Thule Air Base



Thule Air Base, (or Thule Air Base/Pituffik Airport) (IATA: THU, ICAO: BGTL), an unincorporated enclave within Qaanaaq municipality, Greenland, is the United States Air Force's northernmost base (76°32′N 68°50′W), located 695 miles (1118 km) north of the Arctic Circle and 947 miles (1524 km) south of the North Pole on the northwest side of the island of Greenland. It is approximately 550 miles (885 km) east of the North Magnetic Pole. It is the site of the former town of Dundas, which was moved to Qaanaaq for the construction of the base. The permanent population of the base was 235 as of Jan. 01, 2005.

The military installations at Thule were first constructed during World War II, when the U.S. in 1941 took protective custody over Greenland due to Nazi occupation of Denmark. By 1951 sufficient improvements to the infrastructure had been made to stage some bombers here during the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

For instance, in the winter of 1956-57 three KC-97 tankers and alternately one of two RB-47H aircraft made Top Secret polar flights to inspect Russian defenses as depicted in the drawing in the lower right of this page. Five KC-97s prepared for flight with engines running in weather 50°F below zero in order to ensure three got airborne. After a two hour start, a B-47 would catch up with them at the northeast coastline of Greenland where two would offload fuel to top off the 47's tanks (The third was an air spare). 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 47 at NE Greenland. The B-47 averaged ten hours and 4500 nm in the air, unless unpredictable weather closed Thule. In that case the three tankers and the B-47 had to additionally fly to one of three equidistant alternates: England, Alaska, or Labrador. All of this in sometimes moonless, 24 hour arctic darkness December through February. These flights demonstrated the capability of Strategic Air Command to Soviet Anti-Air Defense.

In 1961, a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) radar was constructed at "J-Site," 13 miles northeast of main base. BMEWS was developed by the Raytheon 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. At this time, Thule was at its peak with a population of about 10,000. Starting in July 1965, there was a general downsizing of activities at Thule. The base host unit was deactivated. By January 1968, the population of Thule was down to 3,370. Thule became an Air Force Space Command base in 1982.

Today it is a military base, home to the 821st Air Base Group, which exercises Air Base support responsibilities within the Thule Defense Area. The base hosts the 12th Space Warning Squadron, a Ballistic Missile Early Warning Site designed to detect and track Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) launched against North America. The 21st Space Wing operates around the world to provide missile warning and space surveillance information to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) command centers located in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado. Thule is also host to Detachment 3 of the 22d Space Operations Squadron, part of the 50th Space Wing's global satellite control network and a lot of new weapon systems. In addition, the modern aerodrome boasts a 10,000 foot runway (3000 m) and 2,600 U.S. and international flights per year.

Thule, Greenland, is also the home where the fastest sea level surface wind speed in the world was measured when a peak speed of 333 km/h (207 mph) was recorded on March 8, 1972. Interestingly, Thule is the only Air Force Base with an assigned tugboat. The tugboat is used to move icebergs that appear off the coast that may interfere with the flight path of incoming and outgoing flights.

Regarding the past and present military use of Thule Air Base see The Danish Peace Academy's Danish and English documentation in the Encyclopedia on peace and security's article: US Thule Air Base - Greenland.

To Thule Air Base belongs also Radio Mast Thule, the tallest structure North of the Polar Circle in the Western hemisphere. The world's northernmost deep water port is also located at Thule.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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