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Canada's Arctic Sovereignty – Denmark's Claims in the Arctic – September 2009
Update: Denmark's Arctic Assets and Canada's Response —
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
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.  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
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.  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.
 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.
 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
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