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Royal Marines practice rescuing downed aircrew

UK Royal Marines have been practicing rescuing pilots shot down behind enemy lines in the barren landscape of Iceland alongside their American counterparts.

Fresh from NATO exercise Cold Response 22, the commandos remained in the high north and joined US Marines and the Icelandic Coast Guard in training to recover downed aircrew as part of Exercise Northern Viking 2022.

Lima Company from 42 Commando based at Bickleigh near Plymouth embarked in assault ship USS Arlington from where they flew into Iceland in Super Stallion helicopters (double the weight of the commandos’ Merlins and capable of carrying more than twice as many troops) to recover stranded personnel, ‘fighting’ shoulder-to-shoulder with their American counterparts.

The exercise is aimed at demonstrating the collective ability of allied nations to defend not just the land of fire and ice, but also the sea lanes across the Greenland-Iceland-UK ‘gaps’ in the North Atlantic, with individual phases focusing on operations as varied as amphibious landings, search and rescue, and delivering humanitarian aid.

“Conducting these exercises in Iceland proves the wider utility of our winter warfare training that we conduct in Norway,” said 23-year-old Lieutenant Sam Gorton, 42 Commando. “And Northern Viking has been a great opportunity to deepen our strong relationships with our US Marine Corps cousins.

“We aspire to conduct Joint Personnel Recovery training in every challenging environment, from the jungle to the urban, and after a full winter’s training in Norway and now Iceland we can confidently contribute to the Royal Navy’s presence in the Arctic.”

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