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CASR – Canadian American Strategic Review – Arctic Futures
Canada's Arctic Sovereignty – Denmark's Claims in the Arctic –
Update: Denmark's Arctic Assets
and Canada's Response —
Danish Air Force Aircraft on a Mission over
Canada's High Arctic
Sidebar – A Danish Military Aircraft on Familiarization Flights over Canada's
In a 05 June 2009 news release, Canada's Air Force Paffos described a recent STOL demonstration by a Boeing
CC-177 Globemaster III transport plane. This was to display the ability of the CF's CC-177s to
operate "... on the austere runways commonly found in an Assault Landing Zone (ALZ)
and to make precision landings and takeoffs from short or makeshift runways" said a spokesman.
The demonstration took place at CFD Mountain View, a military airstrip some 22 km south- east of the CC-177s'
home base of CFB Trenton. But the Globemaster III's simulated ALZ was not the 4800 ft (1463m) gravel
runway used by Hercules tactical transports to practice austere condition takeoffs and landings. No, the
CC-177 assault landing was performed on Mountain View's main, 5000 ft, paved runway after two practice touch-and-go
The CC-177's displays were visually impressive. With Mountain View's narrow pavement, there was lots of
dramatic dust kicked up by the CC-177's wake. But no flying gravel to chip the expensive paintwork or ding
pristine aluminum skin. That is left to the smaller, less highly-valued, CC-130 Hercules fleet. Which takes us to an
altogether different 4800 ft gravel runway also visited by CF Hercules – CFS Eureka.
Eureka is midway up the west coast of Ellesmere Island in Nunavut. And, shortly after that CC-177's hop over
to CFD Mountain View, CFS Eureka hosted an unusual visitor. This was another jet transport, albeit on a much reduced
scale. It was a Canadair Challenger built in Montreal but kitted out by Field Aviation in Toronto for
military support missions. But this Canadian aircraft was not a CF CC-144. It was a Challenger 604 MMA of the Danish Air Force on a familiarization flight
– in case Danish forces in Greenland should ever be called upon by their defence agreements to perform
SAR missions over Canadian Arctic territory.
In the past, we at CASR have argued that suitably equipped
Challenger 604 MMA would be capable of operating from austere, gravel strips in Canada's High Arctic. We now know this to be the case. But it wasn't a
CF Challenger that provided the proof. That job
fell to the Danes – compelled by treaty to perform tasks Canada will not do. Instead, our Air
Force was busy demonstrating assault landings on an asphalt runway in southern Ontario.
A translation of a news release "Dansk Challenger på pionermission i Canada" from the
Flyvevåbnet, Flyvertaktisk Kommando (or Danish Air Force, Tactical Command )
News Release, 03 July 2009: Danish Challenger Aircraft on Pioneer Mission to Canada
Over the past few days, a Challenger aircraft from the Royal Danish Air Force's Esk 721 (721
Squadron) completed a mission to very distant and isolated gravel airstrips in the wilderness of
northern Canada. This was the first mission of this kind ever flown over Canada by Danish aircraft. The mission
was flown in collaboration with Grønlands Kommando by Eskadrille 721.
According to the mission commander, these Challenger flights are part of the Grønlands
Kommando's preparations for further cooperation with Canada. This extra cooperation is a direct consequence of
increased interest in arctic regions, particularly the rising commercial traffic – with the
increase in arctic cruise ship traffic being a particular area of research. 
The Challenger's chief pilot tells us: "In the last few days, a Challenger-plane from 721 Squadron has,
in collaboration with Grønlands Kommando, completed the first ever missions to very isolated gravel
strips in northern Canada. The flights were characterized by particularly thorough planning before
hand plus a dependence on local weather reporting since these remote airstrips rarely have
instrument-approach beacons or other nav aids."
The first stop for this Challenger was CFS Eureka, the most northern research station in the world
– only 1000 kilometres from North Pole. With a runway only 4800 ft long and a heavy wind, the approach into
Eureka was a particularly big challenge for the crew. Upon arrival, the Danish plane was closely studied by the few
personnel stationed at Eureka [ Ed: usually 75 - 100]. This was the first time that they had ever seen a jet
aircraft at Eureka.
After a short lunch the Challenger left for Resolute Bay, which is situated on the northern edge of the
North-West Passage. During this flight, the crew were exposed to a fantastic natural panorama, the
experience including the spotting of more polar bears moving below.
In comparison with the Eureka's strip the runway at Resolute Bay was of a much better nature. With its
6500 foot (1980 m) runway, the approach here was comparable with Mestersvig, for instance, an airport on the
east coast of Greenland which Danish Challengers often visit. However, airport personnel at
Resolute Bay were also surprised to encounter the Danish aircraft. When the Challenger crew established
radio contact with Resolute, the first thing Canadians controllers asked was whether the Danes knew that CYRB was a
After the stop at Resolute Bay, the Danish Challenger flew the 2000 km back to Søndre
Strømfjord [the 9220 ft asphalt runway in SW Greenland, the settlement is now known as Kangerlussuaq ].
For the crew, this day was characterized by an atmosphere of euphoria. You could sense the excitement that
those original explorers must have had when they first discovered this new, remote, and unexplored
country up in the far North of Canada.
Within the next few days, the plane will try to complete additional missions to other gravel runways of the
Canadian Arctic including CFS Alert on northern Ellesmere Iceland as well as Nanisivik in western Baffin Island,
weather depending. The purpose of missions to such Canadian locales was to appraise the gravel airstrips'
fitness for possible future operations with Danish Challenger aircraft. Grønlands Kommando
periodically uses the Challengers for the surveillance of its operational area. Mutual assistance
agreements entered into with neighbours and allies include performing search-and-rescue missions over areas bordering
Greenland's waters and airspace. Specifically, neighbouring areas of Iceland and
 A Copenhagen-based travel agency has recently been given approval by Environment Canada to tour Sirmilik
National Park (Bylot Island) using a polar cruise ship, Ocean Nova.
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