Snafu Solomon had a short blog post about how the Norwegian Army is planning on outfitting small, light, independent teams to take on a Russian mechanized assault force. Solomon is less than enthusiastic about the concept and has the valid criticism that eventually small teams are found, fixed, and fired upon by larger heavier forces. http://snafu-solomon.blogspot.com/2015/12/the-norwegian-army-is-considering-small.html
What Solomon didn’t address is that these forces are not designed to stop a Russian advance. They are designed to slow a Russian advance. You can get small, light forces into deep territory very quickly, and they essentially fight a running retreat in the face of the Russian advance. This sounds like a losing strategy for Norway in the long run, and if it were just Norway versus Russia, it would be.
I also think that Solomon missed an important reason why Norway would adopt this tactic, and that is that the land forces can’t really afford anything but light Infantry given the procurement of the F-35.
But this tactic will work for Norway. It comes down to terrain and alliances. As Norway is a NATO member, and an attack on one is an attack on all. So Norway doesn’t need to defeat the Russian push into its territory. NATO needs to stop the Russian attack. And Russia knows this, so any incursion into Norwegian territory (assuming from the shared border in the Arctic unless Russia violates neutral Swedish territory).
Norway knows that if there is a move into Norway from the Arctic, there will also be a seizure of the Baltic states or a push into Turkey. A war of Russian aggression must be multi-front if Russia were to make the seizure of Norway successful.
What makes this such a good strategy for Norway is that these forces are essentially defensive in nature and cheap. Cheap is very important considering how much of the Norwegian Defense budget is going towards the F-35. They will be trained and outfitted for Arctic warfare inside Norwegian sovereign territory. Outside of Norway they could act as light infantry should they support any more coalition actions for NATO or the UN.
The real reason that this strategy has a chance at succeeding is the rugged Norwegian terrain and Sweden guarding Norways eastern flank. An advance south by Russian Forces along the Norwegian territory is marked by areas very inhospitable to mechanized forces. The number of choke points and canalizing terrain is very, very significant. You could not use this strategy in Florida, or Oklahoma, Poland, Germany, or as Solomon pointed out Ukraine, since the terrain is too flat and the mobility and firepower advantage of mechanized forces isn’t something you can overcome on an ATV or snowmobile.
Simply put, as terrain becomes flatter and more favorable to mechanized forces, the ability of light forces to provide impacts against the mechanize force are greatly reduced. This is why we don’t air drop tanks onto mountaintops or march the 101st across the desert.
Now, if Norway does get F-35s in sufficient numbers, and these Arctic Infantry units actually fighting, then as long as the Russian mechanized push doesn’t also have a fighter cover (because the assumption is that they are prioritizing operations elsewhere in the attack on NATO) then Norway can buy the alliance time.
To summarize, I agree with Solomon that this tactic isn’t suitable for every nation, and that given enough time these forces will be found, fixed, and destroyed by a Russian mechanized battle group. But for slowing Russia for a week or two along the rugged terrain in northern Norway, this really is the only cost effective option available to Norway. After all, a single CV90 would cost the same resources as a company of these Arctic Infantry, and these guys can be air dropped or helicopter inserted much faster than a Norwegian Mechanized force. Imagine seeding the entire line of advance with small units doing engineering preparation, who then call the units forward of them back in a passage of lines so that the Russians are essentially facing a thousand miles of deliberately prepared anti-tank obstacles and ambushes with AT missiles. It isn’t a winning solution, it is a delaying tactic. One that Russia should be familiar with because they used it against both Napoleon and Hitler.