Text Captain Saminna van den Bulk
Photo Sergeant Jasper Verolme
‘Show what we can do’
While we in the Netherlands are eagerly awaiting spring, thousands of soldiers literally braved wind and weather in northern Norway in recent weeks. Maritime colleagues from different countries practiced operating in extreme conditions under arctic conditions. Joint Viking delivered spectacular images!
Get the Murinians out of Norway. That’s the motto during Joint Viking, in which Norway tests its national defense plans. A classic scenario, where enemy neighbor ‘Murinus’ invades the Scandinavian country.
Thousands of soldiers from Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States and Sweden, among others, come to the aid of the invaded country. The pursuit during the Norway-led exercise? Confine hostilities to a small area on land and prevent the conflict from spreading further.
Naval vessels Zr.Ms. Rotterdam, Zr.Ms. Karel Doorman, Zr.Ms. Schiedam and Zr.Ms. From Amstel to the northernmost tip of Norway. In addition to the ships and marines of 1 Marine Combat Group from Doorn, the Dutch participation consisted of two Cougar transport helicopters, an NH90 maritime attack helicopter and medical personnel.
Before the Norwegian exercise Joint Viking the ships took part in the English exercise Joint Warrior in which activating the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) was central: a partnership of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, Iceland and Sweden.
The JEF takes action when the participating countries deem it necessary. Unlike NATO, this does not require a consensus and the countries are not obliged to participate in a deployment. The task group is led by the Dutch Commander Jeanette Morang. The commander is with her staff on Zr.Ms. Rotterdam and controls twelve of the forty participating ships, including embarked helicopters and landing units.
Highest spectrum of violence
Like Joint Warrior is also Norwegian-led Joint Viking an exercise within the highest part of the spectrum of violence, in which the focus is on the defense of Norwegian territory. The participating countries are intertwined at all levels. The Dutch marines go ashore with British colleagues and encounter Norwegian infantrymen who push the enemy back from the south to the north. The two Cougars of 300 Squadron of the Air Force are used for medical evacuations, transport of marines and reconnaissance flights.
“Only by practicing together can you build up and maintain the knowledge and experience that this requires. That is why we practice a lot and not only in our own waters, but all over the world. Norway offers us the opportunity here to train our units under extremely challenging conditions,” explains Commander Morang.
After all, nothing is as changeable as the weather. Operating under arctic conditions entails the necessary challenges. So were the ships in the run-up to Joint Viking forced to shelter in a fjord from a storm, during which wave heights of ten meters were reached.
Meteorology and Oceanography
Lieutenant-ter-zee 2 Floris Laagland was right in the middle of it as an expert in the field of Meteorology and Oceanography. “For Dutch standards it may be extreme, but for these regions these are normal weather conditions.”
The invasion of Ukraine has once again made it clear why people should be prepared. NATO partner Norway borders Russia; the northern shipping route is the road from Russia to the Atlantic Ocean and Europe. Moreover, the area is rich in various raw materials. The strategic importance is great.
The large amphibious training is therefore not only a good chance to get used to each other, but also a form of deterrence. “With this we show what we can do and that we are united,” emphasizes Morang. “On the other hand, the exercise is also a bit of reassurance for the Norwegians. They are well aware that they are in a strategic location on the northern flank. By training together we show that we stand side by side with them.”