Operation NEVUS

Operation NEVUS is the deployment of a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) technical team to Ellesmere Island. A joint task group is sent once a year. It performs essential maintenance on the High Arctic Data Communications System (HADCS) to:

  • correct any technical glitch that may have occurred
  • prevent a technical breakdown from occurring in the future

How many people are deployed?

Usually, around 100 Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces members participate in Operation NEVUS. The core of the group is made of technicians from the Communications and Electronics Branch. The Royal Canadian Air Force provides air support for the mission.

The operation usually takes place in the summer.

What are they doing?

During Operation NEVUS, technicians visit each HADCS site. They travel to and from the satellite-uplink sites and microwave stations by helicopter. The technicians maintain the equipment and critical infrastructure, replacing parts as needed, and conduct the following tasks:

  • inspect and maintain related equipment and infrastructure (roads, culverts, vehicles and buildings)
  • conduct fire prevention
  • conduct health and safety reviews

They also ensure that the entire system complies with environmental standards. The CAF members work in partnership with employees of Environment and Climate Change Canada.

History and context of the operation

The HADCS links Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert to federal government communications centres in Ottawa. CFS Alert is on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island. The HADCS is the critical communication link between the High Arctic and Ottawa. It was built because CFS Alert is too far north to link to communications satellites orbiting over the Equator.

The HADCS is a chain of satellite-uplink sites and unmanned, remote-functioning, line-of-sight microwave repeating stations. The chain stretches more than 500 kilometres. It runs between CFS Alert and Fort Eureka, a research station on the west coast of Ellesmere Island. The microwave sites run on a combination of solar panels and batteries. The solar panels power the system and charge the batteries during the spring, summer and autumn seasons. The batteries power the system during periods of darkness.

The HADCS came into service in 1982. The system has been visited and maintained each summer since then to ensure the communications link remains operable.

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