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Tasks in the Arctic and the North Atlantic

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The inspection vessel EJNAR MIKKELSEN of the KNUD-class in Greenlandic waters
The inspection vessel EJNAR MIKKELSEN of the KNUD-class in Greenlandic waters

Tasks in the Arctic and the North Atlantic 

The activities of the Danish Defence in and around Greenland and the Faroe islands are conducted from the Arctic Command. The Arctic Command was established on 31st October 2012, when the Island Command Greenland and the Island Command Faroes were united into a joint Arctic Command. The Arctic Command has its headquarters in the Greenland capital Nuuk in southwestern Greenland. In addition to this, the Arctic Command comprises one minor liaison element in Tórshavn in the Faroe islands.

The primary tasks of the Defence in and around Greenland and the Faroe islands are maritime surveillance and enforcement of sovereignty. In addition to these, a number of other tasks are solved, such as fisheries inspection, support for scientific expeditions, ammunition disposal, and patrolling with inspection vessels and ships. In Greenland the Defence furthermore handles tasks, such as search and rescue service, hydrographic survey, environmental surveillance, and pollution control.

The Defence has personnel placed at Station North, which is the northernmost base in the world (‘Station Nord’ / northern Greenland), Air Group West at Kangerlussuaq (‘Søndre Strømfjord’ / western Greenland), the Defence Guard at Mestersvig (eastern Greenland), and a liaison unit at the Thule Base (northwestern Greenland). Furthermore, the abt. 12 men of the SIRIUS Patrol handle the enforcement of sovereignty and police authority in the world’s largest national park, which more or less covers all of northeastern Greenland. The SIRIUS Patrol is stationed at Daneborg.

The present defence agreement stipulates that the task solution of the Defence in the Arctic is to be strengthened as a result of the increased activity in the Arctic. Thus the Defence has already initiated the acquisition of a newer, modern inspection vessel of the KNUD RASMUSSEN class, together with nine ship-based, considerably more capable SEAHAWK helicopters in replacement of the ageing LYNX helicopters. Among other things, the new, ship-based helicopters will be able to operate from the inspection vessels, which are brought into action in the Arctic areas of the kingdom.

In addition to this, the Defence has initiated the establishment of an Arctic preparedness force, which is planned to supplement the present operative effort of the Defence in the Arctic, and to be able to support other agencies in Greenland, according to circumstances. Upon activation, the Arctic preparedness force will be put together by capacities from the entire organization of the Ministry of Defence (planes, vessels, units from the Emergency Management Agency, and others), which otherwise handle other current operational tasks, in Denmark or in relation to international operations, among others.

The future – The Ministry of Defence will strengthen its task solution in the Arctic
These years, major sweeping changes are taking place in the Arctic. The Arctic climate changes are causing an increased geographical accessibility, whose effects, among other things, are growing attention to winning of natural resources, and a generally increased commercial and scientific activity in the Arctic. In the coming years, the increased accessibility is expected to influence the economic activity in the Arctic, for instance in the form of increased winning of minerals and fossil fuels, and of increased fishing industry and tourism.

A precondition for realizing the many potentials of the Arctic region is a continued stable political development in the Arctic. As argued in the Kingdom of Denmark Strategy for the Arctic 2011-2020, the challenges must be handled on the basis of international legal principles, in order to secure a peaceful, safe and cooperative Arctic. Following this, the security policy approach of the kingdom to the Arctic is based on an overall aim of preventing conflicts and avoiding a militarization of the Arctic, which is why the Defence is engaged in solid international cooperation with various Arctic nations.

Even though the Arctic is a region characterized by peace and cooperation, there will still be a need for the enforcement of Danish sovereignty, not least in the light of the above increased activity in the entire region.

In a number of areas, the development in the Arctic will make altered and increased demands on the task solution of the Ministry of Defence. Consequently, the Ministry of Defence has completed a comprehensive analysis of the future task solution in the Arctic of the organisation of the Ministry of Defence.

The analysis recommends that the following main areas should be strengthened:
  • Surveillance
  • Command, control and Communications
  • Operational units

The analysis comprises all agencies in the organisation of the Ministry of Defence, and it is carried into effect in cooperation with the Greenland and Faroese authorities.
 
The analysis is available in Danish here with an executive summary in English (page 15)

This article in Danish
Last updated 2016-12-12 - 15:17

Facts

The sovereignty of the Danish Realm in the Arctic and the North Atlantic is enforced and monitored by Arctic Command.

The Danish Defence has about 80 persons stationed in Greenland including 5 persons on the Faroe Islands. In addition to this are the sailors on board the inspection vessels and ships that patrol the North Atlantic and Arctic waters 365 days a year.

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