Friday 23 February 2018

Irish troops take part in mammoth NATO Arctic Circle exercise


IRISH troops have taken part in one of the biggest NATO exercises ever mounted in the Arctic Circle involving over 16,000 troops from fifteen countries.

In an area which is becoming increasingly important with new oil and gas finds, with Russia set to claim rights to natural resources by extending its continental shelf, thousands of troops and marines, hundreds of vehicles,over 80 aircraft and two dozen ships took part in Exercise Cold Response.

Hosted by Norway it was designed to test troops and equipment in cold weather conditions while carrying out operations under a UN peace enforcement mandate.

The bulk of the troops came from the Canada, France, UK, USA, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands and included NATO nations and NATO Partnership for Peace countries, including Ireland which joined in 1999 after Dail approval.

While other countries contributed hundreds of troops, Ireland in an unpublicised move sent eight Irish Defence Forces personnel to help man the operational headquarters of the exercise in March.

They were five Army, one Naval Service and one Air Corps officer.

A Department of Defence spokeswoman said “ Partnership for Peace (PfP) is a programme of practical bilateral cooperation between individual Euro-Atlantic partner countries and NATO. It allows partners to build up an individual relationship with NATO, choosing their own priorities for cooperation.

“Ireland joined Partnership for Peace (PfP) on 1 December 1999 to enhance the Defence Force’s interoperability with other Nations forces for the purpose of engaging in peacekeeping and peace support operations. Currently 22 countries are involved in PfP, 15 of which are EU members, including the neutral states of Finland, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland.

“ Ireland’s engagement in PfP activities has helped the Defence Forces to develop more coherent and effective capabilities for the purpose of participating in UN-authorised peace support operations and allows us to benchmark our military skills against best international practice, “ she said.

The Department of Defence spokeswoman said there are currently no plans to participate in any other NATO/PfP exercise in the near future.

The exercise had a tragic outcome when a Norwegian C-130 Hercules plane taking part crashed in Sweden killing its five crew.

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