Cold Response 2020 OPORD

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    Cold Response 2020


    Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the Kola Peninsula and the passage from the Barents Sea to the Atlantic Sea.

    The winter exercise Cold Response will take place in Norway on the north-western corner of Europe in an area that stretches from the town of Narvik to Finnmark district in northern Norway. The central part of the exercise will be located in the district of Troms, with temperatures dropping to below minus 20 degrees Celsius in parts of the region.

    It is Norway’s most significant allied exercise, and the country’s Armed Forces have been preparing intensively for months.  For sixteen days, military men and women backed by heavy hardware will fight their way across deep snow and harsh climate conditions. For Norway, cold-weather fighting is considered a field of top expertise and the country has made Arctic operations its unique contribution to NATO.

    According to the Norwegian military, the primary purpose of the Cold Response 2020 is to conduct “multinational joint exercises with a high-intensity combat scenario in demanding winter conditions.”

    Another critical aspect of the exercise is to train the large amphibious capacities.  This means practising how to master the transition between the coast and the shore by, for example, practising attacking a target on land from ships with the assistance from amphibious assault ships and helicopters.

    Cold Response is a Norwegian-led exercise in which NATO-allies and partner nations are invited to participate. As of February 2020, forces from the USA, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Sweden – as well as Norwegian forces – are participating in the exercise.

    1. Situation

    Once ashore, the Marines will proceed toward the country’s far-northern Finnmark region to help Norwegian forces stave off Russian forces supposedly pouring across the border. From then on, the two sides will engage in — to use current Pentagon terminology — high-intensity combat operations under Arctic conditions.  The Finnmark region of Norway and adjacent Russian territory have become one of the most likely battlegrounds for the first use of nuclear weapons in any future NATO-Russian conflict.

    Because Moscow has concentrated a significant part of its nuclear retaliatory capability on the Kola Peninsula, a remote stretch of land abutting northern Norway — any US-NATO success in actual combat with Russian forces near that territory would endanger a significant part of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and so might precipitate the early use of such munitions. Even a simulated victory — the predictable result of Cold Response 2020 — will undoubtedly set Russia’s nuclear controllers on edge.

    To appreciate just how risky any NATO-Russian clash in Norway’s far north would be, consider the region’s geography and the strategic factors that have led Russia to concentrate so much military power there, and all of this, by the way, will be playing out in the context of another existential danger: climate change. The melting of the Arctic ice cap and the accelerated exploitation of Arctic resources are lending this area ever greater strategic significance.

    Once prized as a source of vital minerals, especially nickel, iron ore, and phosphates, this remote area is now the centre of extensive oil and natural gas extraction. With temperatures rising in the Arctic twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet and sea ice retreating ever farther north every year, offshore fossil-fuel exploration has become increasingly viable.

    As a result, vast reserves of oil and natural gas — the very fuels whose combustion is responsible for those rising temperatures — have been discovered beneath the Barents Sea and both countries are seeking to exploit those deposits. Norway has taken the lead, establishing at Hammerfest in Finnmark the world’s first plant above the Arctic Circle to export liquified natural gas.

    For Russia, even more, significant oil and gas prospects lie further east in the Kara and Pechora Seas and on the Yamal Peninsula, a slender extension of Siberia. Its energy companies have, in fact, already begun producing oil at the Prirazlomnoye field in the Pechora Sea and the Novoportovskoye field on that peninsula.

    Such fields hold great promise for Russia, which exhibits all the characteristics of a petro-state. Still, there’s one huge problem: The only practical way to get that output to market is via specially designed icebreaker-tankers sent through the Barents Sea past northern Norway.

    In that context, production in the Arctic has become an essential national objective, which, in turn, requires assured access to the Atlantic Ocean via the Barents Sea and Norway’s offshore waters. Think of that waterway as vital to Russia’s energy economy in the way the Strait of Hormuz, connecting the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean, is to the Saudis and other regional fossil-fuel producers.


    1. The military dimension

    1.a Enemy

    Murmansk port on the Kola Peninsula, not surprisingly then, is also the headquarters for Russia’s Northern Fleet and the site of numerous air, infantry, missile, and radar bases along with naval shipyards and nuclear reactors. In other words, it’s among the most sensitive military regions in Russia today.

    It already possessed the largest number of modern cruisers and destroyers of any Russian fleet, along with 22 attack submarines and numerous support vessels. Also in the Murmansk area are dozens of advanced MiG fighter planes and a wide assortment of anti-aircraft defence systems.

    The Russian Ground Forces have a mechanized infantry company, several helicopters, a small flotilla of boats, a support company with UAVs and air defence and a special forces section.  Of particular concern is their Spetsnaz unit as they can operate anywhere and at any time of day.

    Russian Ground Forces.
    Action shot of a Spetsnaz squad.
    Action shot of a Spetsnaz squad.

    1.b. Friendly Forces

    The British Royal Army, Bundeswehr and United States Marines will join forces during the exercise.  The British and German forces will be inserting and operating in different areas and will link up during some phases of the exercise to develop trust, skills and group work. At the same time, both armies will have all necessary equipment to complete their operations.

    Initially, the U.S.S Freedom and U.S.S Liberty will be the base of operations for Zulu-Alpha.

    The German Bundeswehr.
    The British Royal Army.
    The United States Marines.

    2. Mission

    With Immediate effect, Zulu-Alpha will execute on WARNORD set for exercise purposes and develop critical manoeuvres with allied forces to gain and hold superiority of the area.

    3. Execution

    This exercise (Cold Response 2020) will be conducted in multiple phases:

    1. Phase 1 will be a land assault from the sea with aerial support and secure a large enough area to establish a supply route for arms and equipment.
    2. Phase 2 will be amphibious assaults with waterworks and supporting roles.
    3. Phase 3 will be to a patrol through the harsh cold environment.
    4. Phase 4 will be to sabotage infrastructure to weaken enemy for an invasion by allied troops.
    5. Phase 5 will be to support the invasion of allied troops on an airfield with combined arms.

    3.a Rules of Engagement

    Zulu-Alpha is to assist friendly forces in the assault and capturing of objectives.  Any contact can be assumed hostile as the whole area has been cleared for the exercise unless otherwise specified.

    4. Administration & Logistics

    During the exercise, Zulu-Alpha will be based or different locations over the map, however, the U.S.S Freedom and U.S.S Liberty will remain in proximity to provide a source air defence systems, resupply of arms, equipment and medical assistance for Zulu-Alpha.

    5. Teaser

    6. References

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