed to spend 2 billion NOK to build fight aircraft hangars, ammunition storage and warehouses and a security fence surrounding the property. While the US will cover 100 percent of the costs, the new infrastructure will also be used by Norwegian armed forces and allies. 

"Further development of defense cooperation with our closest ally is primarily about safeguarding Norwegian interests and Norwegian security, at the same time that cooperation with the USA contributes to strengthening NATO's ability to defend Norway and Europe," explained the Norwegian defense minister Bjørn Arild Gram in a statement last week.

Long-standing UK exercises

While the size of the permanently deployed troops to Camp Viking has not been announced, this winter around 1000 commandos were dispatched to the Camp to participate in Joint Expeditionary Force and NATO exercises.

‘Camp Viking’ is the focal point for delivery of Mountain and Cold Weather Warfare training.
Major Kirk Allen, UK Commando Forces in Norway

The UK plans to occupy the camp for at least the coming decade explained Major Kirk Allen, who commands the annual winter deployment of the UK forces to Norway. 

“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, strategically placed as a Forward Operating Base to support NATO operations,” Kirk added.

The Skjold army camp, home to a large garrison of the Norwegian army, is located nearby. The Bardufoss Air Station of the Norwegian Air Force, which UK Royal Marines have trained at for decades, is also in proximity. The UK’s Commando Helicopter Forces also operate out of Bardufoss.

The proximity to the port of Sorreisa also offers opportunities for amphibious operations and provides easy access to transport personnel, vehicles and equipment to the camp.

UK officials praised the available infrastructure saying “Impressively, Norway continues to invest in the site and the capability will only increase in its potential to support Commando Forces and wider UK Defence.”

Partnership extends beyond defense

The partnership between the UK and Norway also extends beyond the security dimension, emphasizes Dodds. 

“Camp Viking is a decade long commitment and rightly recognises that the strategic environment is profoundly different following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Cold weather training has taken on a heightened significance. And it is worth remembering that Norway is the most important supplier of natural gas to the UK. It is truly a special relationship,” Dodds concludes.

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