Blog written by ADS Defence Policy Advisor, Reg Pula. 

The Ministry of Defence released the long-awaited Defence Arctic Strategy, titled ‘The UK’s Defence Contribution in the High North’, which ADS, as the premier defence trade association, welcomed.  

As the new strategy recognises, melting sea ice due to global climate change is creating a range of new challenges for the UK’s national security, with both Russia and China seeking to benefit from environmental shifts that have made the High North region more accessible for both civil and military purposes. As such, though the Arctic has long been an area of global cooperation, the strategy recognises that these environmental impacts are contributing to increased competition. 

The new strategy reaffirms that the UK is prepared to protect its Critical National Infrastructure and other interests; defend its Arctic Allies and respond to aggression; ensure its freedom to navigate and operate across the region; reinforce the rules-based international systems, particularly UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea); and contest malign and destabilising behaviours and activity in the region which threaten UK interests, the safety of the inhabitants of the Arctic, and the stability of the region.  

To deliver these objectives, the MoD will: 

  1. Improve its understanding of the region, how it is changing, and the activities of state and non-state actors within it. This will include the collection, processing, analysis, exploitation, and dissemination of underwater, abovewater and space environmental data. 
  2. Work with regional Allies and partners, including through NATO, the Northern Group, and the Joint Expeditionary Force, aligning policy, activity, and capability where possible and across all domains. In particular, the UK will advocate for NATO to take a more proactive approach to the High North, acknowledging the leadership and expertise of the five Arctic Allies, building on the success of Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE and the COLD RESPONSE series of exercises. 
  3. Maintain a coherent Defence posture, presence, and profile in the region, including training, partnering, and operating from and in the Arctic. This will include maintaining a periodic Royal Navy presence in the High North, alongside Arctic Allies and partners; continued Typhoon exercises and air policing operations, along with air mobility and rotary wing support; investing in a new generation of Anti-Submarine Warfare frigates with a focus on deep interoperability with allies; establishing a standing response force built around the Littoral Response Group (North); and seeking opportunities for P-8A Maritime Patrol Aircraft and F35 Lightening II deployments within the region. 
  4. Develop sustainable, modernised, and proportionate Defence capability for the region, including through investment in Research and Development. This includes developing Commando Forces and Joint Helicopter Command cold weather warfare interoperability with allies; examining options to bolster cold weather capability to ensure that Arctic-appropriate equipment and infrastructure are all developed and maintained; deploying the purpose-built Ice Patrol Ship HMS Protector, and the new Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance capability; continued cold weather training for the Army; deploying three E7 Wedgetail aircraft and the Protector RG Mk1 to further support the UK’s enhanced situational awareness in the region; and investing in regional-relevant R&D. 

For any queries or further information, please contact Reg Pula, Defence Policy Adviser, at