Canada’s Arctic operations are heating up

Article / April 9, 2014

By: Lucy Ellis, Canadian Joint Operations Command Public Affairs

Vast tundra, mountains of ice, temperatures as low as -60°C, days without sunlight and nights without darkness – the Canadian Arctic has it all, and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have seen it all.

The Canadian Armed Forces are active in the North 24/7, exercising sovereignty and exercising its capabilities to respond to any challenges that may arise. Military exercises and operations are common in the Canadian Arctic. In February and March alone, CAF members honed their Arctic skill sets in Exercises ARCTIC RAM, TRILLIUM RESPONSE and SABRE GLACE.

The summer months bring additional opportunities to train in the Arctic through a variety of operations. Much of the coordination for these northern operations comes from Joint Task Force (North) (JTFN), the CAF formation tasked with exercising Canada’s sovereignty and contributing to safety and security in the Canadian North.

JTFN provides a permanent military presence across Canada’s North – whether in and around the 60 communities that Canadian Ranger patrols call home, in headquarters and detachments in the three territorial capitals, or in the varied locations where operations are conducted throughout the year,” said Brigadier-General Greg Loos, Commander JTFN.

The annual Arctic operations are conducted with personnel and assets from across Canada, including the Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force. International allies often participate and the CAF further develops partnerships with other northern organisations. “We work closely with our northern partners in municipal, territorial, federal, and aboriginal organisations to strengthen understanding, cooperation, and collaboration in Canada’s Arctic,” said BGen Loos.

Operations in Canada’s North occur regularly. Working in the austere northern environment not only provides valuable training for those who operate frequently in the Arctic, but also to troops from elsewhere in Canada who don’t often have the opportunity to deploy to the North. “These operations allow southern-based personnel to experience the unique Arctic environment and bring what they learn back home, fostering a greater understanding of life north of 60 across a wider group of Canadians,” explained BGen Loos.

There are three primary sovereignty operations which have been conducted annually since 2007: Operation NUNALIVUT, Operation NUNAKPUT, and Operation NANOOK. In addition to these, Operation NEVUS focuses on communications system maintenance, and Operation QIMMIQ conducts year-round surveillance and presence missions mainly led by members from 1 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (1 CRPG).

While the objectives of each operation differ, they all share the same purpose: to defend Canada's sovereignty in the region, to advance the Canadian Armed Forces capabilities, and to improve coordination with partners and stakeholders in response to Northern sovereignty and security issues,” said Major-General Christopher Coates, Deputy Commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) – the organization responsible for conducting CAF operations around the world.

Operation NUNALIVUT, the annual JTFN operation in the High Arctic, will run from from 2 April until 3 May.

This operation challenges participants with the extreme weather and terrain of the High Arctic, the area in and around Resolute Bay, Nunavut. Engaging the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Canadian Navy, as well as partners and allies, the diverse nature of this operation demonstrates the teamwork necessary to achieve success in the Arctic.

Yellowknife based 440 (Transport) Squadron supports deployed elements by transporting personnel, cargo and fuel to austere locations. The Canadian Rangers from 1 CRPG provide mentorship and local expertise to southern-based troops.

From 1 June to 2 July, CAF members will deploy on Operation NEVUS, the annual deployment of a CAF technical team to Ellesmere Island to perform crucial maintenance on the High Arctic Data Communications System (HADCS).

The unmanned HADCS sites are visited by technicians to perform repairs, replacements and security checks while ensuring that the systems comply with environmental standards. Their performance is essential to maintaining a functional communication link between CAF members in the north and the government in Ottawa.

After Operation NEVUS, the focus shifts to the Western Arctic for Operation NUNAKPUT from 15 June to 29 July.

Operation NUNAKPUT showcases the coordination and cooperation in whole of government operations.  In Operation NUNAKPUT, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Environment Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the CAF provide both a maritime and air presence, with a focus on the Mackenzie River, Great Slave Lake, and Great Bear Lake all the way north to the Amundsen Gulf and Beaufort Sea.

The largest and most high-profile annual Arctic operation is Operation NANOOK.  Held in different locations in the Arctic each year, Operation NANOOK 2014 will be based in Iqaluit, Nunavut with outlying activities in other remote locations including York Sound and the Davis Strait. It will run from 20 to 29 August.

Operation NANOOK is a scenario-based operation designed to provide participants with real-life experience for situations that they might encounter.

The range of the operation – both in the area covered and the scope of the activities – demonstrates the effectiveness of the team-based (often referred to as “Team North”) approach to disaster or emergency response in the Arctic region. Partnering with allied armed forces and other government departments allows the CAF to practice joint responses to security and environmental issues.

We are committed to excellence in operations in our North and with our many northern partners,” said Lieutenant-General Stu Beare, Commander CJOC. “Northern operations and exercises provide our members with the opportunity to prepare for any challenges that may arise in the Canadian Arctic. They allow us to build those relationships with municipal, territorial and federal partners that provide for the safety and security of our people and interests in our northern homeland.

Operation QIMMIQ is a year-round surveillance and presence operation conducted by JTFN. It is part of the overarching Operation LIMPID and is dedicated to maintaining the security of Canada’s interests in the northern regions. Given the vast territory in the Arctic, Operation QIMMIQ focuses on different areas throughout the year. In the North, it involves the Canadian Rangers supported by 440 (Transport) Squadron, CP-140 Aurora surveillance patrol aircraft and an annual deployment of the Royal Canadian Navy in August.

With approximately four million square kilometres of Arctic land – that’s about 40 per cent of Canada’s total land mass – the soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen of the CAF undertake the important task of protecting Canada’s interests in the North. These annual operations provide an opportunity for them and other participating partners and allies to hone their skills to ensure they meet this objective.

Bring on the summer.

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