British troops have taken part in Exercise Vigilant Knife alongside Swedish and Finnish Armed Forces, further strengthening interoperability in anticipation of Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO. The short notice command-post exercise took place in Rovaniemi and Rovajärvi, northern Finland from 29 August to 2 September 2022 and built on the success of Exercise Vigilant Fox which took place in July. Around 80 British Army personnel from C Company, 2 Rifles Battlegroup took part in the exercise, travelling from the island of Santahamina in the south of Finland where they are undertaking a 3 month training deployment as part of a security agreement between the UK and Finland.
Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace said:” Whilst there is war in Europe, it is more important than ever to strengthen our international partnerships. We welcome Finland and Sweden’s application to join NATO and will continue to exercise together so we are ready to face shared security challenges. Exercise Vigilant Knife is an invaluable opportunity for UK personnel to develop their skills and experience of warfighting in cold weather conditions, enabling them to be effective on the battlefield alongside their Finnish and Swedish counterparts.”
Formed of over 2,000 troops, the international force practiced delivering and receiving international assistance as well as enhancing tactical and technical interoperability. As a light infantry company, British personnel provided anti-tank, sniper and reconnaissance capabilities to the exercise and were primarily involved in both offensive and defensive actions to test the readiness of the Finnish forces alongside the Swedish unit. This added to the invaluable experience that UK troops have already enjoyed whilst on deployment in Finland. Operating in northern Finland presented new challenges enabling troops to train in heavily wooded terrain. Enhancing British troops through international exercises is crucial preparation should we need to deploy alongside European partners in the future.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has signed declarations with Sweden and Finland today to reinforce their security and fortify northern Europe’s defences, in the face of renewed threats. As part of increased defence cooperation with Sweden and Finland, the Prime Minister will offer to increase deployments to the region, including with Royal Air Force, British Army and Royal Navy assets and personnel. Both Sweden and Finland have played a key role in supporting Ukraine to defend itself in recent weeks and months, while British, Swedish and Finnish forces have exercised together across the High North and the Baltics. Both nations are part of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force taskforce, which brings together 10 countries in support of stability and security in the North Atlantic, Baltic Sea Region and the High North. The assurances made today build on the already close ties of that defence grouping.