Unidentified drones plagued military exercises in Sweden this week and now some joint training operations between Norwegian and US forces have been marred as well. At least 10 drones are believed to have carried out surveillance of military exercises from Østerdalen in the south to Troms in the North.
“We don’t know who’s behind this activity,” Lt Col Ole Johan Skogmo, a spokesman for the Norwegian Army, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Friday afternoon. “It could be anyone from over-eager local citizens who are just being curious and careless, or it can be other players, who purely have an intelligence need to see how we operate or train.”
Drones were spotted over the joint US-Norwegian exercises dubbed Rein 2 that began November 14 and run through this week. Norway’s police intelligence unit, PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste), has been called in to assist military investigators.
“For us, this represents a security threat in several domains,” Skogmo told NRK. “First and foremost because we have drones flying as well, and helicopters in the air. It can be extremely unfortunate that others are flying in the same area.”
Skogmo said the observations clearly broke the rules for drone operations, which limits activity within 150 meters of personnel and material on the ground. Local newspaper Nye Troms reported that the drones have photographed and filmed the military training activity in Troms County, and the defense department is alarmed. The drone flights were tied to military activity, and not to any special times of the day.
“All activity we aren’t aware of, and which involves information gathering over our military exercises is extremely unfortunate for what we’re doing,” Skogmo said. “We don’t want to share that information. We’re cooperating with PST to find out who is doing this and what the motives are.”
The exercises in Norway are not alone in being disturbed by drones. NRK reported on Thursday that one or more remote-controlled drones monitored the large Swedish marine exercises known as Swenex, which ended on Thursday. The exercises were halted when the drones were spotted, and Swedish forces loaded live ammunition with the apparent intention of shooting them down over the Baltic.
“It’s difficult to draw parallels between what happened in Sweden and what happened in Norway,” Skogmo told NRK, “but clearly, there are similarities.”
Around 5,000 soldiers and officers have been taking part in the Rein 2 exercises in Northern Norway, including around 200 US Marines. The exercises have included training with armed battalions in winter conditions and how soldiers can, for example, rescue themselves if they were to go through the ice into freezing waters.