Marinejegerkommandoen: Norway’s Navy SOF


    1.0. Background

    Marinejegerkommandoen (MJK) are part of the most capable operators acting in the Arctic environment and possibly in the world. The Norwegian traditions of SOF trace back to the Second World War (WWII) under the British command of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Lessons learned after the war highlighted the efficiency of small units of well-trained personnel conducting operations of high strategic value.

    In Norway, the combination of mountains, sea, and fjords offers highly challenging areas of operation. Therefore, the Norwegian topography and challenging terrain enable the training of highly skilled personnel, which makes up a significant advantage but even more so when attracting joint exercises with SOF units worldwide.

    Marinejegerkommandoen Operators during a photoshoot credit: Ole Gunnar Henriksen Nordli/Forsvaret

    2.0. The Norwegian Special Operations Command

    The Norwegian Special Operations Command (NORSOCOM) runs the two SOF branches in Norway, Forsvarets Spesialkommando (FSK) and MJK [source]. The two chapters have unique characteristics and objectives but frequently conduct joint operations and exercises. Examples are counterterrorism operations or intelligence gathering deep beyond enemy lines. In peacetime, the former is a central part of their readiness and protecting critical energy installations at sea and on land.

    The expectations of FSK and MJK operators are to operate efficiently in any environment, solving any demanding warfare task. Such capabilities range from conducting Arctic warfare to operating in the jungle or urban setting. Hence, operators frequently practise parachuting, diving, climbing, and develop other specific skill sets that make up the basis for success [source].

    3.0. Marinejegerkommandoen

    MJK is the maritime component in NORSOCOM. The organisation’s purpose is to solve highly complex tasks on land, air, and sea independently and with high precision. The core within MJK is the marinjeger, soldiers selected and trained to conduct a broad spectrum of special operations whenever and wherever necessary. After basic training, the marinjeger specialises in a specific area, such as sniper, attack controller, or K9 handler. Further on, the MJK trains spesialbåtoperatører, i.e., boat operators responsible for transporting and manoeuvring high-speed boats [source].

    As with the FSK, MJK is on high readiness, quickly being able to operate nationally and internationally. Further on, the organisation is focusing on counter-terrorism and anti-hostage operations. Within Norwegian borders, MJK’s structure allows cooperation with the Norwegian police when needed efficiently. An international equivalent is the US Navy Seals/DEVGRU.

    A Marinejeger during an exercise in Norway 2020. Image: Torbjørn Kjosvold.

    4.0. Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures

    4.1. Minimum Physical Requirements

    • Pull-ups – 8
    • Push-ups – 45
    • Brutal bench – 14
    • Swimming 400 metres – 10 minutes
    • Swimming underwater – 25 metres
    • Running 5 kilometres – 25 minutes
    • 15 kilometres rucking 20 kg rucksack + weapon – 2,5h
    • Lifesaving test – 4,5 minutes

    The results above are primarily indicators of the bare minimum. They are by no means a guarantee of passing the initial selection. Last year, the average results were as follows:

    • Pull-ups – 12
    • Push-ups – 51
    • Brutal bench – 17
    • Swimming 400 metres – 7 minutes 33 seconds
    • Swimming 25 metres underwater – pass
    • Running 5 kilometres – 21 minutes 13 seconds
    • Lifesaving test – 3 minutes 30 seconds


    4.2. Selection

    The first criterion for eligibility to the MJK is at least 10 months of initial service. After the initial physical tests, a 22-week-long selection process follows at the Dykker- og Froskemannsskolen at Haakonsvern Naval Station outside Bergen. After that, further training awaits at the Ramsund Naval Station [source]. Before finishing the selection process, as one of the final phases, candidates carry 60 kg on marches when chased by the “enemy”. The exercise transitions into SERE training when caught [source].Like the FSK process, continuous assessment characterises the MJK training in demanding situations. The applicant must pass every moment of the training to proceed. After completing the 1-year training, the applicant continues with specialised training until completion [source].

    4.3. Weapons

    As with most SOF units, tactical information and equipment details are often classified. Even though not intended as an exhaustive list, below is some available information on weapons used by the MJK:

    Assault rifles

    • Automatgevær 3F2
    • Colt Canada C8 SFW
    • Heckler & Koch HK416

    Sniper rifles

    • Heckler & Koch MSG90
    • Accuracy International L115A1

    Submachine guns

    • Heckler & Koch MP5
    • Heckler & Koch MP7

    Machine guns

    • Browning M2
    • FN Minimi


    • Heckler & Koch USP
    • Glock 17

    Grenade launchers

    • AG-C
    • M320
    • Heckler & Koch GMG

    Anti-tank weapons

    • M72 LAW
    • Carl Gustaf 8.4 cm recoilless rifle

    [source; source; source]

    Operators from the Marinejegerkommandoen during an exercise in Norway, 2018. Image: Torbjørn Kjosvold.

    5.0. Marinejegerkommandoen: History

    Like many European SOF, NORSOCOM has its roots originating from the resistance movements of WWII. Under the command of the British SOE, Norwegian commandos of Norwegian Independent Company 1 (later renamed Company Linge) staged attacks along the Norwegian coast. From this resource, the SOE coordinated Operation Gunnerside. The operation successfully sabotaged the German heavy water facility in Rjukan, preventing, or at least delaying, German attempts to develop an atomic bomb.

    The Norwegian Armed Forces later disbanded the highly skilled small sabotage units developed during the war. They did not reevaluate the idea of small unconventional units until the 1950s with the development of what today is MJK. The then Minister of Defence, Jens Christian Hauge and head of intelligence, Vilhelm Evang, was involved in forming the frogman department established in 1953 at Bolærne in the Oslo fjord. The idea was to develop an unconventional warfare capability modelled by the US Navy special forces [source].

    The establishment of NORSOCOM in the 1960s came from 2 separate entities, an Army paratrooper unit, Hærens Fallskjermjegerskole (HFJS), a special unit with the primary focus on counter-terrorism, and the MJK, a special Naval unit specialised in surveillance and reconnaissance and operating in extreme climates [source].

    After the Cold War, the two entities modernised and expanded. Today Norwegian SOF has a great reputation worldwide after a series of international operations. For example, MJK has operated alongside NATO partners, first in the Balkans and later in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, Norwegian SOF received the Presidential Unit Citation, the highest honour a US President can bestow upon Allied Forces [source].

    6.0. Marinejegerkommandoen: Global Relevance

    NORSOCOM is today a leading actor in strengthening the network of global SOF partners. When launching the establishment of the NATO SOF Headquarters and then the support of the international SOF liaison division at the US Special Operations Command, NORSOCOM is further developing the close coordination between SOF counterparts since their operations in Afghanistan [source]. Norwegian SOF efficiently contributes to any joint operation with valuable experiences from a wide range of modern conflicts.

    US Navy SEAL Operators on winter exercise in Norway, 2010. Image: Torbjørn Kjosvold.

    7.0. Marinejegerkommandoen: International Presence

    As with most SOF units, operational information and details of an international presence are often classified. The reason for secrecy is most often a legitimate one. However, below is some openly available information on the global presence of the MJK.

    7.1. Marinejegerkommandoen in Bosnia-Hercegovina

    Between 1999-2000, MJK led the Norwegian Joint Commission Observers contribution as a part of the NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) and Stabilisation Force (SFOR) in Bosnia-Hercegovina. The mission was the first Norwegian international special operation conducted since WWII [source].

    7.2. Marinejegerkommandoen in Somalia

    During the Autumn of 2009, a unit from the MJK embarked on the frigate KNM Fridtjof Nansen as a part of the European Union’s (EU) maritime operation Atalanta. The mission was to counter piracy outside the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden, and in the Indian Ocean. NORSOCOM sent similar contributions in 2013 under the command of NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield [source].

    7.3. Marinejegerkommandoen in Afghanistan

    Between 2001 to 2021, NORSOCOM had an established presence in Afghanistan. During this time, MJK units were conducting a broad range of demanding missions, including:

    7.3.1. Operation Anaconda

    Between 2001-2002, MJK participated in Operation Anaconda, fighting Al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents in the mountainous areas of southeastern Afghanistan. President George W. Bush later awarded the Norwegian contribution the Presidential Unit Citation.

    7.3.2. Operation Enduring Freedom

    In 2003, the Norwegian SOF conducted operations in southern Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Further on, they operated in northern Helmand during the Winter of 2005-2006. The Norwegian contribution was led by orlogskaptein Trond André Bolle, who, in 2011 and for the first time since WWII, was posthumously awarded the Norwegian War Cross with swords for the operation.

    7.3.3. ISAF

    Between 2008-2009, NORSOCOM units took part in the ISAF mission. They trained and gave consultation to the Afghan police unit CRU 222 to prevent attacks in Kabul. The main objectives were to gather information and arrest insurgent leaders.

    7.3.4. Resolute Support Mission

    Between 2015 and 2021, NORSOCOM deployed MJK to the NATO-operation Resolute Support Mission. The mission focused on training and consulting CRU 222. The contribution is the longest in Norwegian history, including several demanding missions. Among them is the rescue operation of the Norwegian citizen Arne Strand, who the MJK rescued during a terrorist attack on Hotel Intercontinental on 20 January 2018 [source].

    Marinejegerkommandoen Operators training the CRU 222. Image: Torbjørn Kjosvold.

    7.4. Marinejegerkommandoen in Mali

    Following a Swedish invitation, Norway sent a small number of soldiers, along with two officers, to take part in the Swedish contingent of Task Force Takuba. The Norwegian parliament initially rejected a contribution to Takuba, arguing their presence should be through international bodies like MINUSMA or EUTM Mali. However, the small contribution signified an ambition to promote European cooperation and enhance the Scandinavian contribution.

    8.0. What’s Next?

    The contemporary development in Europe and the emergence of Russian active measures in Europe and Norway present a new security environment calling for action. Norwegian energy assets constitute a high-value target for Norway’s opponents, highlighting the purpose and focus of NORSOCOM units. Furthermore, international terrorism, mainly developments by the Islamic State (IS) in former operational environments in the Sahel, is a still developing threat with spill-over effects to the coastal West African states.

    Moreover, with important transport routes being more accessible in the Arctic region and a tense security situation, the importance of the Norwegian SOF capabilities for NATO and European security is striking. The importance of adequate military resources to operate efficiently in the Arctic will increase, which will call for closer relationships and cooperation with the SOF in the Arctic countries. Here, the MJK, as part of the most capable operators acting in the Arctic environment, constitutes a crucial actor in terms of capability and enhancing regional security.

    Oscar Rosengren
    Oscar Rosengren
    Oscar Rosengren is a student at the Swedish Defence University in Stockholm. His main focus area is the Sahel Region and West Africa. Specific interests are asymmetric threats, mainly terrorism, covert action, and cyber threats.

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