Operation NANOOK takes place annually in several locations across Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. It is the largest sovereignty operation in Canada’s North.
The objectives of Operation NANOOK are:
- To assert Canada’s sovereignty over its northernmost regions;
- To enhance the Canadian Armed Forces’ ability to operate in Arctic conditions;
- To improve coordination in whole-of-government operations; and
- To maintain interoperability with mission partners for maximum effectiveness in response to safety and security issues in the North.
The task force
The joint forces deployed on Operation NANOOK comprise personnel and assets from across Canada, and may be drawn from any or all of the primary force-generators of the Canadian Armed Forces:
- the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN);
- the Canadian Army;
- the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF); and
- Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM).
The size and make-up of the forces deployed on Operation NANOOK vary from year to year, according to the planned mix of activities and exercises, but they always include the following organizations of Joint Task Force (North):
- 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, a Reserve formation of the Canadian Army headquartered in Yellowknife, with 60 patrol units distributed in communities across the North, and
- 440 “Vampire” Transport Squadron, an RCAF unit based in Yellowknife, flying the CC‑138 Twin Otter, a utility transport aircraft designed for short take-off and landing.
Over the years, the forces deployed on Operation NANOOK have been combined and integrated with:
- international military partners;
- Canadian federal government departments and agencies; and
- provincial, territorial and municipal governments.
Operation NANOOK is conducted under operational command of the Commander CJOC and operational control of Joint Task Force (North) Headquarters in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.
The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces define the North as the area encompassing:
- the Sub-Arctic Region, the part of Canada that lies between 55 and 60 degrees North latitude; and
- the Arctic Region, the part of Canada that lies north of 60 degrees North latitude.
The high Arctic is the part of the Arctic Region that lies north of the Arctic Circle, which is 66.5 degrees North latitude.
The global environment
The Arctic is known to have vast reserves of fossil fuels and an abundance of minerals, including gold and diamonds, and is increasingly accessible due to climate change. Consequently, this region is attracting more and more Canadian and international attention.
Because climate change is gradually eroding the Arctic icecap, the waters of the Arctic Archipelago are more navigable every year and more ships enter the region. Air traffic in the North is also growing; the annual total of flights on polar routes in Canadian airspace increased from fewer than 1,000 in 2003 to almost 10,000 in 2010.
The increase in traffic at sea and in the air, and the escalating exploitation of natural resources in the North, boost the risk of sovereignty challenges, environmental problems, accidents giving rise to search-and-rescue requirements, and criminal activity, especially illicit entry of people and goods.
Operation NANOOK has been conducted annually since 2007.
As an Arctic nation, Canada regularly and fully exercises its sovereign rights and jurisdiction in its northern territories. The Canadian Armed Forces have a significant role to play in forestalling sovereignty challenges, defending Canada against threats in the region, and protecting Canadians by supporting whole-of-government efforts to ensure appropriate responses to security and environmental concerns in the North.
Operation NANOOK is the Canadian Armed Forces’ annual engagement with international military and security partners to demonstrate interoperability in the Arctic. This aspect of the operation usually entails exercises using scenarios in which the Canadian Armed Forces partner with other Canadian government departments and agencies, and with allied armed forces, to mount whole-of-government responses to security and environmental issues.
Operation NANOOK typically involves simultaneous activities at sea, on land and in the air, and all force-generators may be tasked to deploy personnel, capital equipment and other resources. The number of soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen deployed on Operation NANOOK has ranged from about 650 to more than 1,250.