The biggest unit participating is the Norwegian Brigade North, which is reinforced with British and American forces and has nearly 5 000 soldiers and officers. During Monday and Tuesday, the Brigade will come up to full strength in its starting location in Haparanda. The Norwegian Combat Service Support Battalion has had the challenging task of moving an entire brigade from Norway to Sweden.
Three times round the Equator
– This is a massive logistics operation, which we've been working on since December last year. We started the planning work immediately after the end of Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE. We've been doing the actual transport and movement work for about a month. First, two weeks of road movements mainly to Narvik where most trains were loaded with vehicles and equipment, then two weeks of transportation by train and road here to Haparanda. The entire operation involved 17 trains, 59 vehicle convoys and 75 bus loads. All in all, the Battalion has driven about 130 000 kilometres, which corresponds to about three times round the equator, says Lieutenant Colonel Stein Grongstad, Commanding Officer of the Combat Service Support Battalion.
Challenging free play exercise
The idea of two brigades getting to practice their tactics against each other in a free play exercise, without pre-determined combat engagements, combined with a combat simulator system, also gives the exercise an added dimension.
– The exercise is almost fully instrumented, which means that nearly 5 000 soldiers, vehicles and other units will register hits and effects via sensors in combat vests and modems. This in turn means that the outcome of all engagements can be followed up all the way. We can see the consequences of all the decisions taken, both bad and good. Commanders and units will learn a great deal and a lot of experience will be gained, explains Johan Skiöld.
"The Battle of Eastern Norrbotten"
The two brigades are now carrying out their final preparations and finalising their plans ahead of the coming combat that begins on Wednesday, 20 March. The two brigade commanders met on Sunday and shook hands before the "Battle of Eastern Norrbotten".
– It's great for us to exercise in our actual wartime terrain and take on an equally high-tech opponent. In addition, we get to exercise in a large area that gives us the opportunity to manoeuvre our units over a large area of inaccessible winter terrain," says Colonel Mats Ludvig, Commander of the Swedish brigade, which is reinforced with a Finnish battalion battlegroup.
The Norwegian Brigade Commander, Lars Lervik, is also looking forward to the exercise start.
– This will be very exciting for us. We will be exercising in an area that we've never been to before; that in itself is a big challenge. In addition, we have never had British and American units so closely integrated in our units. We are really looking forward to an interesting exercise, says Brigadier General Lervik.