In today’s Pic of the Day, we discover the Kystjegerkommandoen (KJK) or Norway’s Coastal Rangers. Here, they are training Ukrainian Marines in cooperation with the UK Royal Marines and Dutch Marines. To clarify a bit, they are a marine commando special operations unit within the Royal Norwegian Navy and, as such, are themselves considered to be Marines. Chances are you’ve never bumped into one of these guys in the street. Although their exact numbers are classified, I would say they stand at about 150 at most, and that is a generous estimate.

A Bit About the KJK

The Coastal Ranger Command (Kystjegerkommandoen, KJK) in the Royal Norwegian Navy is a specialized marine commando unit. Trained for operations in littoral zones, they fill roles akin to marines and coastal artillery.
Post-1990s, with the diminished threat from the Soviet Union and lessons from the Gulf War, Norway shifted focus from territorial defense to international missions. This led to the creation of KJK in 2001, inspired by Swedish coastal ranger companies, rather than forming a marine infantry unit similar to the Netherlands Marine Corps or Royal Marines.

Coastal Ranger
The coat of arms of the Royal Norwegian Navy Coastal Ranger Commando. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In Afghanistan (2005–2012), KJK’s first independent deployment was as part of ISAF’s Military Observer Team in Meymaneh, collaborating with Marinejegerkommandoen (MJK), another Norwegian special operations unit. Their professionalism was acknowledged across allied and Norwegian commands.

KJK faced potential disbandment between 2013 and 2021. Notably, they contributed significantly to the RECSYR operation in 2013-2014 to remove chemical weapons from Syria. Plans to relocate and repurpose the unit were met with opposition, leading to a parliamentary defense settlement in 2016 that retained KJK in its current form. In 2018, a proposal to incorporate KJK into the Norwegian Special Operations Command was considered but not pursued to maintain the navy’s boarding capacity. However, KJK’s role in supporting special forces and cooperation between units continued. This puts them in the gray area of being a special operations unit not under the direct control of the Norwegian Special Operations Command.

An Excellent Video History of the KJK

From 2022, KJK focused on enhancing capabilities in maritime drone operations. They set a goal to lead in this domain, leveraging the Naval Strike Missile’s land targeting capacity. In 2023, KJK trained Ukrainian marines in covert coastal operations as part of a coordinated project with the British Royal Marines and the Netherlands Marine Corps.

KJK operatives are adept in various roles: highly mobile in littoral environments, utilizing Combat Boat 90 and RHIBs for troop landings, and deploying AGM-114 Hellfire missiles against enemy vessels. Their expertise spans asymmetric warfare, coastal commando raids, counterterrorism, force protection, ISTAR, long-range reconnaissance, maritime patrol, naval boarding, and supporting special operations. Their main task is intelligence gathering, with capabilities comparable to the Norwegian Army’s Intelligence Battalion and artillery rangers. This versatility was demonstrated in their contributions in Afghanistan.

KJK soldiers, trained to operate independently in enemy-controlled areas, are professionals with diverse skill sets extending beyond the maritime ISTAR concept. Their training involves high-level military exercises in coastal environments, emphasizing personal qualities, physical and mental endurance, maritime skills, combat techniques, marksmanship, combat casualty care, and communications.