Canadian Arctic Operations, 1941-2015: Lessons Learned, Lost, and Relearned


Edited by Adam Lajeunesse and P. Whitney Lackenbauer

The Arctic is back on the Canadian radar. Political, commercial, and strategic interests abound in a region being transformed by climate change, the prospect of expanding resource development, and other global forces. Melting ice and increasing accessibility bring new safety and security demands to which the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) must be ready to respond.

Over the past decade, the CAF have invested significant resources into a concerted program to develop new Arctic capabilities through widely-publicized annual “N-Series” operations (Nanook, Nunalivut, and Nunakput) and a myriad of smaller exercises. As this book reveals, many of the recent operational and tactical ‘lessons learned’ are actually being ‘re-learned’ from previous surges of Northern activity, stretching back over eight decades and encompassing land, sea, and air activities.  The chapters in this important book provide an unprecedented overview of operational challenges that the CAF have faced over time, examine how they were addressed, and chart the military’s learning (and forgetting) processes since the Second World War.

By bringing together academic and military experts, Canadian Arctic Operations, 1941-2015: Lessons Learned, Lost, and Relearned provides valuable insights into how the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy, and Royal Canadian Air Force can operate safely and effectively in the Far North. The knowledge and experience needed to do so are not easily gained and, as the chapters in this volume demonstrate, are easily lost if not practiced or exercised regularly. By disseminating lessons learned from Arctic operations, this book helps to consolidate the institutional knowledge that the Canadian military has amassed over time, thus supporting efforts to enhance the mobility, reach, and footprint of the CAF to support operations and to project force into the Arctic.


Adam Lajeunesse and P. Whitney Lackenbauer, eds. Canadian Armed Forces Arctic Operations, 1945-2015: Historical and Contemporary Lessons Learned. Fredericton: Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society, 2017. xli, 491 pp.


Introduction: Lessons Learned, Lost, and Relearned by Adam Lajeunesse and P. Whitney Lackenbauer xv

  1. “A Particularly Spectacular Piece of Demolition”: The Canadian-Led Raid on Spitzbergen, 1941 by Ryan Dean and P. Whitney Lackenbauer 1
  2. Lessons in Arctic Warfare: The Army Experience, 1945-55 by P.Whitney Lackenbauer, Peter Kikkert, and Kenneth C. Eyre 47
  3. Paper Tiger: The Mobile Striking Force and the Chimera of Arctic Defence by Bernd Horn 105
  4. Operation CANON by Headquarters, Prairie Command 132
  5. On Frozen Wings and Waves: RCN Operations and RCAF Maritime Air in the Arctic 1946-1950 by Richard Mayne. 152
  6. The Labrador and the DEW Line 184
  7. Canada’s Northern Deployments, 1970-89: Symbolism and Substance by Adam Lajeunesse 196
  8. Patrouille Nocturne by Captain Rick Michon 217
  9. SAR HARTWELL by Alan Phillips 228
  10. Operation Morning Light by Major Bill Aikman 245
  11. “This is no ‘Milk Run’”: Operation Boxtop, 1956-2015 by Daniel Heidt and Richard Goette 270
  12. The CAF Returns to the Arctic, 2000-2006 by Adam Lajeunesse 307
  13. The Arctic Response Company Groups: Presence and Mass by Adam Lajeunesse 331
  14. Survivability, Sustainability, and Maneuverability: Implementing DoD Arctic Strategy at the Tactical and Operational Levels by Captain Nathan Fry 353
  15. Finding Ihuma: Inuit Leadership Norms and Canadian Ranger Operations by Peter Kikkert, with Doug Stern 370
  16. Search and Rescue in the Arctic by LCol Dany Poitras 387
  17. Planning Operation Nanook 2014: Lessons Learned from a Joint Task Force (North) Perspective by LCol Deanna Manson 426
  18. Conclusion: There is No Glide Path in the Arctic: Operational Lessons Learned by Adam Lajeunesse and P. Whitney Lackenbauer 443