Preparing for a Very Cold War

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In March, over 16,000 soldiers from 16 countries traveled to the Arctic Circle to participate in Exercise Cold Response. Led by the Norwegian Armed Forces, this series of  "high-intensity" combat operations emphasizes "extreme cold-weather" training in Norway's wintry weather, with temperatures dropping as low -13 degrees Fahrenheit. Among the participating countries were the United States, France, Britain, Germany, and France, among others. These joint-training exercises have been conducted since 2006, training that includes tanks, airplanes, helicopters, ships and submarines, live-fire exercises, night patrols, and intensely realistic medical evacuation drills.

The Norwegian Armed Forces website warns attendees to take special precautions to keep warm, recommending woolen, wind-resistant mittens, as well as cautioning to keep an eye out for moose and reindeer. But you can't practice for war without taking risks, and the training conducted in Exercise Cold Response is dangerous. And though the "focus on safety and preventing accidents is high," there have been "a couple of serious accidents ... through the years. These accidents have in total claimed seven lives, two in a tank accident in 2006 and five in a plane crash in 2012."

For upwards of two weeks, these soldiers train together in the sleet, slush, and snow. As commander of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters, Lt. Gen. Morten Haga Lunde, head of Exercise Cold Response, reportedly said: "If a soldier can operate under extreme Arctic conditions, he can operate anywhere." 

In the photo above, Norwegian soldiers work closely with soldiers from the French 27th Mountain Infantry Battalion during Exercise Cold Response.

Audun Braastad, Norwegian Armed Forces

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A Swedish squad marches on a foot patrol alongside a Swedish CV90 infantry fighting vehicle.

Lars Magne Hovtun, Norwegian Armed Forces 

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Many of the world's best Special Forces also participate in Exercise Cold Response, like these members of the Norwegian Naval Special Operations Command.

Torbjørn Kjosvold, Norwegian Armed Forces

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The Norwegian Air Force's 339 Squadron trains in this challenging terrain by practicing flying its Bell 412 helicopters.

Lars Magne Hovtun, Norwegian Armed Forces

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A Norwegian fighter pilot takes a selfie in an air "battle" during Exercise Cold Response.

Norwegian Air Force

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In Western countries, military exercises normally are conducted inside restricted military areas. Exercise Cold Response, however, often stages among civilian populations in an area about the size of Belgium. Above, a tank from the Norwegian Telemark Battalion readies for battle on the busiest main road in northern Norway while civilians drive the same route.

Anette Ask, Norwegian Armed Forces

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A Norwegian coastal ranger enjoys the spectacular northern lights during Exercise Cold Response in northern Norway.

Morten Opedal, Norwegian Navy

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When using gas masks and protective suits, modern soldiers can operate in all kinds of polluted environments; they're able to protect themselves against chemical, biological, and radioactive weapons.

Ole-Sverre Haugli, Norwegian Armed Forces

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An amphibious landing craft from the Dutch navy disembarks troops at the idyllic village of Sørreisa in northern Norway.

Ole-Sverre Haugli, Norwegian Armed Forces

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Dutch marines charge out of an amphibious landing craft. They have deployed from the much larger HNLMS Rotterdam, farther offshore in the fjord.

Ole-Sverre Haugli, Norwegian Armed Forces

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A Norwegian soldier uses a laser pointer to mark where his explosive-detection dog should search.

Simen Rudi, Norwegian Armed Forces

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A Norwegian coastal ranger scouts for enemy activity from a hidden observation post.

Torbjørn Kjosvold, Norwegian Armed Forces

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Under the cover of twilight, a coastal ranger patrol approaches the beach unseen.

Torbjørn Kjosvold, Norwegian Armed Forces

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