CASR – Canadian American Strategic Review – Arctic Futures

  CASR | Arctic Viking | Arctic Futures | In Detail | Arctic Empires | BG
Canada's Arctic Sovereignty  –  Denmark's Claims in the Arctic  –  September 2009

Update:  Denmark's  Arctic  Assets  and  Canada's  Response  —
Northern Deployment 2009:  Danish Navy & CCG in the High Arctic

Sidebar  –  Danish Naval Cooperation with the Canadian Coast Guard in the Arctic
As part of  Northern Deployment 2009,  the Danish military has been exercising along both coasts of Greenland as well as in the Northwest  Passage  in  cooperation  with  the  Canadian  Coast Guard.  As has become  the norm  for the Canadian government, there is no mention of this Arctic cooperation on either the CCG website or among Fisheries & Oceans Canada new releases. But there is coverage of the operations on official Danish sites. CCG involvement in Northern Deployment 2009 included a joint SAR exercise in  Lancaster Sound with two Danish naval vessels and a reconnaissance aircraft.

The two Danish ships were  HDMS Ejnar Mikkelsen ( P571 ) the second Knud Rasmussen class offshore patrol vessel and HDMS Hvidbjørnen (F360) a Thetis class patrol frigate. To the Danes, both of  these ice-resistant vessels are Inspektionsfartøjer or 'inspection ships'. After completing the exercise,  the two ships sailed north  into Nares Strait almost reaching Hans Island. The object was to practice coordination of SAR for civilian ships in this area.

Conditions in these icy waters had already been mapped by a  Canadian-built  Challenger CL-604 MMA reconnaissance aircraft of  the Royal  Danish Air Force. The two ships were on their first ever cruise along the Humboldt Glacier in Peabody Bay. The Hvidbjørnen was responsible for mapping the sea floor as the ships proceeded north  (an onboard computer storing all data to allow other ships to safely follow in future ).  Along the route,  the rather improbable-sounding scenario of  rescuing civilian ships was reinforced when a 10m yacht was encountered sailing near the pack ice  – a dangerous place to be when the wind shifts.

The Danes regard these show-the-flag missions as sovereignty assertion  and so they are. Their determination to perform these missions is all  the more impressive when it is realized that Greenland attained independence months before Northern Deployment 2009 exercises even began. The Danes see such efforts as their responsibility in the region.  This is not a publicity stunt performed as a once-a-year sideshow.  It is a real, on-going  presence in the Arctic region meeting the needs of  local people. [1]  In that regard,  Danish military efforts have more in common with Canadian Coast Guard activities than with the Canadian Forces.

On mission with Royal Danish Air Force Challenger Aircraft in Northern Greenland
Published by Grønlands Kommando as På mission med Challenger fly i Nordgrønland

09 September 2009

Danish Challenger aircraft and their crews are deployed  to Luftgruppe Vest  in Greenland [this 'Western Air Group' is a monthly exchange of  RDAF crews on sovereignty assertion duties]. During this deployment, the Challenger crew participated in the Northern Deploy- ment 2009 exercise among other things.  This entailed working  in cooperation with several Danish naval vessels on station in the area.

Participation in Northern Deployment 2009 started with a mission close to Thule, where the crew demonstrated their capabilities with Defence Chief, Adm. Tim Sloth Jørgensen,  and  Chief of  Grønlands Kommando, RAdm. Henrik Kudsk, on board. The crew got an opportunity to demonstrate the Challenger's ability to quickly locate a ship (in simulated distress), create an overview of  the situation  and,  following this,  call for additional  help.

Acting the part of a distressed ship was the inspection vessel Ejnar Mikkelsen. After developing an overview of  the situation, the crew of  the CL-604 requested  the assistance of the larger Hvidbjørnen which also was in the area. With that, the Challenger's crew  transferred the role of  "On Scene Coordinator" (OSC) to the Hvid- bjørnen. The Challenger  then  continued  northwards flying over Smith Sound and  the Nares Strait proper towards Hans Island scouting for ice.

This ice reconnaissance (is- rekognoscering) was on behalf of the Ejnar Mikkelsen which was to sail into these water in subsequent days.  For this ice-scouting, the crew used their Challenger's radar [the under-belly synthetic aperture radar set] and visual observation to form a detailed map of  the extent and  type of  ice along  Ejnar Mikkelsen's planned route.

In the days to follow, the Challenger would participate indirectly in  Northern Deployment, carrying out  tasks for Grønlands Kommando included ice-scouting along the east coast  from  Daneborg to Mestersvig, spotting of ships in fiords, and  a practice drop of  supplies near Mestersvig. After an unplanned stop in Iceland to deal with undercarriage problems,  the Challenger  resumed operations on 03 Sept 2009 but with a change of venue.

For this next phase of  the exercise,  the Challenger  was stationed at Thule Air Base for a Redningsmission ( SAR or search and rescue) exercise whose object was to find a lost ship in  Lancaster Sound  in Canadian waters. [2] For this Canadian SAR exercise,  the CL-604  cooperated with the Ejnar Mikkelsen and  Hvidbjørnen again as well as a Canadian  Coast  Guard  icebreaker,  CCGS Henry Larsen.

Despite comparatively poor visibility in the area,  the Challenger crew were successful  in gaining visual contact with the lost vessel and managed to guide other participants to that location for further assistance.  For the crew,  this exercise was a good opportunity to train in SAR procedures and act as OSC in collaboration with naval units near Greenland, which generally is a great challenge because of the large distances, the weather and environment.
[1] Scale or newsworthiness doesn't seem to be much of an issue for the Danes. With their mission complete, the crew of  Ejnar Mikkelsen stopped for an 'open ship' day at Qeqertat, a settlement with a population of  25 Kalaallit  on  Harward Øer,  an island  north of  Thule.

[2] Lancaster Sound forms the eastern portion of  the Northwest Passage between Devon Island and Baffin Island, an area where Danish-owned cruise ships will soon be operating.

  CASR | Arctic Viking | Arctic Futures | In Detail | Arctic Empires | Background