From Alaska to Finland, big Arctic military exercises get started
U.S.-Canada link up in pan-North American show of airspace defence
(Updated, May 26, 6:30 a.m.)
The Arctic airspace from Alaska to Finland will buzz with activity over the next week, as NORAD, the United States-Canada alliance aimed at protecting North American airspace, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European-North American defence alliance, each start major military exercises in the skies above the Arctic.
“Amalgam Dart,” one of NORAD’s annual exercises, will train Canadian and U.S. air force members in aerospace defence and detection, while the Arctic Challenge Exercise will also exercise and train units in air operations.
Last week, the Canadian Department of National Defence warned people in Nunavut’s High Arctic community of Resolute Bay to stay away from from a restricted area around a temporary radar site near the airport.
On May 25, DND finally explained in a news release why the temporary radar equipment is there: the Canadian NORAD region is leading the Amalgam Dart military exercise May 25 to June 1, when Canadian and American military personnel and aircraft will be deployed to various locations in the North and the High Arctic to train in aerospace detection and defence.
In Resolute Bay, a Canadian armed forces mobile radar squadron is already on site, as part of the exercise.
The goal of Amalgam Dart, the DND news release said, is “to confirm integration procedures of NORAD’s bi-national force and benefit from realistic training scenarios in the North and High Arctic.”
“Through exercises such as these, we will continue to prepare NORAD forces to face all air threats to our homelands, including those coming from the North and High Arctic,” Admiral William E. Gortney of the NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, is quoted as saying in the news release.
The circumpolar military activity is widely seen as a move aimed at sending a message to Russia about the capabilities of NORAD- and NATO-aligned forces. In recent months, Russian aircraft have regularly crossed through northern airspace, raising concern internationally.
“The Russians have progressively increased both the quality and quantity of their northern patrols,” Rob Huebert, associate director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary, told Nunatsiaq News. The current efforts of NORAD are a belated effort to now show that they are taking the Russian northern flights seriously. Something that should have begun in 2008 and not 2015.”
NORAD’s Gortney, who has told U.S. lawmakers that he is worried about “Russian air, maritime, and cruise missile threats,” said last month that the U.S, and Canada plan to replace the radar along the North Warning sites across the Canadian Arctic.
The exercise in Canadian airspace takes place at the same time as about 90 fighter jets and 4,000 personnel from the U.S. and eight European nations start the Arctic Challenge Exercise over Norway and other Nordic nations.
Canada’s Amalgam Dart exercise is much shorter and smaller, involving only about 300 military personnel and 15 aircraft operating around Alaska, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
The temporary radar site in Resolute Bay will operate about 1.2 kilometres west of the Resolute Bay airport until June 9,
During the exercise, Resolute Bay, residents are warned to stay away from a restricted area of about 900 metres around the temporary radar site because the radar emits radio frequency energy” that could potentially present a health hazard if a person is inside the parameter [sic] while the radar is in operations,” the DND said.
The armed forces have put up signs around the perimeter warning people to stay away.
Resolute Bay is also the site of the Canadian Armed Forces Arctic Training Centre, which shares space with the Polar Continental Shelf Program in a recently-expanded facility located next to the airport.