Arctic warfare
Arctic warfare or winter warfare is a term used to describe armed conflict that takes place in an exceptionally cold weather, usually in snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

y and icy terrain, sometimes on ice-covered bodies of water. One must note the distinction between alpine and Arctic warfare - Arctic war does not always take place in mountainous terrain, and mountain warfare does not always take place in the cold.


Most winter battles have taken place in northern and eastern Europe.

In 1242, the Teutonic Order lost the Battle of the Ice
Battle of the Ice
The Battle of the Ice , also known as the Battle of Lake Peipus , was a battle between the Republic of Novgorod and the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Knights on April 5, 1242, at Lake Peipus...

 on Lake Peipus
Lake Peipus
Lake Peipus, ) is the biggest transboundary lake in Europe on the border between Estonia and Russia.The lake is the fifth largest in Europe after Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega in Russia north of St...

 to Novgorod. In 1520, the decisive Battle of Bogesund
Battle of Bogesund
The Battle of Bogesund was an important conflict in the campaign of Christian II to gain power over Sweden. In 1520, Christian's army of mercenaries had landed in Sweden, seeking to consolidate Christian's powers over Sweden within the Kalmar Union and to unseat the rebellious Swedish viceroy Sten...

 between Sweden and Denmark occurred on the ice of lake Åsunden
Åsunden (Västergötland)
Åsunden is a lake in Västergötland, Sweden....


Sweden and Denmark fought several wars during the 16th and 17th centuries. As a great deal of Denmark consists of islands, it was usually safe from invasion, but in January 1658, most of the Danish waters froze. Charles X Gustav of Sweden
Charles X Gustav of Sweden
Charles X Gustav also Carl Gustav, was King of Sweden from 1654 until his death. He was the son of John Casimir, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken-Kleeburg and Catherine of Sweden. After his father's death he also succeeded him as Pfalzgraf. He was married to Hedwig Eleonora of Holstein-Gottorp, who...

 led his army across the ice of the Belts
March across the Belts
The March across the Belts was a campaign between 30 January and 8 February 1658 during the Second Northern War where Swedish king Karl X Gustav led the Swedish army from Jutland across the ice of the Little Belt and the Great Belt to reach Zealand...

 to besiege Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

. The war ended with the treaty of Roskilde
Treaty of Roskilde
The Treaty of Roskilde was concluded on 26 February or 8 March 1658 during the Second Northern War between Frederick III of Denmark–Norway and Charles X Gustav of Sweden in the Danish city of Roskilde...

, a treaty very favourable to the Swedish.

During the Great Northern War
Great Northern War
The Great Northern War was a conflict in which a coalition led by the Tsardom of Russia successfully contested the supremacy of the Swedish Empire in northern Central Europe and Eastern Europe. The initial leaders of the anti-Swedish alliance were Peter I the Great of Russia, Frederick IV of...

, Swedish king Charles XII set off to invade Moscow, but was eventually defeated at the battle of Poltava
Battle of Poltava
The Battle of Poltava on 27 June 1709 was the decisive victory of Peter I of Russia over the Swedish forces under Field Marshal Carl Gustav Rehnskiöld in one of the battles of the Great Northern War. It is widely believed to have been the beginning of Sweden's decline as a Great Power; the...

 after being weakened by cold weather and scorched earth
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

 tactics. Sweden suffered more casualties during the same war as Carl Gustaf Armfeldt
Carl Gustaf Armfeldt
Carl Gustaf Armfeldt was a Swedish officer, general and friherre who took part in the Great Northern War....

 with 6000 men tried to invade Trondheim
Trondheim , historically, Nidaros and Trondhjem, is a city and municipality in Sør-Trøndelag county, Norway. With a population of 173,486, it is the third most populous municipality and city in the country, although the fourth largest metropolitan area. It is the administrative centre of...

, and 3000 of them died in a blizzard on a snowy mountain named Öjfjället.

During the Finnish War
Finnish War
The Finnish War was fought between Sweden and the Russian Empire from February 1808 to September 1809. As a result of the war, the eastern third of Sweden was established as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland within the Russian Empire...

, the Russian army unexpectedly crossed the frozen Gulf of Bothnia
Gulf of Bothnia
The Gulf of Bothnia is the northernmost arm of the Baltic Sea. It is situated between Finland's west coast and Sweden's east coast. In the south of the gulf lie the Åland Islands, between the Sea of Åland and the Archipelago Sea.-Name:...

 from Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 to the Åland Islands
Åland Islands
The Åland Islands form an archipelago in the Baltic Sea. They are situated at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia and form an autonomous, demilitarised, monolingually Swedish-speaking region of Finland...

 and, by 19 March 1809, reached the Swedish shore within 70 km from the Swedish capital, Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

. This daring manoeuvre decided the outcome of the war.

Another famous example is the use of ski troops by the Finnish Army
Finnish Army
The Finnish Army is the land forces branch of the Finnish Defence Forces.Today's Army is divided into six branches: the infantry , field artillery, anti-aircraft artillery, engineers, signals, and materiel troops.-History of the Finnish Army:Between 1809 and 1917 Finland was an autonomous part of...

 during the Winter War
Winter War
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

 and the subsequent Continuation War
Continuation War
The Continuation War was the second of two wars fought between Finland and the Soviet Union during World War II.At the time of the war, the Finnish side used the name to make clear its perceived relationship to the preceding Winter War...

, where the numerically dominant Soviet forces had a hard time fighting mobile ski soldiers.

In Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 in 1941, both Russian and German soldiers had to endure terrible conditions during the Russian winter
Russian Winter
The Russian Winter is a common explanation for military failures of invaders in Russia. Common nicknames are General Frost, General Winter and General Snow. Another was "General Mud"....

. The German-Finnish joint offensive against Murmansk (Operation Silver Fox) in 1941 saw heavy fighting in the Arctic environment. Subsequently the Petsamo-Kirkenes Operation
Petsamo-Kirkenes Operation
The Petsamo–Kirkenes Offensive was a major military offensive during World War II, mounted by the Red Army against the Wehrmacht in 1944 in northern Finland and Norway. The offensive defeated the Wehrmachts forces in the Arctic, driving them back into Norway, and was called the "Tenth Shock" by...

 conducted by the Red Army against the Wehrmacht in 1944 in northern Finland and Norway drove the Germans out of there. In the Lapland War
Lapland War
The Lapland War were the hostilities between Finland and Nazi Germany between September 1944 and April 1945, fought in Finland's northernmost Lapland Province. While the Finns saw this as a separate conflict much like the Continuation War, German forces considered their actions to be part of the...

, Finland turned against Nazi Germany under the Soviet Union's pressure, their former cobelligerents. While use of ski infantry was prolific in the Red Army, Germany formed only one division for movement on skis.

During Operation Zitronella
Operation Zitronella
Operation Zitronella, also known as Operation Sizilien was an eight-hour German raid on Spitzbergen on 8 September 1943.-Background:...

 in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, German and Allied troops fought over control of the island of Spitsbergen
Spitsbergen is the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in Norway. Constituting the western-most bulk of the archipelago, it borders the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea and the Greenland Sea...

. This marks the highest latitude at which a land battle has ever been fought. However, given the extreme conditions, the German and Allied troops were at times compelled to assist each other to survive.

Operation Rösselsprung
Operation Rösselsprung (Naval)
Rösselsprung was the largest operation of its type mounted by the Kriegsmarine during World War II, and arguably the most successful, resulting as it did in the near destruction of arctic convoy PQ-17...

 and Operation Wunderland
Operation Wunderland
Operation Wunderland was a large-scale operation undertaken in summer 1942 by the Kriegsmarine during World War II in the waters of the Northern Sea Route close to the Arctic Ocean...

 were Arctic naval battles in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


Training by Nation

Perhaps two of the most prominent nations to continuously practice arctic warfare in peacetime would be Canada and the Russian Federation (formerly the Soviet Union). Standard Canadian Forces practices calls for combat arms and combat support arms members to undergo a least two weeks of winter warfare training, in addition to yearly refresher course. Inclusive the Canadian Forces is the only current member of NATO to outfit all personnel be it regular forces air force technical crews to reserve infantry personal with arctic survival equipment; this is in addition to all Canadian Forces equipment being able to operate effectively in arctic conditions with minimal changes.


Arctic warfare is very dependent on equipment. For survival, troops need warm clothing and footwear, extra nutritious food, white camouflage
Military camouflage
Military camouflage is one of many means of deceiving an enemy. In practice, it is the application of colour and materials to battledress and military equipment to conceal them from visual observation. The French slang word camouflage came into common English usage during World War I when the...

, tents with sleeping bag
Sleeping bag
A sleeping bag is a protective "bag" for a person to sleep in, essentially a blanket that can be closed with a zipper or similar means, and functions as a bed in situations where a bed is unavailable . Its primary purpose is to provide warmth and thermal insulation...

s, heater
A heater is an object that emits heat or causes another body to achieve a higher temperature. In a household or domestic setting, heaters are usually appliances whose purpose is to generate heating...

s and fuel.

Weapons can be fitted with an arctic trigger which permits firing while wearing heavy mittens.

Individual mobility can be increased by ski
A ski is a long, flat device worn on the foot, usually attached through a boot, designed to help the wearer slide smoothly over snow. Originally intended as an aid to travel in snowy regions, they are now mainly used for recreational and sporting purposes...

s, ice cleats, and snowshoe
A snowshoe is footwear for walking over the snow. Snowshoes work by distributing the weight of the person over a larger area so that the person's foot does not sink completely into the snow, a quality called "flotation"....


Motorized vehicles are often unfit to stand freezing temperatures. Special procedures can be used to ensure they perform in the cold, such as running them continuously or starting them at regular intervals. Studded tires or tire chains are useful equipment for maintaining traction of wheeled vehicles. It is also possible to design special vehicles for operation specifically in arctic conditions, such as the Sisu Nasu
Sisu Nasu
The Nasu is a tracked articulated, all-terrain transport vehicle developed by Sisu Auto for the Finnish Army. It consists of two units, with all four tracks powered. It can carry up to 17 people, although the trailer unit can be adapted for different applications...

, BvS 10
BvS 10
The BvS 10 is an All Terrain Armoured Vehicle produced by BAE Systems Land Systems Hagglunds of Sweden. This vehicle, referred to as the All Terrain Vehicle - ATV or VIKING by the UK forces, was originally developed as a collaboration between industry - Hägglunds Vehicle AB - and the UK Ministry...

, M29 Weasel
M29 Weasel
The M29 Weasel was a World War II tracked vehicle, built by Studebaker, designed for operation in snow.-Design and development:The idea for the Weasel came from the work of British inventor Geoffrey Pyke in support of his proposals to attack Axis forces and industrial installations in Norway...

 or Aerosani.

See also

  • Ski warfare
    Ski warfare
    Ski warfare, the use of ski-equipped troops in war, is first recorded by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus in the 13th century. The speed and distance that ski troops are able to cover is comparable to that of light cavalry.-History:...

  • Siachen conflict
    Siachen conflict
    The Siachen Conflict, sometimes referred to as the Siachen War, is a military conflict between India and Pakistan over the disputed Siachen Glacier region in Kashmir. The conflict began in 1984 with India's successful Operation Meghdoot during which it wrested control of the Siachen Glacier from...

     (military conflict between India and Pakistan over a glacier region)
  • Arctic survival/winter survival
    Survival skills
    Survival skills are techniques a person may use in a dangerous situation to save themselves or others...

  • Mountain warfare
    Mountain warfare
    Mountain warfare refers to warfare in the mountains or similarly rough terrain. This type of warfare is also called Alpine warfare, named after the Alps mountains...

  • Russian Winter
    Russian Winter
    The Russian Winter is a common explanation for military failures of invaders in Russia. Common nicknames are General Frost, General Winter and General Snow. Another was "General Mud"....

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.