Operation Nunalivut 2014: Bigger, more complex than ever

  • Published
  • By Canadian Army Captain Bonnie Wilken
  • Op NU 14 Public Affairs
Canadian Armed Forces operations don't stop when the roads do. Rather, the rougher the terrain, the more intricate the transport plans get. In the High Arctic especially, airlift is integral to mission success.

The soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen deployed on Operation Nunalivut 2014 depend on ingenuity and a mix of unique assets to achieve Canadian Armed Forces' objectives in this demanding yet beautiful region of the High Arctic.

Both strategic and tactical airlift combined play a key role in keeping soldiers mobile and responsive when operating in harsh, Arctic environments. This year, for the first time in Operation Nunalivut's history, the New York Air National Guards' 109th Airlift Wing was invited to participate. They fly ski-equipped LC-130 "Skibirds" and operate out of Scotia, N.Y., and have continuing missions in Greenland and Antarctica in support of the National Science Foundation.

"Conducting joint and combined operations with our allies is a valuable learning experience for both sides, but in this case, the capabilities of our respective aircraft complement one another seamlessly," says Royal Canadian Air Force Maj. Bert Bolderheij, Air Task Force commander for Operation Nunalivut.

The U.S. "Skibirds" have added their heavy-lift capabilities to the Royal Canadian Air Force's ski-equipped Twin Otters, generated by 440 (Transport) Squadron in Yellowknife. With the addition of a ski runway marked and groomed on the ice north of Bathurst Island, they moved fuel and supplies between Resolute Bay, Nunavut, "Ice Camp 1" on Sherard Osborne Island and Thule Air Base, Greenland.

"We take great care when we are on the land; a lot of thought and care goes into each mission," said Maj. Steven Slosek, an LC-130 navigator with the 109th Airlift Wing.

Slosek said the challenges lie in the unpredictability of Arctic weather and the additional maintenance required when operating in extreme cold. These challenges are factored into the Wings' mission planning.

"Overall, (the operation) has been very interesting," said Slosek. "The Canadian Armed Forces Arctic Training Centre [CAFATC] is a great facility."

The Twin Otter aircraft form the tactical airlift backbone of Operation Nunalivut. They allow the Task Force commander to quickly move personnel and supplies to austere locations all over the Arctic. Without the need for a runway, these aircraft can go anywhere they are needed.
The 109th Airlift Wing has capitalized on the versatility of the airframe, using the Twin Otter to conduct reconnaissance of suitable landing sites on the sea ice to set up their base camp. The two aircraft work extremely well together.

"I think (the Twin Otters are) great," said Slosek. "They're a highly versatile aircraft, and they help us conduct our mission here."

Well-planned strategic and tactical airlift plays a key role in keeping military personnel mobile, responsive, and safe when faced with the challenges of dangerous or rough sea ice and extreme resupply distance under austere conditions.

Strategic transport from across Canada, bringing supplies and people to the staging base in Resolute Bay, was achieved with the help of the Canadian CC-177 Globemaster III and CC-130J Hercules Aircraft. From there, the LC-130 and Twin Otters took over, supporting Canadian Armed Forces remote operating locations. In addition, a contracted commercial Bell B412 helicopter ensured the airlift needs of a deployed Infantry Company (minus) and Combined Dive Team were met.