The first of six new Arctic patrol ships is almost ready to launch and the design of a new military facility in Yellowknife is expected to go to tender by the middle of next year.

The HMCS Harry DeWolf sits almost finished at Irving Shipbuilding Inc.’s shipyard in Halifax last week. It is the first of a series of six Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships being built for the Royal Canadian Navy, and will be the first Canadian naval ship built in 20 years upon completion. Tim Edwards/NNSL photo

The Department of National Defence laid out its near-term plans for News/North in correspondence last week.

The 7,600-sq.-metre multipurpose facility in Yellowknife will serve as the headquarters of the 1st Canadian Rangers Patrol Group and will be used for some technical services for the Joint Task Force North Area Support Unit.

“The overall project is estimated between $50 million and $99 million and will include offices, an assembly space, which will double as a drill hall, and warehouse and garage space,” according to Jessica Lamirande with the department’s media relations office.

The HMCS Harry DeWolf, the first of six new Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships being built for the Royal Canadian Navy, is sitting in near-completion at Irving Shipbuilding Inc.’s shipyard in Halifax, aiming to be launched this fall.

“The Harry DeWolf-class, designated after Canadian wartime naval hero Vice-Admiral Harry DeWolf, will allow the RCN to have unescorted access to areas of the Arctic that were previously inaccessible and increase the period of operation,” wrote Lamirande.

To help with Arctic operations, the Nanisivik Naval Facility is scheduled to finally open next year. On the northern end of Baffin Island, it will be the only refueling depot in the Canadian Arctic other than at privately-owned mine sites.

Canada’s defence policy – “Strong, Secure, Engaged” – also lays out several goals for the North, including: introducing a family of new ground vehicles capable of navigating the Northern landscape; introducing polar satellite communications and space-based surveillance assets such as the RADARSAT Constellation Mission; introducing remotely-piloted aircraft; enhancing the Canadian Armed Forces’ mobility, reach and footprint in the North; enhancing and expanding training for the Rangers; collaborating with the U.S. to develop new technologies for Arctic surveillance and control.

As well, the DND is working with the U.S. to renew the North Warning System, which provides early warning against aerospace threats in northern approaches via a number of unmanned radar sites in the North. The current system is set to reach the end of its operational life in 2025.

“The strategic environment in the Arctic is evolving, as climate change, combined with advancements in technology, lead to an increasingly accessible Arctic,” wrote Lamirande.

“There is an enhanced interest in accessing natural resources in the Arctic, and new possibilities for international shipping routes opening up in the region, which bring their own opportunities and challenges. The rise in Arctic activity will also bring increased safety and security demands to which Canada must be ready to respond, and we are monitoring this changing security environment carefully.”

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