Britain's Royal Navy completes Cold Response 22 exercise in reaction to Russian aggression

More than 3,000 sailors and Royal Marines stationed deep inside Arctic Circle for largest military exercise since Cold War

A Merlin Mk4 practises vertical load lifting with a British warship, as part of Exercise Cold Response in northern Norway. Photo: UK Ministry of Defence

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Britain's Royal Navy has completed Cold Response 2022, its biggest military exercise since the Cold War and a signal of intent after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

More than 3,000 sailors and Royal Marines were deployed deep inside the Arctic Circle to demonstrate the UK’s commitment to safeguarding Europe’s northern flank against any aggressor.

They joined more than 27,000 personnel, warships, armour and air power from more than two dozen Nato allies and partners for Cold Response 2022, the largest military exercise hosted in Norway since the Cold War.

Britain’s biggest warship, HMS Prince of Wales, led the naval fleet, demonstrating the ability to act as a Nato command ship – a role the vessel will hold for the rest of 2022.

This was the first time one of the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers has been so far north, with more than 1,000 sailors gaining their first experience of operating in the Arctic.

Royal Navy sailors pushed the boundaries of what the 65,000-tonne ship can do, as the crew developed new ways of working and coping with temperatures as low as minus 30°C.

“As we continue to operate in and around the Arctic with our allies and partners, the sailors on HMS Prince of Wales are continuing to learn the skills and build the experience that allow the Royal Navy to push the boundaries of UK carrier operations in the cold, harsh environment,” said the warship's commanding officer Cpt Steve Higham.

Over the two-week exercise, the ship worked side-by-side with a breadth of British and allied air power from F-35B Lightning stealth fighters to the Americans’ unique Osprey MV22 tilt-rotor aircraft and Sea Stallion helicopters.

The exercise – on top of several months of preparatory training in the UK and Arctic – allowed the Royal Navy to demonstrate some of its capabilities, from launching commando raids from submarines to operating a fifth-generation aircraft carrier in sub-zero conditions for the first time.

'HMS Prince of Wales' setting off from Portsmouth on the south coast of the UK to take part in Cold Response 22. PA

“Exercise Cold Response 22 has been an outstanding demonstration of not only our integration with Nato partners, but also the seamless ability of Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Fleet Auxiliary units to work together,” said Lt Cdr Tom Nason of the 845 NAS Detachment.

As the exercise reached its climax, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace visited personnel on the ground and aboard HMS Prince of Wales to thank them for their efforts. He reaffirmed the UK’s long-term commitment to security in the region and regular deployments of Royal Navy and Royal Marine assets to the far north.

“I congratulate all those personnel from across the services who have achieved so much in the Arctic over recent weeks," he said.

"Having visited the exercise myself I can testify to the challenging conditions and their utmost professionalism and good humour in maintaining operations throughout.”

Updated: April 12, 2022, 10:58 AM