Written by Piero Messina
Cold Response 2022 will be the largest exercise born since the eighties and takes place within the Arctic Circle. The exercises take place every two years. But Cold Response 2022 tastes different. About 35,000 soldiers from 28 nations will participate in this year’s maneuvers, which will take place between mid-March and early April, but above all, for the first time since the Cold War, two Carrier Strike Groups will be present (Csg) allies. The first headed by the US aircraft carrier Uss Harry Truman, which was supposed to arrive in the area of operations of the Fifth Fleet but which was held in the Mediterranean to “reassure” the allies, the second led by the British aircraft carrier Hms Prince of Wales, which in the days In recent years, he assumed command of NATO’s Maritime High Readiness Force, a naval group formed to deal with major global crisis theaters, and will maintain it for the next twelve months. The Royal Navy’s all-new aircraft carrier is the second of the Queen Elizabeth class and can operate fixed-wing aircraft represented by 24 to 36 F-35B fighters and 14 helicopters, including the Ah-64 Apache attack aircraft, with which the British Armed Forces have started training for the first time at the Bardufoss air station, Norway, in 2019.
The Italian Navy also participates in war games. The aircraft carrier Garibaldi of the Navy passed Gibraltar towards the Atlantic Ocean on 21 February last. The Italian aircraft carrier is expected in front of the Norwegian coasts where it will participate with two other aircraft carriers, HMS Prince of Wales and USS Harry S. Truman, Garibaldi will be the command unit of the Amphibious Forces during the last and delicate phase of the exercise.
Returning to the Arctic front, preparation for Cold Response 2022, led by Norway, has long started. According to NATO sources, the deployment of forces is not directly linked to the current tense situation between NATO and Russia, caused by the special military operation in Ukraine.
It is not possible, however, to exclude “a priori” that the conflict in Eastern Europe could very easily extend to the Baltic, where Moscow is in direct contact with alliance countries, and to the Arctic. The Kola Peninsula is home to major Russian military bases – including Murmansk / Polyarny – and features some of Moscow’s most powerful state-of-the-art weapon systems, including hypersonic cruise missiles. In the course of 2021 Russia carried out twelve Zircon missile launches (10 from frigates and 2 from submarines) all from Arctic seas, in a show of strength that wants to underline how the Arctic represents a bastion that Moscow considers vital and relevant to it.
The new weapon now appears ready to enter service in the Northern Fleet on Admiral Gorshkov-class frigates and fourth-generation Yasen and Yasen-M-class multirole submarines.
If launched from the Russian sector of the Barents Sea, the Zircon missiles could reach targets in the Norwegian Sea in about 10 or 15 minutes: these systems are also highly flexible being able to be launched, as well as by surface and submarine units, also from the Bastion-type mobile land launch systems – and soon also from airplanes – therefore they represent, together with the S-400 and 500 air defense systems, the fulcrum of the Russian A2 / Ad bubbles, installed in that area to prohibit NATO forces from control of the seas of Norway and Greenland.
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