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Operation Nanook destined for Inuvik
CF-18 flyover of the East Channel promises to be a spectacular moment in the month-long operation

Mark Rieder
Northern News Services
Thursday, July 16, 2015

Inuvik will get the chance to shine next month when the Canadian Armed Forces makes the town its headquarters for a military exercise.

NNSL photo/graphic

Cpl. William Hong from the Canadian Army Advanced Warfare Center repacks a search-and-rescue parachute after a successful jump during Operation Nanook 2014 last August on Baffin Island in Nunavut. Operation Nanook is coming to Inuvik next month. - photo courtesy of Cpl. Aydyn Neifer, JTFN

The town's senior administrative officer, Grant Hood, said he is looking forward to having Inuvik be the centre of attention during the operation.

"I think we're getting major national attention which can only be a positive for tourism," he said.

Operation Nanook is an annual event that takes place in different parts of the North. Last year, the exercise took place in Nunavut. The last time it happened at Inuvik was in 2012.

With more than 300 personnel converging on Inuvik to man the operations centre, all aspects of the exercise will be co-ordinated out of what is for now just the open area on the pool side of the Midnight Sun Complex.

Mike Zubko Airport will be a hub of activity as support aircraft for the operation will be based there. The CC-130 Hercules, CC-177 Globemaster and a number of CC-147 Chinook helicopters will fly in and out of the airport as part of the operation. Other aircraft used for the exercise, such as the Buffalo and Twin Otter will not be based out of the airport.

Maj. Frank Cannon, with Canadian Forces Northern Area Headquarters based in Yellowknife, said one of the main outcomes of the operation is to identify what groups or individuals the Armed Forces can turn to in the case of a real-world emergency in the region.

"We need to go through each of the major communities in the North and determine who are the players involved, so if we have to conduct a major operation and have to deploy, what assets the community has that we can use," he said.

With a maximum of 650 people on the ground in the region at any one time, the operation will draw from Armed Forces personnel from other parts of Canada.

"The majority of the participants are not coming from Yellowknife," said Cannon, "In this case they're coming from New Brunswick."

Since the majority of soldiers in the army are not from the North, the exercise provides an occasion for them to get an understanding of the lay of the land.

"It gives us an opportunity to give people exposure to the Arctic that normally would not be coming up, but will play a huge part in potential operations if they were to happen," said Cannon.

Although only an exercise, the equipment needed to make it happen is the same as if it was a full-scale operation.

"This is scaled down but you have to jump through the same hoops to get the people in the field," Cannon said.

Cannon explained that the scenarios they will be practising were identified by the federal and territorial governments as well as other security and safety organizations such as the Canadian Coast Guard.

"We are not in this alone. Our Northern partners, both federal and territorial, are involved because this is our biggest activity," he said.

There are three scenarios being acted out in this year's operation. One is a wildfire scenario happening at Fort Smith.

Inuvik will be the base of operations for an oil spill scenario in the eastern Beaufort Sea and Amundsen Gulf. It will begin with a table top discussion held by the various governmental agencies in the territory and last four days. It will be followed by a community training event headed up by the Canadian Coast Guard in Uluhaktok and will run for three to five days.

The final scenario will be an Arctic security task in response to a theoretical sabotage event initiated by North American Aerospace Command (NORAD) warning indicators in the vicinity of Tuktoyaktuk and Sachs Harbour. It will include both land and marine threats to the Northern Warning System.

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