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Canada's Arctic Sovereignty –  Denmark's Claims in the Arctic –  May 2005

Denmark's Arctic Assets and Canada's Response – 
Sovereignty and Strategic Resources of the High Arctic

Part 4  –  In Detail  Survey  –  Danish Arctic Assets  –  Capabilities on Land
Mukluks on the Ice and Snow – Shore Parties and the Sirius Patrol in Greenland

When KDM shore parties raised the Danish flag over tiny Hans Island  (and hammered a plaque into its rocky surface), foreign affairs and military officials in Canada were equally bemused. After all, the Danes are our allies – why would they press a claim against us? In the end, the answer is simple: cooperation in the arctic between Denmark and Canada has revealed to Copenhagen that Canada's long- standing claims to the high arctic aren't backed by military presence or settlements. In the past, mapping the area may have been enough.  Now it's feet on the ground.

The shore party on  Hans Island came from a  Thetis class  frigate, the Vædderen (F359). These were regular troops, but  the KDM can also call upon special forces:  the Frømandskorpset, a Navy SEAL- like unit made up of armed divers.

Getting Serious About Sovereignty in the High Arctic – the Danish Sirius Patrol

From among the Frømandskorpset (and other Danish military volunteers) are selected the personnel of one of the most extraordinary of armed units –  the Slæde- patuljen Sirius (or Sledge Patrol [1] ). Using dogsleds and the simplest of equipment, Sirius Patrols cover all of northeastern Greenland. In the brief Arctic summer, kayaks are used to skirt the coastline.  The rest of the year, Sirius Patrols criss-cross the Greenland icecap asserting Danish sovereignty.

For details of Danish military small arms, see:  Small Arms in Greenland  Sidebar.  It should be noted that the forces listed above are simply the troops on the water, ice, or ground at any given time. Such units can readily reinforced by air or by sea. The Danish military routinely exercise in Norway preparing them for Arctic warfare.

Although no Danish combat aircraft are usually based  in Greenland,  the Flyvevåbnet's F-16 fighters have, in the past flown non-stop from a base in Greenland  (Søndre Strømfjord) to Ålborg, their home base in Denmark. Obviously,  if  ever required to back up Danish claims, the F-16s – or armed helicopters [2] – could reinforce Greenland.

Denmark's military is presently undergoing a major renovation. The result will be a considerable increase in military forces which can be deployed to Greenland. Also, the current Greenland fleet is shortly to be improved when two of the Agdlek class are replaced. We will examine this planned future Danish fleet in a later installment.

[ Update: The Agdlek class boats were replaced by more capable Knud Rasmussen class OPVs beginning in the summer of 2008. See Danish Naval Projects 2005-2009.]

[1] Sirius is, of course, a highly appropriate reference to the Dog Star ( Sirius being the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major). Slædepatuljen would translate as "sled patrol" but, with their size and carrying capacity, "sledge" may be a better description. These units date back to WWII when the Danish military patrolled the Greenland icecap hunting for any hidden German meteorological reporting stations.

[2] Danish armed helicopters (such as the AS 550 Fennec) were flown by personnel of the Hårens Flyvetjeneste but this Army aviation unit has now been disbanded and these aircraft are being operated by the Flyvevåbnet. Maritime helicopters are flown by Søvårnets Flyvetjenste personnel.  [ Our thanks to Gregers Hjermitslev.]

Next in this In Detail  SurveyReinforcing Canada's Presence in the Arctic

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