Operation NEVUS

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Operation NEVUS is the deployment of a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) technical team to Ellesmere Island. A joint task group is sent once a year. It performs essential maintenance on the High Arctic Data Communications System (HADCS). The maintenance:

  • corrects any technical glitch that may have occurred; and
  • prevents a technical breakdown from occurring in the future.

Operation NEVUS 2018

Approximately 100 CAF members and Department of National Defence civilian personnel participated in Operation NEVUS from June 15 to July 15, 2018. This year, there were two main goals:

  • maintain and upgrade the HADCS sites between CFS Alert and Eureka
  • conduct environmental stewardship projects

During the operation, the CAF achieved the following:

  • Crushed more than 2000 empty fuel barrels
  • Completed environmental assessment on all known DND legacy sites, plus more sites which were found during the operation
  • Cleaned up three legacy sites, including removing drums and debris
  • Collected soil and fuel samples for research by students of the Royal Military College of Canada

The task group

Joint Task Group Nevus is made up of CAF Regular and Reserve Force members. Technicians from the Communications and Electronics Branch form the core of the group. They are brought together from CAF units across Canada. The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) provides air support for the task group.

The requirement

The HADCS links Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert to federal government communications centres in Ottawa. CFS Alert is on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island. The HADCS is the critical communication link between the High Arctic and Ottawa. It was built because CFS Alert is too far north to link to communications satellites orbiting over the Equator.

The HADCS is a chain of satellite-uplink sites and unmanned, remote-functioning, line-of-sight microwave repeating stations. The chain stretches more than 500 kilometres. It runs between CFS Alert and Fort Eureka, a research station on the west coast of Ellesmere Island. The microwave sites run on a combination of solar panels and batteries. The solar panels power the system and charge the batteries during the spring, summer and autumn seasons. The batteries power the system during periods of darkness.

During Operation NEVUS, technicians visit each HADCS site. They maintain the equipment and critical infrastructure, replacing parts as needed.  They also ensure that the entire system complies with environmental standards. The CAF members work in partnership with employees of Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The mission

The HADCS came into service in 1982.  The system has been visited and maintained each summer since then to ensure the communications link remains operable. 

Joint Task Group Nevus members deploy to the High Arctic each year. They operate from Fort Eureka, the base camp, in June. The operation can extend into July to accommodate the weather. Technicians travel to and from the satellite-uplink sites and microwave stations by helicopter.

They bring their tools and spare parts. Members of the task group might also:

  • inspect and maintain related equipment and infrastructure (roads, culverts, vehicles and buildings);
  • conduct fire prevention;
  • conduct health and safety reviews; and
  • perform any environmental cleanup that may be necessary.
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