Thule Air Base

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Thule Air Base_table_infobox_0

Thule Air BaseThule Air Base_header_cell_0_0_0
CoordinatesThule Air Base_header_cell_0_1_0 Thule Air Base_cell_0_1_1
TypeThule Air Base_header_cell_0_2_0 US Air Force baseThule Air Base_cell_0_2_1
Site informationThule Air Base_header_cell_0_3_0
OperatorThule Air Base_header_cell_0_4_0 United States Space ForceThule Air Base_cell_0_4_1
Controlled byThule Air Base_header_cell_0_5_0 Peterson-Schriever GarrisonThule Air Base_cell_0_5_1
ConditionThule Air Base_header_cell_0_6_0 OperationalThule Air Base_cell_0_6_1
Site historyThule Air Base_header_cell_0_7_0
BuiltThule Air Base_header_cell_0_8_0 1943 (1943)Thule Air Base_cell_0_8_1
In useThule Air Base_header_cell_0_9_0 1943 – presentThule Air Base_cell_0_9_1
EventsThule Air Base_header_cell_0_10_0 B-52 Crash (1968)Thule Air Base_cell_0_10_1
Garrison informationThule Air Base_header_cell_0_11_0
GarrisonThule Air Base_header_cell_0_12_0 821st Air Base GroupThule Air Base_cell_0_12_1
Airfield informationThule Air Base_header_cell_0_13_0
IdentifiersThule Air Base_header_cell_0_14_0 IATA: THU, ICAO: BGTL, WMO: 042020Thule Air Base_cell_0_14_1
ElevationThule Air Base_header_cell_0_15_0 76.5 metres (251 ft) AMSLThule Air Base_cell_0_15_1

Direction Length and surface

08T/26T 3,047 metres (9,997 ft) AsphaltThule Air Base_cell_0_16_0

RunwaysThule Air Base_header_cell_0_17_0
DirectionThule Air Base_header_cell_0_18_0 Length and surfaceThule Air Base_header_cell_0_18_1
08T/26TThule Air Base_cell_0_19_0 3,047 metres (9,997 ft) AsphaltThule Air Base_cell_0_19_1

Thule Air Base, or Thule Air Base/Pituffik Airport (IATA: THU, ICAO: BGTL), is the United States Air Force's northernmost base, located 1,207 km (750 mi) north of the Arctic Circle and 1,524 km (947 mi) from the North Pole on the northwest coast of the island of Greenland. Thule Air Base_sentence_0

Thule Air Base is the US Armed Forces' northernmost installation. Thule Air Base_sentence_1

Thule's arctic environment includes icebergs in North Star Bay, two islands (Saunders Island and Wolstenholme Island), a polar ice sheet, and Wolstenholme Fjord – the only place on Earth where four active glaciers join together. Thule Air Base_sentence_2

Thule Air Base is home to the 21st Space Wing's global network of sensors providing missile warning, space surveillance and space control to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and Air Force Space Command (AFSPC). Thule Air Base_sentence_3

Thule Air Base is also home to the 821st Air Base Group and is responsible for air base support within the Thule Defense Area for the multinational population of "Team Thule". Thule Air Base_sentence_4

The base hosts the 12th Space Warning Squadron (12 SWS) which operates a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) designed to detect and track ICBMs launched against North America. Thule Air Base_sentence_5

Thule is also host to Detachment 1 of the 23rd Space Operations Squadron, part of the 50th Space Wing's global satellite control network. Thule Air Base_sentence_6

The airfield's 10,000-foot (3,000 m) runway handles more than 3,000 US and international flights per year. Thule Air Base_sentence_7

Finally, Thule is home to the northernmost deep water port in the world. Thule Air Base_sentence_8

Thule is the only Air Force Base with an assigned tugboat. Thule Air Base_sentence_9

The tugboat is used to assist ship movements in the harbor during the summer and is hauled onto shore during the winter season. Thule Air Base_sentence_10

The tugboat is also used for daily sightseeing tours of Northstar Bay during the summer. Thule Air Base_sentence_11

Thule Air Base has served as the regional hub for nearby installations, including Cape Atholl (LORAN station), Camp Century (Ice Cap Camp), Camp TUTO (Ice Cap Approach Ramp and Airstrip), Sites 1 and 2 (Ice Cap Radar Stations), P-Mountain (radar and communications site), J-Site (BMEWS), North and South Mountains (research sites), and a research rocket firing site. Thule Air Base_sentence_12

It also was essential in the construction and resupply of High Arctic weather stations, including CFS Alert (Alert Airport) and Station Nord. Thule Air Base_sentence_13

Name Thule Air Base_section_0

Main article: Thule Thule Air Base_sentence_14

"Thule" is named for Thule (Greek: Θούλη), an ancient Greek place name dating to the third-century BC for a land believed to lie to the north of Britain, and the Latin phrase (Latin, "farthest Thule"), the ancient Roman concept of a northernmost locale beyond the borders of the known world. Thule Air Base_sentence_15

However, unlike the Greek pronunciation of soft th (/ˈθuːliː/), the name of the air base is pronounced using the Danish initial hard t (/ˈtuːliː/). Thule Air Base_sentence_16

History Thule Air Base_section_1

Location and original population Thule Air Base_section_2

In 1818, Sir John Ross's expedition made first contact with nomadic Inuktun in the area. Thule Air Base_sentence_17

James Saunders's expedition aboard HMS North Star was marooned in North Star Bay 1849–50 and named landmarks. Thule Air Base_sentence_18

Robert Peary built a support station by a protected harbor at the foot of iconic Mount Dundas in 1892. Thule Air Base_sentence_19

It served as a base camp for his expeditions and attracted a permanent population. Thule Air Base_sentence_20

In 1910 explorer Knud Rasmussen established a missionary and trading post there. Thule Air Base_sentence_21

He called the site "Thule" after classical ultima Thule; the Inuit called it Umanaq ("heart-shaped"), and the site is commonly called "Dundas" today. Thule Air Base_sentence_22

The United States abandoned its territorial claims in the area in 1917 in connection with the purchase of the Virgin Islands. Thule Air Base_sentence_23

Denmark assumed control of the village in 1937. Thule Air Base_sentence_24

A cluster of huts known as Pituffik ("the place the dogs are tied") stood on the wide plain where the base was built in 1951. Thule Air Base_sentence_25

(A main base street was named Pituffik Boulevard.) Thule Air Base_sentence_26

The affected locals moved to Thule. Thule Air Base_sentence_27

However, in 1953 the USAF planned to construct an air defense site near that village, and in order to limit contact with soldiers, the Danish government relocated "Old Thule" with about 130 inhabitants to a newly constructed, modern village 60 miles (97 km) north, known as Qaanaaq, or "New Thule". Thule Air Base_sentence_28

In a Danish Supreme Court judgment of 28 November 2003 the move was considered an expropriative intervention. Thule Air Base_sentence_29

During the proceedings it was recognized by the Danish government that the movement was a serious interference and an unlawful act against the local population. Thule Air Base_sentence_30

The Thule tribe was awarded damages of 500,000 kroner, and the individual members of the tribe who had been exposed to the transfer were granted compensation of 15,000 or 25,000 each. Thule Air Base_sentence_31

A Danish radio station continued to operate at Dundas, and the abandoned houses remained. Thule Air Base_sentence_32

The USAF only used that site for about a decade, and it has since returned to civilian use. Thule Air Base_sentence_33

Knud Rasmussen was the first to recognize the Pituffik plain as ideal for an airport. Thule Air Base_sentence_34

USAAF Colonel Bernt Balchen, who built Sondrestrom Air Base, knew Rasmussen and his idea. Thule Air Base_sentence_35

Balchen led a flight of two Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boats to Thule on 24 August 1942 and then sent a report advocating an air base to USAAF chief Henry "Hap" Arnold. Thule Air Base_sentence_36

However, the 1951 air base site is a few miles inland from the original 1946 airstrip and across the bay from the historical Thule settlement, to which it is connected by an ice road. Thule Air Base_sentence_37

The joint Danish-American defense area, designated by treaty, also occupies considerable inland territory in addition to the air base itself. Thule Air Base_sentence_38

World War II Thule Air Base_section_3

After the German occupation of Denmark on 9 April 1940, Henrik Kauffmann, Danish Ambassador to the United States, made an agreement "In the name of the king" with the United States, authorizing the United States to defend the Danish colonies on Greenland from German aggression – this agreement faced Kauffmann with a charge of high treason by the protectorate Government. Thule Air Base_sentence_39

The first US-sponsored installations at Thule were established after the US Secretary of State Cordell Hull and the defected Danish Minister to the United States Henrik Kauffmann signed The Agreement relating to the Defense of Greenland in Washington, D.C. on the symbolically chosen date of 9 April 1941. Thule Air Base_sentence_40

The treaty, denounced by the Danish government, allowed the United States to operate military bases in Greenland "for as long as there is agreement" that the threat to North America existed. Thule Air Base_sentence_41

Beginning in the summer of 1941, the US Coast Guard and the War Department established weather and radio stations at Narsarsuaq Airport (Bluie West-1), Sondrestrom Air Base (Bluie West-8), Ikateq (Bluie East Two), and Gronnedal (Bluie West-9). Thule Air Base_sentence_42

In 1943 the Army Air Forces set up weather stations Scoresbysund (Bluie East-3) on the east coast around the southern tip of Greenland, and Thule (Bluie West-6) to be operated by Danish personnel. Thule Air Base_sentence_43

Many other sites were set up, but BW-6, isolated in the far North, was then of very minor importance. Thule Air Base_sentence_44

Joint weather station Thule Air Base_section_4

After liberation, Denmark ratified the Kauffmann treaty but began efforts to take over US installations. Thule Air Base_sentence_45

Nonetheless, in summer 1946, the radio and weather station was enhanced with a gravel airstrip and an upper-air (balloon) observatory. Thule Air Base_sentence_46

This was part of an American-Canadian initiative to construct joint weather stations in the High Arctic. Thule Air Base_sentence_47

This station was under joint US-Danish operation. Thule Air Base_sentence_48

The location changed from the civilian village at Thule (Dundas) to mainland Pittufik. Thule Air Base_sentence_49

In 1946–1951, the airstrip played an important role in Arctic resupply, aerial mapping, research, and search-and rescue. Thule Air Base_sentence_50

The ratification of the treaty in 1951 did not change much, except that the Danish national flag must be side by side with the US national flag on the base. Thule Air Base_sentence_51

Modern air base Thule Air Base_section_5

In 1949, Denmark joined NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and abandoned its attempt to remove the United States bases. Thule Air Base_sentence_52

By the outbreak of the Korean War next year, the USAF embarked on a global program of base-building in which Thule (at the time) would be considered the crown jewel owing to its location across the Pole from the USSR, as well as its merit of being the northernmost port to be reliably resupplied by ship. Thule Air Base_sentence_53

Thule became a key point in American nuclear retaliation strategy. Thule Air Base_sentence_54

Strategic Air Command (SAC) bombers flying over the Arctic presented less risk of early warning than using bases in the United Kingdom. Thule Air Base_sentence_55

Defensively, Thule could serve as a base for intercepting bomber attacks along the northeastern approaches to Canada and the US. Thule Air Base_sentence_56

A board of Air Force officers headed by Gordon P. Saville made a recommendation to pursue a base at Thule in November 1950. Thule Air Base_sentence_57

It was subsequently supported by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and approved by President Truman. Thule Air Base_sentence_58

To replace the agreement entered into during World War II between the US and Denmark, a new agreement with respect to Greenland was ratified on 27 April 1951 (effective on 8 June 1951). Thule Air Base_sentence_59

At the request of NATO, the agreement became a part of the NATO defense program. Thule Air Base_sentence_60

The pact specified that the two nations would arrange for the use of facilities in Greenland by NATO forces in defense of the NATO area known as the Greenland Defense Area. Thule Air Base_sentence_61

Thule AB was constructed in secret under the code name Operation Blue Jay, but the project was made public in September 1952. Thule Air Base_sentence_62

Construction for Thule AB began in 1951 and was completed in 1953. Thule Air Base_sentence_63

The construction of Thule is said to have been comparable in scale to the enormous effort required to build the Panama Canal. Thule Air Base_sentence_64

The United States Navy transported the bulk of men, supplies, and equipment from the naval shipyards in Norfolk, Virginia. Thule Air Base_sentence_65

On 6 June 1951 an armada of 120 shipments sailed from Naval Station Norfolk. Thule Air Base_sentence_66

On board were 12,000 men and 300,000 tons of cargo. Thule Air Base_sentence_67

They arrived at Thule on 9 July 1951. Thule Air Base_sentence_68

Construction, aided by continuous daylight in summer, took place around the clock. Thule Air Base_sentence_69

The workers lived on board the ships until quarters were built. Thule Air Base_sentence_70

Once they moved into the quarters, the ships returned home. Thule Air Base_sentence_71

On 16 June 1951, the base was accidentally discovered by French cultural anthropologist and geographer Jean Malaurie and his Inuit friend Kutikitsoq, on their way back from the geomagnetic North Pole. Thule Air Base_sentence_72

Strategic Air Command Thule Air Base_section_6

Originally established as a Strategic Air Command installation, Thule would periodically serve as a dispersal base for B-36 Peacemaker and B-47 Stratojet aircraft during the 1950s, as well as providing an ideal site to test the operability and maintainability of these weapon systems in extreme cold weather. Thule Air Base_sentence_73

Similar operations were also conducted with B-52 Stratofortress aircraft in the 1950s and 1960s. Thule Air Base_sentence_74

In 1954, the 378 m (1,240 ft) Globecom Tower, a tower for military radio communication, was built at Northmountain. Thule Air Base_sentence_75

At the time of its completion it was the third tallest man-made structure on earth and the tallest structure north of the Arctic Circle in the Western hemisphere. Thule Air Base_sentence_76

In the winter of 1956/57 three KC-97 tankers and alternately one of two RB-47H aircraft made polar flights to inspect Soviet defenses. Thule Air Base_sentence_77

Five KC-97s prepared for flight with engines running in temperatures of −50 °F (−46 °C) in order to ensure three could achieve airborne status. Thule Air Base_sentence_78

After a two-hour head start, a B-47 would catch up with them at the northeast coastline of Greenland where two would offload fuel to top off the B-47's tanks (the third was an air spare). Thule Air Base_sentence_79

The B-47 would then fly seven hours of reconnaissance, while the tankers would return to Thule, refuel, and three would again fly to rendezvous with the returning B-47 at northeast Greenland. Thule Air Base_sentence_80

The B-47 averaged ten hours and 4,500 km (2,800 mi) in the air, unless unpredictable weather closed Thule. Thule Air Base_sentence_81

In that case the three tankers and the B-47 had to additionally fly to one of three equidistant alternates: England, Alaska, or Labrador. Thule Air Base_sentence_82

All of this sometimes took place in moonless, 24-hour Arctic darkness, December through February. Thule Air Base_sentence_83

These flights demonstrated the capabilities of the US Strategic Air Command to Soviet Anti-Air Defense. Thule Air Base_sentence_84

In 1959, the airbase was the main staging point for the construction of Camp Century, some 150 mi (240 km) from the base. Thule Air Base_sentence_85

Carved into the ice, and powered by a nuclear reactor, PM-2A Camp Century was officially a scientific research base, but in reality was the site of the top secret Project Iceworm. Thule Air Base_sentence_86

The camp operated from 1959 until 1967. Thule Air Base_sentence_87

In the late 1950s, the DEW 1 to 4 were built as "weather stations". Thule Air Base_sentence_88

Thule Air Base would act as a supply station for the DYE bases. Thule Air Base_sentence_89

Aerospace defense Thule Air Base_section_7

In 1957 construction began on four Nike Missile sites around the base, and they and their radar systems were operational by the end of 1958. Thule Air Base_sentence_90

In 1961, a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) radar was constructed at "J-Site," 21 km (13 mi) northeast of main base. Thule Air Base_sentence_91

BMEWS was developed by the RCA Corporation in order to provide North America warning of a transpolar missile attack from the Russian mainland and submarine-launched missiles from the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans. Thule Air Base_sentence_92

At this time, Thule was at its peak with a population of about 10,000. Thule Air Base_sentence_93

Starting in July 1965, there was a general downsizing of activities at Thule. Thule Air Base_sentence_94

The base host unit was discontinued. Thule Air Base_sentence_95

By January 1968, the population of Thule was down to 3,370. Thule Air Base_sentence_96

On 21 January 1968, a B-52G bomber carrying four nuclear weapons crashed just outside Thule – see below. Thule Air Base_sentence_97

Thule is the location where the fastest recorded sea level surface wind speed in the world was measured when a peak speed of 333 km/h (207 mph) was recorded on 8 March 1972 prior to the instrument's destruction. Thule Air Base_sentence_98

Air Force Space Command from 1982 Thule Air Base_section_8

Thule became an Air Force Space Command base in 1982. Thule Air Base_sentence_99

Today Thule is home to the 821st Air Base Group, which exercises Air Base support responsibilities within the Thule Defense Area. Thule Air Base_sentence_100

The base hosts the 12th Space Warning Squadron (21st Operations Group, 21st Space Wing), a Ballistic Missile Early Warning Site designed to detect and track ICBMs launched against North America. Thule Air Base_sentence_101

Missile warning and space surveillance information flows to NORAD command centers located at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. Thule Air Base_sentence_102

Thule is also host to Detachment 1 of the 23rd Space Operations Squadron, part of the 50th Space Wing's global satellite control network, as well as operating many new weapons systems. Thule Air Base_sentence_103

In addition, the airfield boasts a 3,047 by 42 m (9,997 by 138 ft) asphalt runway, with 3,000 US and international flights per year. Thule Air Base_sentence_104

A delegation from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly visited Thule in early September 2010 and were told by the base commander that, at that time (summer), approximately 600 personnel were serving at Thule, a mix of mostly US and Danish active duty personnel and contractors. Thule Air Base_sentence_105

There is only a brief period each year in the summer when sea ice thins sufficiently to send supply ships to the base. Thule Air Base_sentence_106

The US sends one heavy supply ship each summer in what is called Operation Pacer Goose. Thule Air Base_sentence_107

Major commands to which assigned Thule Air Base_section_9

Thule Air Base_unordered_list_0

Major air units assigned Thule Air Base_section_10

Source for major commands and major units assigned: Thule Air Base_sentence_108

Major Army units assigned Thule Air Base_section_11

Thule Air Base_unordered_list_1

  • 4th Battalion, 55th Artillery, 1 Sep 1958 – 20 Dec 1965. (Nike)Thule Air Base_item_1_6
  • 7th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group, 1 July 1955 – 20 December 1965 (Redesignated 7th Artillery Group 20 March 1958) [A, B, C, and D Batteries 90mm AAA cannon; 549th 75mm AAA BN (Sky Sweeper); 51st Ordnance Company]Thule Air Base_item_1_7

Accidents Thule Air Base_section_12

In 1954 a Douglas C-124C Globemaster II operated by the US Air Force crashed on approach to the air base, killing ten people. Thule Air Base_sentence_109

B-52 nuclear bomber crash Thule Air Base_section_13

Main article: B-52 Crash at Thule Air Base Thule Air Base_sentence_110

On 21 January 1968, a B-52G Stratofortress from the 380th Strategic Aerospace Wing, Plattsburgh Air Force Base, New York, on a secret airborne nuclear alert crashed and burned on the ice near Thule Air Base. Thule Air Base_sentence_111

The impact detonated the high explosives in the primary units of all four of the B28 nuclear bombs it carried, but nuclear and thermonuclear reactions did not take place due to the PAL and fail-safe mechanisms in the weapons. Thule Air Base_sentence_112

The resulting fire caused extensive radioactive contamination. Thule Air Base_sentence_113

More than 700 Danish civilians and US military personnel worked under hazardous conditions, the former without protective gear, to clean up the nuclear waste. Thule Air Base_sentence_114

In 1987, nearly 200 of the Danish workers tried unsuccessfully to sue the United States. Thule Air Base_sentence_115

Kaare Ulbak, chief consultant to the Danish National Institute of Radiation Hygiene, said Denmark had carefully studied the health of the Thule workers and found no evidence of increased mortality or cancer. Thule Air Base_sentence_116

The Pentagon maintained that all four weapons had been destroyed. Thule Air Base_sentence_117

Although many of the details of the accident are still classified, some information was released by the US authorities under the Freedom of Information Act. Thule Air Base_sentence_118

After reviewing these files, an investigative reporter from BBC News claimed in May 2007 that the USAF was unable to account for one of the weapons. Thule Air Base_sentence_119

In 2009, the assertions of the BBC were refuted by a Danish report after a review of the available declassified documentation. Thule Air Base_sentence_120

Transport Thule Air Base_section_14

Airlines Thule Air Base_section_15

Thule Air Base_table_general_1

AirlinesThule Air Base_header_cell_1_0_0 DestinationsThule Air Base_header_cell_1_0_1
Air GreenlandThule Air Base_cell_1_1_0 Qaanaaq

Helicopter: Moriusaq, Savissivik Charter: Copenhagen, KangerlussuaqThule Air Base_cell_1_1_1

Cargo Shipping Thule Air Base_section_16

Ocean Transportation is provided by Schuyler Line Navigation Company, a US Flag Ocean Carrier. Thule Air Base_sentence_121

Schuyler Line operates under government contract to supply sustainment and building supplies to the Base. Thule Air Base_sentence_122

Geography Thule Air Base_section_17

Thule has a tundra climate (ET) with long, severely cold winters lasting most of the year and short but cool summers. Thule Air Base_sentence_123

Precipitation is very low year round, but peaks during summer. Thule Air Base_sentence_124

See also Thule Air Base_section_18

Thule Air Base_unordered_list_2

Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: Air Base.