SAREX 13 and the Arctic Challenge


Even though a small state, Denmark is providing intellectual and practical leadership in shaping Arctic policy for the Western states.

In part, this in the absence of the kind of Canadian and US leadership one should expect, but has not really been evident to date.

An example of this was leading a search and rescue exercise in the Arctic in September 2013. 

The location of the rescue effort in SAREX 13. Credit Canadian Air Force
The location of the rescue effort in SAREX 13. Credit Canadian Air Force

The scenario focused on a real world problem, namely a cruise ship in distress with the need to both search and rescue passengers and crew.

Because situational awareness is difficult, communications episodic and the ability to reach the right point to make a difference with the right rescue means, the challenge to do “normal” S and R is formidable.

The exercise demonstrated how difficult it is to do “routine” S and R. 

The Danes have released a report, which suggested that some things went well, but clearly many did not, which, of course, is the point of running exercises.

The gaps in the ability of the nations to work together, the absence of enough S and R platforms, the real shortfall in SA, and the pot holes associated with communication were all highlighted in the after action report.

One of the more dramatic lessons learned was high significant is the shortfall in basic communications which undercuts significantly S and R capabilities.

Hence this was a recommendation about how to build a patch work solution:

As recommended during SAREX Greenland Sea 2012, a simple and self sustained satellite internet transceiver solution, easy put on a mountain top, capable of covering at least 10 Nm, is recommended as the interim solution until internet SATCOM coverage in the fiord systems and above 72N is available. 

Such systems are recommended to be tested and implemented immediately.  If an area is covered with internet the Tetra-Flex system can link-up and Tetra-Flex data be exchanged. 

Otherwise, it must be investigated if it is possible to deploy larger generators or attached fuel tanks for the Tetra-Flex relay stations, which was tested and failed during SAREX 2013.

As an alternative to internet SATCOM and Tetra-Flex the Greenlandic Police used HF making the lines of communication long and the risk of losing information higher. 

Another alternative could be the newest Iridium phones.

It is possible to share data “raw text messages” using the newest Iridium pilot data connection (like the ATW-690 and the ICESAR solution) used on Ella Island and Mestersvig. 

The system could be useful for all actors as an alternative until having full internet coverage and Tetra-Flex running.

SAREX Greenland Sea 2012-2013 Lessons Identified-Lessons Learned (Final)

SAREX Greenland Sea 2013 Final Exercise Report (Final)