Denmark, Faroe Islands agree to establish air surveillance radar to bolster gaps in Arctic surveillance

A file photo of Sornfelli, the mountain in the Faroe Islands where the new radar will be set up. (Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images)

Denmark and the Faroe Islands reached an agreement on Thursday to set up an air surveillance radar on the archipelago to help bolster Arctic security and close a longstanding surveillance gap in the North Atlantic. 

“The security environment is changing, and we are facing a new reality on the world stage that will also have repercussions for the High North,” Jenis av Rana, the Faroe Islands minister of Foreign Affairs and Culture, said in a statement. 

“The strategic position of the Faroe Islands in the GIUK-gap is a major aspect of our security considerations.” (GIUK is an acronym for Greenland-Iceland-United-Kingdom. The GIUK-gap refers to the transit area near these countries in the North Atlantic.)

Russian invasion of Ukraine putting northern security in the spotlight

“[The] radar will benefit the community at a time when Europe’s security is threatened,” Denmark’s Minister of Defence Morten Bodskov, said making reference to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

This shows that both Denmark and the Faroe Islands take responsibility for the security of the Kingdom [of Denmark].”

Denmark’s Minister of Defense Morten Bodskov and the Faroe Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs Jenis av Rana sign a memorandum of understanding on the installation of the new radar in the Faroe Islands. (Denmark’s Ministry of Defence)

The radar will be set up on Sornfelli, a mountain about 18 kilometres away by road from the Faroe Islands capital city of Torshavn.

The location was a previous radar site that ceased operations roughly 15 years ago.

When the new radar is set up, it will have  a range of up to 400 kilometres.

A statement from the government of the Faroe Islands said the the radar will help close lingering air space surveillance gaps between the Faroe Islands, Norway, Iceland and the United Kingdom.

$70-million project

The radar project is part of Denmark’s Arctic Capabilities package.

A graphic outlining the priorities from Denmark’s 2021 Agreement on Arctic Capabilities. (Danish Ministry of Defence)

The package’s framework agreement, released in February 2021, pledged closer cooperation with Greenland and the Faroe Islands, both part of the Kingdom of Denmark, along with resources to better monitor the Arctic and the North Atlantic.

Some 390 million Danish kroner ($70.5 million CDN) was included in the package for the Faroe Islands radar project.

Thursday’s agreement comes the day after Denmark signed a bilateral agreement with Iceland to exchange surveillance data in order to bolster Arctic awareness.

“We are in an extraordinary situation of war in Europe, where Europe’s security is threatened,” Bodskov said of the agreement with Iceland.

Denmark’s Foreign Minister Morten Bodskov and Iceland’s Foreign Minister Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir after signing their agreement on Arctic surveillance this week. The two countries have been increasing cooperation in recent years, the Danish Ministry of Defence said in a statement this week. (Denmark’s Ministry of Defence)

Surveillance in the Arctic is an important part of the Armed Forces’ work, and this agreement will strengthen Denmark’s intelligence work,” Bodskov said.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Arctic Security – Will Canada’s federal budget deliver for NORAD?, Eye on the Arctic

FinlandUS military refuelling plane flies over Finland day after NATO announcement, Yle News

Greenland: Polar opposites? Greenland’s new coalition government, Blog by Marc Lanteigne

Iceland: Arctic security discussed at Reykjavik Northern Group meeting, Eye on the Arctic

Norway:Useless to continue regional diplomatic relations”, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russia pauses nuclear safety cooperation with Norway in the North, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Seeking NATO membership is historic shift for Sweden, says PM, Radio Sweden

United StatesU.S. Army poised to revamp Alaska forces to prep for Arctic fight, The Associated Press

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