Operation NANOOK

Conducted annually since 2007, Operation NANOOK takes place in several locations across Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. It is the largest sovereignty operation in Canada's North.

As an Arctic nation, Canada regularly and fully exercises its sovereign rights and jurisdiction in its northern territories. The Canadian Armed Forces have a significant role to play in forestalling sovereignty challenges, defending Canada against threats in the region, and protecting Canadians by supporting whole-of-government efforts to ensure appropriate responses to security and environmental concerns in the North.

Operation NANOOK is the Canadian Armed Forces’ annual engagement with international military and security partners to demonstrate interoperability in the Arctic. This aspect of the operation usually entails training scenarios in which the Canadian Armed Forces partner with other Canadian government departments and agencies, and with allied armed forces, to mount whole-of-government responses to security and environmental issues.


The objectives of Operation NANOOK are to:

  • assert Canada’s sovereignty over its northernmost regions
  • enhance the Canadian Armed Forces’ ability to operate in Arctic conditions
  • improve coordination in whole-of-government operations
  • maintain interoperability with mission partners for maximum effectiveness in response to safety and security issues in the North

The Task Force

The size and make-up of the forces deployed on Operation NANOOK vary from year to year, according to the planned activities and exercises, but they always include 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group and 440 “Vampire” Transport Squadron.

Over the years, the forces deployed on Operation NANOOK have been combined and integrated with international military partners; Canadian federal government departments and agencies; and provincial, territorial and municipal governments. Together, they exercise whole-of-government responses to security and environmental issues.

Global Significance

The Arctic has vast reserves of fossil fuels and an abundance of minerals, including gold and diamonds, so the region is attracting more and more Canadian and international attention. Additionally, climate change is gradually eroding the Arctic icecap, so the waters of the Arctic Archipelago are more navigable every year and more ships enter the region. Air traffic in the North is also growing; the annual total of flights on polar routes in Canadian airspace increased from fewer than 1,000 in 2003 to almost 10,000 in 2010.

The increase in traffic at sea and in the air, and the escalating exploitation of natural resources in the North, boost the risk of sovereignty challenges, environmental problems, accidents giving rise to search-and-rescue requirements, and criminal activity, especially illicit entry of people and goods.

Past deployments


Operation NANOOK 2016

Approximately 850 Canadian sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen and civilians participated in Operation NANOOK from August 21 to September 2, 2016 in and around the Whitehorse and Haines Junction area of Yukon as well as in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. The Canadian Armed Forces deployed land, maritime, and air components including military command, staff and support personnel. Civilian participants from several federal and territorial organizations also participated.

Op NANOOK 2016 consisted of two scenarios: a safety scenario consisting of a whole-of-government response to a simulated earthquake and an arctic security scenario including military patrols, search and rescue training, and simulated combat exercises. Operation NANOOK 2016 enabled the Canadian Armed Forces to showcase its ability to operate effectively in the North while improving relationships with northern partners that would be required to respond to a request for assistance in the event of a real emergency


Operation NANOOK 2015

Operation NANOOK 15 was based out of Inuvik, Northwest Territories from August 16 to 30, 2015.  NANOOK 15 was supported by some 650 military personnel in what has become the largest and best known of all Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) operations conducted annually.

A whole-of-government endeavor, NANOOK 15 centered on safety, security and defence in Canada’s North.  The operation served to enhance CAF collaboration with other government departments and agencies and strengthened relationships with local authorities, Indigenous peoples and international partners.

The United States also contributed to the success of NANOOK 15, with the United Kingdom and France having attended as exercise observers. 

NANOOK 15 was conducted as a joint, combined and interagency training opportunity exercising CAF assistance to government departments and agencies.  Operating scenarios included oil spill and consequence management, security, and safety scenarios involving safety and security themed training events in and around the communities of Inuvik, Uluhaktok, Tuktoyaktuk, Sachs Harbour, and Fort Smith.  These scenarios were developed and executed in order to exercise Canada’s sovereignty in the north and rehearse CAF assistance to national, regional and local response to crisis.

Activities conducted each year during Operation NANOOK amplify the CAF’s ability to operate effectively in the challenging Arctic environment.  These activities serve as a demonstration of Canada’s continued commitment to support its Northern and Federal mission partners’ efforts to respond to safety and security situations.


Operation NANOOK 2014

Operation NANOOK 14 took place in the Baffin Island region of Nunavut from August 20 to 29, 2014. It involved more than 800 participants, including personnel from all branches of the CAF as well as federal and territorial governments, a ship from the Royal Danish Navy, and a surveillance aircraft from the United States Navy.

The scenario-driven operation provided a visible presence in the North and demonstrated Canada's ability to respond to security and safety incidents in the region. Operation NANOOK 14 focused on two key aspects: search and rescue (SAR) capabilities and the CAF’s ability to support other government departments (OGDs) in remote areas of the North.

The two scenarios took place off the coast of Baffin Island in the Davis Strait and York Sound. Both scenarios promoted interoperability between participants.

  • A SAR exercise (SAREX) was held from August 20 to 23 in the Davis Strait featuring a simulated fishing vessel in distress. Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) Halifax led the SAR operation to locate the vessel and survivors. The JRCC was supported by HMCS Shawinigan, HMDS Triton, and the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Henry Larsen with associated aircraft.
  • From August 25 to 29, Canadian Armed Forces members responded to a simulated 50 passenger cruise ship grounded due to mechanical difficulties in York Sound. The CAF deployed a major air disaster (MAJAID) kit and worked with OGDs to respond to the simulated crisis.

Operation NANOOK 2013

Supporting emergency management scenarios, responding to threats to public safety and assisting law enforcement agencies were the main focuses during this Operation NANOOK 13 from August 2 to 23.

The operation included four scenarios taking place in four geographically distinct areas of the Canadian North.

  • In Whitehorse, Canadian Armed Forces members, in the air and on land, provided the Government of Yukon with disaster relief as the result of a national wildfire that was threatening the City of Whitehorse;
  • Environment Canada requested the assistance of the Canadian Armed Forces on Cornwallis Island, Nunavut after a report of suspected poaching activities in the area;
  • on Resolution Island, the Canadian Armed Forces worked with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and helped investigate simulated suspicious activity; and
  • on King William Island, the Canadian Rangers conducted simulated patrols to report on activity in the Northwest Passage.         

Operation NANOOK 2012

Operation NANOOK 2012 (August 1 to 26, 2012) demonstrated Canada's Arctic capabilities in two widely separated locations: Inuvik and Tsiigehtchic, N.W.T., in the western Arctic, and Hudson Strait, Hudson Bay and its littoral area, including Churchill, Man., in the eastern Arctic.

In the western scenario, air and land forces worked with the RCMP and other whole-of-government partners in a simulated security incident. In the eastern scenario, an RCMP-led whole-of-government response to a simulated “vessel of interest” included a request for military assistance. Both scenarios emphasized the primary focuses of the Canadian Armed Forces at home: safeguarding the nation, deterring threats to Canadian security, and responding to emergencies anywhere in the country.

International participants on Operation NANOOK 2012 included:

  • a warship from the Royal Danish Navy;
  • a U.S. Coast Guard vessel; and
  • observers from the United Kingdom and the United States.

Operation NANOOK 2012 involved more than 1,250 personnel from the RCN, the Canadian Army (including the Canadian Rangers), the RCAF and CANSOFCOM.


Operation NANOOK 2011

Operation NANOOK 2011 (August 4 to September 1, 2011) was planned in two phases. The first phase, conducted in cooperation with international partners from the United States and Denmark, included sovereignty and presence patrolling ashore on Cornwallis Island and at sea in Davis Strait, Baffin Bay and Lancaster Sound, and the first deployment of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in the high Arctic.

The second phase, an exercise using an air-disaster scenario, was cancelled to allow the engaged forces to respond to a real crisis. On August 21, 2011, when First Air Flight 6560 crashed near Resolute Bay, Nunavut, Canadian Armed Forces members deployed on Operation NANOOK 2011 were first on the scene, and remained to assist the federal, territorial and municipal authorities throughout the rescue and recovery operations.

The forces deployed on Operation NANOOK 2011 included about 1,100 Canadian Armed Forces members from the RCN, the Canadian Army (including the Canadian Rangers), the RCAF and CANSOFCOM, and more than 100 allied military personnel.


Operation NANOOK 2010

Operation NANOOK 2010 (August 6 to 26, 2010) took place in the eastern Arctic and high Arctic. As well as more than 900 Canadian Armed Forces personnel, it involved about 600 personnel from the Canadian Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Royal Danish Navy. The operation concluded with a whole-of-government exercise using a spill-response scenario: a simulated petrochemical leak in Resolute Bay, Nunavut.


Operation NANOOK 2009

Operation NANOOK 2009 (August 6 to 28, 2009) took place on the southeastern coast of Baffin Island. It comprised three phases: sovereignty patrolling, a military exercise focusing on anti-submarine warfare, and a whole-of-government exercise that involved more than 15 departments and agencies from all levels of government.


Operation NANOOK 2008

Operation NANOOK 2008 (August 16 to 26 2008) took place in and around three communities on Baffin Island: Iqaluit, Kimmirut and Pangnirtung in Nunavut. Exercises conducted during Operation NANOOK 2008 used maritime emergency scenarios, including the evacuation of a ship in distress and an oil spill.


Operation NANOOK 2007

Operation NANOOK 2007 (August 7 to 17, 2007) took place on Baffin Island near Iqaluit and Kimmirut in Nunavut. It included drug-interdiction and oil-spill scenarios that involved about 650 Canadian Armed Forces personnel, two surface ships, a submarine, and four types of aircraft.

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