The Canadian armed forces have concluded a series of annual drills meant to sharpen the country’s military capabilities in the high Arctic.

Known as Operation Nanook-Nunalivut, the latest iteration of the exercise ran from 1-17 March and included more than 300 Canadian military personnel, and troops from the USA, Belgium, France and Germany.

Aircraft from the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) were also involved, including Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules tactical transports and CC-138 Twin Otters, the military designation for De Havilland Canada DHC-6 twin-engined turboprop.

Operation Nanook-Nunalivut is based around the Canadian Armed Forces Arctic Training Centre, located in the small village of Resolute Bay. The community on Cornwallis Island is one of Canada’s most northerly – located just 1,865 miles (3,000km) from the North Pole.

Canadian armed forces members also deployed to a research base at Eureka, Nunavut – just 620 miles from the North Pole – and Pond Inlet on the northernmost edge of Baffin Island.

Ottawa says the exercise demonstrated Canada’s ability to project and sustain forces in the Arctic “under the harshest conditions”.

“It is increasingly important to be able to project and sustain forces in the Canadian Arctic,” says Vice-Admiral Bob Auchterlonie, commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command. “Operation Nanook-Nunalivut is our opportunity to demonstrate Canada’s presence and sovereignty in the north, while training to operate in austere and difficult environments.”

Canada is in the midst of a major modernisation effort targeting the RCAF, including the procurement of new aerial refuelling, surveillance and fighter aircraft. Ottawa is also investing billions of dollars to build new airspace monitoring radars across the Arctic.

The RCAF’s use of aircraft carrier-oriented fighter platforms also offers unique benefits to Arctic operations.

Installation of a ground-based arresting wire system at a US-operated air base in Greenland in 2020 now allows the RCAF’s carrier-capable Boeing F/A-18 Hornet fighters to land year-round on the facility’s icy runways.