THAAD interceptor

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has awarded Lockheed Martin a $459 million contract modification for production and delivery of interceptors for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon system. The modification brings the total contract value to $1.28 billion with funding provided in 2017 and 2018. The new interceptors support U.S. Army THAAD units and growing operational requirements.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) awarded a $1.2 billion contract to Lockheed Martin for THAAD interceptor production and delivery
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) awarded a $1.2 billion contract to Lockheed Martin for THAAD interceptor production and delivery

THAAD is a key element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS), and is highly effective at protecting America’s military, allied forces, citizen population centers and critical infrastructure from short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missile attacks.

«The THAAD system’s capability and reliability have been demonstrated with 15 out of 15 hit-to-kill intercepts dating back to 1999, and by exceeding readiness rates currently being experienced in the field with operationally deployed batteries», said Richard McDaniel, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for the THAAD system.

«THAAD interceptors defeat dangerous missile threats our troops and allies are facing today, and have capability against advancing future threats. Our focus on affordability, coupled with efficiencies of increased volume, is providing significant cost-savings opportunities to meet growing demand from the U.S. and allies around the globe», he said.

THAAD employs Lockheed Martin’s proven «hit-to-kill» technology. The system is rapidly deployable, mobile, and is interoperable with all other BMDS elements, including Patriot/Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3), Aegis, forward-based sensors and the Command, Control, Battle Management and Communications (C2BMC) system. These unique capabilities make THAAD an important addition to integrated air and missile defense architectures around the world.

The U.S. Army activated the seventh THAAD battery in December 2016. Lockheed Martin delivered the 200th THAAD interceptor in September of 2017. The United Arab Emirates was the first international partner to procure THAAD with a contract awarded in 2011.

Integrated Trials

USNS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams (T-ESB-4), successfully completed the first Integrated Trials for an Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) ship January 19, sailing from and returning to General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. (NASSCO) shipyard in San Diego.

USNS Hershel Williams Completes Integrated Trials
USNS Hershel Williams Completes Integrated Trials

Integrated Trials combine Builder’s and Acceptance Trials, allowing for the shipyard to demonstrate to the U.S. Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey the operational capability and mission readiness of all the ship’s systems during a single underway period. During trials, the shipbuilder conducted comprehensive tests to demonstrate the performance of all of the ship’s major systems.

«During the trials we were able to conduct a number of tests including full power propulsion, steering and anchoring», said Captain Scot Searles, strategic and theater sealift program manager, Program Executive Office (PEO), Ships. «ESBs are versatile platforms, and the ship handled extremely well demonstrating its readiness for delivery».

USNS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams (T-ESB-4) is the second platform of the ESB variant. ESBs have a maximum speed of 15 knots/17 mph/28 km/h and range of 9,500 nautical miles/10,932 miles/17,594 km. The ship can hold 100,000 gallons/378,541 liters of potable water and 350,000 gallons/1,324,894 liters of JP-5 jet fuel. Acting as an expeditionary sea base, ESB-4 is optimized to support a variety of maritime based missions including special operations force and airborne mine counter measures. The ESBs include a four-spot flight deck and hangar and are designed around four core capabilities: aviation facilities, berthing, equipment staging support, and command and control assets.

The ship USNS Miguel Keith (T-ESB-5) is also under construction at NASSCO and plans to hold its ceremonial keel laying ceremony with a representative of the namesake’s family January 30.

As one of the Defense Department’s largest acquisition organizations, Program Executive Office Ships (PEO Ships) is responsible for executing the development and procurement of all destroyers, amphibious ships, special mission and support ships, and boats and craft.

The formal acceptance

Guto Bebb MP, the recently appointed UK Minister for Defence Procurement, visited BAE Systems’ Clyde shipyards today to announce the formal acceptance of the first River Class Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) by the Ministry of Defence and witness progress on the Type 26 programme as production started on the second hull section of Glasgow, the first of the City Class frigates.

Defence Minister announces acceptance of Royal Navy's new Offshore Patrol Vessel HMS Forth (P222)
Defence Minister announces acceptance of Royal Navy’s new Offshore Patrol Vessel HMS Forth (P222)

Defence Minister Guto Bebb said: «Thanks to the hard work of the Clyde shipyards, HMS Forth (P222) is now ready to join the Royal Navy surface fleet and begin the vital task of defending the UK and her interests around the world. Developing the Type 26 capability is also making great strides forward, reflecting the UK’s commitment to this cutting-edge new warship, which will sustain 4,000 jobs in Scotland and right across the UK».

HMS Forth (P222) will remain at the Scotstoun yard in Glasgow for a short period to complete some additional work requested by the MOD and on departure will be the first complex warship to leave Glasgow since HMS Duncan (D37) in 2013. She is expected to be commissioned into Her Majesty’s fleet at her home port of Portsmouth Naval Base this year.

HMS Medway (P223), the second of class, was named in October 2017 and is set to depart for sea trials in the first half of this year, while HMS Trent (P224) will be formally named in the spring. Tamar and Spey, the last of the River Class OPVs are currently under production at BAE Systems’ Govan yard.

Iain Stevenson, BAE Systems Naval Ships Managing Director, said: «It has been a pleasure to welcome the Minister to our facilities today and we were proud to show him around HMS Forth (P222). She is the first of a very special class of ships that we know will provide the Royal Navy and her crew with the flexibility they need to perform their vital operations. We are equally proud of the progress we are making on Glasgow, which is the first of three contracted next generation City Class Type 26 frigates. We are committed to supporting the Royal Navy through the delivery of these ships plus the five River Class OPVs, while we continue to work with our partner Cammell Laird to bid for the Type 31e contract».

Manufacture of the first Type 26, Glasgow, began in July 2017 and is progressing well with production starting on the second zone of the ship. The first hull section is already taking shape at the Govan yard and the second houses the main machinery space, aviation stores for embarked helicopters and a recreational area for the ships’ 59 senior rates.

During the visit BAE Systems also announced the signing of a £5.6 million contract with General Electric to establish an Electrical Integration and Test Facility in Whetstone, Leicestershire, to enable critical de-risking integration tests for the Type 26 propulsion systems. The agreement, which follows a previous Design Development contract signed in 2016, brings the total committed investment in the facility to around £13 million.

With a cutting edge platform design and the ability to adapt to the requirements of different navies, the Type 26 design has been proposed for the Australian Government’s anti-submarine warfare frigate programme and the Canadian Surface Combatant programme.

Modular Handgun

Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade (1st SFAB) familiarized themselves and qualified with the XM17 handgun at the Joint Readiness Training Center (Fort Polk, Louisiana), January 19-20.

Army Staff Sergeant Curtis Graham demonstrates how to properly shoot the new XM17 pistol from the prone position at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, January 19, 2018. The Army plans to purchase more than 200,000 of the new pistols (Army photo by Sergeant Ryan Tatum)
Army Staff Sergeant Curtis Graham demonstrates how to properly shoot the new XM17 pistol from the prone position at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, January 19, 2018. The Army plans to purchase more than 200,000 of the new pistols (Army photo by Sergeant Ryan Tatum)

According to the Army, the XM17 and XM18 handgun systems are replacing the M9 pistol. The «X» in «XM» stands for experimental and will be used until February 2018 when the weapons complete Type Classification. Afterwards, the weapons will be referred to as the M17 and M18. The XM18 is the compact version of the XM17. Both weapons are capable of firing 9-mm rounds.

Army Major Lucas Leinberger, the chief range office from 3rd Battalion, 353th Armor Regiment, provided insight on the range and some of the fundamentals in basic marksmanship.


Familiarizing Training

«We are working with members of the 1st SFAB to get some familiarization with the M17 pistol», Leinberger said. «Part of that training is going through fundamentals such as sight picture, proper grip and trigger squeeze».

The Army currently has plans to buy approximately 238,000 units of the new pistol system.

«Personally, I noticed a better balance in the overall weapon – how it feels in your hand compared to the M9 and the M11 service pistol both unloaded and loaded with a full magazine», Leinberger said. «I believe it is much easier to use; it is more ergonomically correct. I believe it will make anyone who is firing the weapon more combat effective».

The main reason for the change in weapon systems is to make the soldier and units more lethal. The XM17 and XM18 modular handgun system program is one of the first in what is expected to be a whole line of modernization efforts that the Army will pursue over the next few years, according to the Army.

Army Sergeant Max Gilbert, a combat engineer with 2nd Battalion, 1st SFAB, has learned about the weapon and put his trust in it to make him more lethal in combat.

«The instructors here at the range were professional», Gilbert said. «Yes, I feel that I am combat effective and combat ready».

Army Major Brennan Speaks, brigade operations officer for 1st SFAB, provided his take on the XM17.


‘It is a Great Pistol’

«Overall it is a great pistol; I am extremely pleased with it», Speaks said. «I have fired over 500 rounds and not once did it jam or misfire. The fact that we are deploying and the Army has made their commitment to move these pistols to us, to me, says a lot about the Army’s commitment to the SFAB to ensure we have the best equipment to go overseas».

SFABs allow the Army to reduce, over time, the demand for conventional brigade combat teams for combat advising. In this way, the service’s Brigade Combat Teams can focus on readiness for warfighting against near-peer threats.

Next evolution

On 24 January 2018, at the International Armoured Vehicles Conference in London, BAE Systems presented the next phase of development for the CV90 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) with the launch of the new CV90 MkIV.

BAE Systems introduces next evolution of Infantry Fighting Vehicle with new CV90 MkIV
BAE Systems introduces next evolution of Infantry Fighting Vehicle with new CV90 MkIV

This fifth generation of the company’s combat-proven IFV family represents the next step for the CV90 concept.

The new MkIV offers substantial capability upgrades, including increased drive train capabilities and active damping technology to improve battlefield speeds and handling. The new vehicle also features the latest NATO-standard Electronic Architecture to meet customer demands for sensor integration and the implementation of autonomous systems.

The new CV90 MkIV D-series of turrets which feature a modular design offering 30/40-, 35/50 and 120-mm main guns and weapon pods for integrated Anti-Tank Guided Missiles and machine guns. The turrets are designed to support a more extensive sensor suite integration and utilize BAE Systems’ revolutionary new iFighting concept. The MkIV generation will also be the first Western IFV with a qualified Active Protection System.

BAE Systems intends to offer the CV90 MkIV to the Czech Republic in the ongoing armoured vehicle competition to replace the Czech Army´s legacy fleet of BMP-II IFVs.

«We are proud and excited to present the next step in the development of CV90», said Tommy Gustafsson-Rask, vice president and general manager for BAE Systems’ Hägglunds business. «The MkIV will now be available to both current and future users of the CV90, who can take full advantage of this combat-proven vehicle’s ongoing development and benefit from these new capabilities. This approach provides the leading combination of a proven low-risk solution for the most modern IFV for future growth».

The CV90 IFV is a modern, adaptable, and combat-proven vehicle with 1,280 vehicles in 15 variants sold to seven nations, including four NATO allies. The most recent generation of the CV90, under delivery for the Norwegian Army, is one of the most modern IFVs in production in the world.

The CV90 MkIV includes a new Scania engine with up to 1,000 horsepower/745.7 kW and the latest upgraded X300 heavy-duty transmission. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is increased from 35 tonnes to 37 tonnes, meaning users will benefit from two tonnes of extra payload without a decrease in vehicle agility, with the same level of protection. This gives any users an unrivalled amount of potential for future growth.

The MkIV capability upgrades also enable the full implementation of BAE Systems’ iFighting concept. iFighting – or intelligent fighting – is the company’s vision for the future complex battlefield. iFighting supports the vehicle’s crew with significantly enhanced situational awareness, aiding the decision-making process. This safeguards the vigilance and the endurance of the crew, while ensuring peak performance for the whole system. iFighting achieves improved ergonomics, more advanced autonomous support, augmented reality, and the possibility of remote operation.

The CV90 is currently in use in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and The Netherlands.

SAR aircraft

Brazil has ordered an additional Airbus C295 Search and Rescue (SAR) aircraft that will eventually take to 15 the number of C295s in service with the Brazilian Air Force (FAB).

Brazil orders additional Airbus C295 Search and Rescue (SAR) aircraft
Brazil orders additional Airbus C295 Search and Rescue (SAR) aircraft

This latest order constitutes the firming of an option included in an earlier contract in 2014. It was signed at the end of last year and will therefore be included in the 2017 orderbook. The three SAR aircraft will serve alongside 12 transport-configured C295s already delivered.

The first of the three SAR aircraft was delivered last year and performed a successful five-week tour through four continents before arriving in Brazil. The aircraft demonstrated its maritime patrol and search and rescue capabilities in a wide range of environments and recorded 100% availability during the tour.

The second FAB C295 SAR will be delivered in 2019 and the third in 2020.

More than 200 C295s have now been ordered by 26 countries. In the Latin American region, more than 100 Airbus military transport aircraft of all kinds are now in operation.



Overall Length 24.50 m/80 feet 3 inch
Overall Height 8.65 m/28 feet 5 inch
Wing Span 25.81 m/84 feet 8 inch
Cargo Hold Length (ramp excluded) 12.70 m/41 feet 8 inch
Cargo Hold Height 1.90 m/6 feet 3 inch
Cargo Hold Width 2.70 m/8 feet 10 inch
Cargo Hold Volume 64 m3/2,260 feet3
Maximum Take Off Weight 23,200 kg/51,000 lbs
Maximum Landing Weight 23,200 kg/51,000 lbs
Internal Fuel Weight 6,150 kg/13,600 lbs
Maximum Payload 9,250 kg/20,400 lbs
Engine (×2)
Pratt & Whitney PW-127G 2,645 shp (up to 2,920 shp with Auxiliary Power Reserve, APR)/1,970 kW
Maximum Operating Altitude 9,100 m/30,000 feet
Maximum Cruise Speed (TAS*) 260 knots/299 mph/480 km/h
Range with Maximum Payload (9,250 kg/20,400 lbs) 700 NM/1,300 km
Range with 6,000 kg/13,200 lbs Payload 2,000 NM/3,700 km
Range with 3,000 kg/6,600 lbs Payload 2,500 NM/4,600 km
Maximum Range (Ferry) 2,900 NM/5,400 km

* The true airspeed (TAS; also KTAS, for Knots True AirSpeed) of an aircraft is the speed of the aircraft relative to the airmass in which it is flying


Carrier Strike Group

Personnel from five Royal Navy ships took part in the latest validation exercise, learning how to work as part of a battlegroup with the nation’s new aircraft carriers.

Carrier strike operations a step closer for Royal Navy
Carrier strike operations a step closer for Royal Navy

The UK Carrier Strike Group (CSG) exercise was run by the U.S. Navy and involved the French, Danish and German navies.

As well as personnel from HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), members of the ships’ companies from HMS Prince of Wales (R09), Type 45 destroyer’s HMS Dragon (D35) and HMS Diamond (D34) and Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose (F236), also took part.

Destroyers and frigates will be escorts for both HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) and HMS Prince of Wales (R09) when they deploy.

The Multi-National Fleet Synthetic Training Group Command Exercise was run from the Maritime Composite Training System site at HMS Collingwood.

Those taking part in the exercise were visited by Rear Admiral Patrick Piercey, Director for Operations U.S. Pacific Command.

«It was an excellent opportunity to review concepts of operations at different threat levels for CSG operations. Key themes discussed focused on the need for range for the Carrier Air Wing and future operational environments», said Colonel Philip Kelly RM, CSG Strike Warfare Commander. «The Admiral had a very keen understanding of the challenges we both face and was impressed with UK CSG’s progress thus far. I think we the UKCSG will be a welcome addition to any allied force as we bring significant combat power».

The Admiral also visited HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), touring the hangar and the ship’s Flyco, before stepping out onto the carrier’s four-acre flight deck.

Commander UKCSG Cdre Andrew Betton also briefed Admiral Piercey on the carrier regeneration programme and how the two Navies are working together.

«It’s a great opportunity to discuss the UK’s return to Carrier Strike operations and how we can build our close operational partnerships across the globe», said Cdre Betton.

Following the exercise, Cdre Betton hosted Vice Admiral Tim Fraser, Chief of Joint Operations, visiting from Permanent Joint Headquarters at Northwood, aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08).

Vice Admiral Fraser toured the aircraft carrier and met members of the Carrier Strike Group as he was updated on the development of carrier strike.

Last year the CSG brushed up their skills when they embarked in the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) for Exercise Saxon Warrior.

The build up of CSG has also seen experts from the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps help to train and mentor the COMUKCSG team, who have also worked closely with the RAF.

In the autumn of this year HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) is set to deploy to the east coast of the USA for her first-of-class flying trials with the F-35B.

Forward Presence

On January 22 the French contingent beginning their service with the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group will be introduced at a ceremony at the Lithuanian Great Hetman Jonušas Radvila Training Regiment in Rukla. The ceremony will be attended by Commander of the Lithuanian Armed Forces Mechanised Infantry Brigade Iron Wolf Colonel Mindaugas Steponavičius, Commander NATO eFP Lithuania Lieutenant Colonel Thorsten Gensler, Commander of the French contingent Lieutenant Colonel Martin Wencesl, representatives of the Embassy of France in Lithuania.

French Contingent beginning service with the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion to be introduced at a ceremony in Rukla
French Contingent beginning service with the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion to be introduced at a ceremony in Rukla

The core of the French contingent arrived in Rukla on January 10. The French soldiers will serve in Lithuania integrated into the Lithuanian Armed Forces Mechanised Infantry Brigade Iron Wolf for 8 months contributing to the enhanced NATO deterrence and defence measures in the Baltic states.

When the French contingent is fully integrated with the rest of the eFP in late February, the unit will be fully ready to take part in exercises and training of the NATO eFP in Lithuania.

The French contingent is composed of almost 300 soldiers, roughly 200 of them as a mechanized infantry company, and 100 soldiers will manage logistic and administration affairs. The French troops will serve as one of the NATO eFP maneuver companies, in combat support units and the NATO eFP Lithuania HQ.

Troops and equipment are deployed from the 5th Dragoon Regiment located in Mailly le Camp and equipped with the best assets in the French Army, and from the 7th Mountain Infantry Battalion, a battalion well-adapted with the relevant knowledge to conduct the training period within the NATO eFP Lithuania.

Like all the other eFP contingents, the French soldiers brought their combat, logistical and administrative equipment. The maneuver unit will be serving with Leclerc main battle tanks and VBCI infantry fighting vehicles.

The multinational NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group in Rukla (Jonava district) has been deployed since the beginning of this year as a response to the changed geopolitical situation. Once the French soldiers are integrated, the NATO eFP Lithuania will comprise over 1,200 troops.

Battery technology

Twenty years ago, one phone call between two Army engineers led to a cost-effective lithium-ion battery solution for what was then an up-and-coming guided missile system.

U.S. Army paratroopers from the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, shoot with an M41 TOW Improved Target Acquisition System, February 25, 2016, during Exercise Sky Soldier 16, at Chinchilla training area in Spain. The ITAS versatile missile system continues to operate using lithium-ion battery chemistry developed by a team of engineers from CERDEC, AMCOM and industry (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Elena Baladelli)
U.S. Army paratroopers from the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, shoot with an M41 TOW Improved Target Acquisition System, February 25, 2016, during Exercise Sky Soldier 16, at Chinchilla training area in Spain. The ITAS versatile missile system continues to operate using lithium-ion battery chemistry developed by a team of engineers from CERDEC, AMCOM and industry (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Elena Baladelli)

That solution, now proven as a comprehensive success, evolved from a dynamic multi-agency partnership that continues to advance state-of-the art battery technologies for current and future Army, Navy, Air Force, and NASA platforms.

«Certain power technologies can present a broader application, so we turn to interagency collaboration to develop a technology faster», said Ed Plichta, chief scientist for power and energy within the Command Power and Integration Directorate under the Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center’s, or CERDEC.

One example of this was the battery requirements for the Tube-Launched Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided, Improved Target Acquisition System or TOW ITAS, he said.

The ITAS is an advanced fire control system that operates on a tripod platform, which can be dismounted or mounted on a vehicle. Soldiers in the field were using silver-zinc batteries to power the TOW ITAS, but those batteries lasted for only three months and the replacement cost for each battery was more than $4,000.

«It took Soldiers in the field 16 hours to manually fill and activate the battery through a charging process», Plichta said. «Additionally, compared to the three-month lifespan of the silver-zinc batteries, the lithium-ion battery offered a three- to five-year service life per battery».

When the U.S. Army Aviation Mission Command, or AMCOM, first contacted CERDEC for help with powering the ITAS TOW, Plichta’s team was already part of a government/industry/academia partnership created to advance what was then the newly emerging lithium-ion battery chemistry for the Army.

«When my AMCOM counterpart called, our industry partner was already looking to build large-scale lithium-ion cells to potentially use in electric vehicles, aircraft and space satellites», Plichta said. «They had developed a large format 40 Amp-Hour cell for this purpose, and it seemed to be the right size for the power and energy needed to drive the ITAS».

With many years now separating the first prototype to the fielded capability, AMCOM has been able to thoroughly assess the chemistry’s impact on missile defense.

«CERDEC’s lithium-ion battery chemistry has been an incredible success both from support, performance and cost perspectives, especially considering we have achieved a $100 million cost avoidance», said Lawrence Ingerson, U.S. Army AMCOM TOW Deputy Product Manager. «With more than 500 systems in theater at one point, I honestly believe our Soldiers would have been at a disadvantage if silver-zinc had been our only power source».

CERDEC and its partners also produced lithium-ion battery chemistry that continues to power the F-22 fighter and the original Mars rover; and it is planned to power spacecraft, additional rovers, orbiters and lander vehicles for future space missions to Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and beyond.

«The CERDEC Power Division continues to play a pivotal role in advancing lithium-ion battery chemistries, including our work towards advancing tactical energy independence for dismounted Soldiers up to powering future platforms», said Beth Ferry, division chief for the CERDEC CP&ID power division. «We envision many exciting uses for it over the next several decades».

CERDEC’s collaborations with the Navy, Air Force and industry are currently exploring hybridized power for components of the Army’s proposed Future Vertical Lift program, which aims to develop the next generation of military helicopters with advanced protection systems, Plichta said.

These advanced hybrid energy storage systems will also power all-electric systems and platforms, including electric vehicles, ships and aircraft.

«History teaches us through examples like the great inventor Thomas Edison that through an innovative, collaborative culture, ideas truly become successful products», Plitcha said. «When people come together within the right circumstances, they expand their individual knowledge and achieve great things».

Arctic Air Base

Recent missile threats to the United States have the military looking up to its northern most installation, Thule Air Base (AB), Greenland. It’s there that the Air Force monitors the skies for missiles from its Arctic location strategically positioned at the halfway point between Washington, D.C. and Moscow.

M-plant, the main power plant that houses the latest energy efficient exhaust gas boilers at Thule Air Base, Greenland (Photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
M-plant, the main power plant that houses the latest energy efficient exhaust gas boilers at Thule Air Base, Greenland (Photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

«Thule’s unique location makes it a key asset to the United States, however its unique environment makes it a difficult asset to maintain», said Dan Rodriguez, acting-Deputy Base Civil Engineer, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, is doing something to address both of these areas. They are performing a major base consolidation that will save energy, tax-payer money and most importantly improve Air Force readiness.

Thule, pronounced «Two Lee», is Latin for northernmost part of the inhabitable world. Thule AB is located in the northwestern corner of Greenland, in a coastal valley 700 miles/1,126.5 km north of the Arctic Circle and 950 miles/1,529 km south of the North Pole.

For over half a century, the base has been home to active-duty Air Force members who live and work in this remote and harsh environment to perform national security.

Throughout this time the Army Corps, under extreme arctic weather conditions, has helped the base fulfill this mission by constructing structures including dormitories, an aircraft runway, taxiways and aprons and even a medical facility. Now the Army Corps is consolidating and modernizing the base.

In the early 1950s, the base’s main mission was to be an aircraft refueling stop. It was home to 10,000 Airmen and there were buildings spread throughout the entire base.

During the Cold War Era, the base’s mission changed; it is now performing missile warning and space surveillance for the United States.

Today, the base is home to 650 personnel – 200 are U.S. military and the rest are Danish and Greenlandic residents.

Many of the original buildings are still in use, but have become severely weatherworn. Heating the old buildings wastes energy and fuel. Because the original buildings are far from the base’s central heat plant, long pipes are used to transport the heat.

Because the Air Force is focused on saving energy, they called on the Army Corps to consolidate the base.

«Much energy and money will be saved by not heating those archaic facilities», said Stella Marco, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, project engineer.

The consolidation effort will reduce the size of the base by 40 percent.

The Army Corps is doing this by demolishing 31 old buildings and building new structures closer together in the central area of the base where essential services are located including the airfield and hangars, dining facility and hospital.

The main structures being constructed are dormitories for noncommissioned officers who are visiting or on temporary duty at Thule AB.

Presently, the Army Corps is working on 5 dormitory projects. This includes constructing flattop and high rise dormitories and renovating 636 existing dorm rooms.

The Army Corps is also constructing a base supply and civil engineering shop and a vehicle maintenance and pavements and grounds facility. Other possible projects include expanding the base’s air passenger terminal and air freight terminal.

These new and renovated buildings will receive an upgraded heating system. The base’s heating plant is receiving new, more energy efficient, exhaust gas heat recovery boilers and engines.

Performing construction in an Arctic environment is challenging and the Army Corps is an expert on this after having performed work for the base for over half a century.

Consolidation is always good as a way to save energy and money, but it is even more important in the Arctic.

«At such a remote and cold location, construction, maintenance and utility costs are very high», said Markus Tyboroski, Thule AB site support engineer. «For example, it costs three times as much to build a new facility at Thule as compared to an average location in the United States and annual fuel costs for power and heating are $12 million».

«This consolidation will result in reduced base operation and maintenance costs and will provide energy savings», said Rodriguez. «It’s estimated that there will be an energy reduction of 35 percent. Since 2009, when the consolidation was starting up, the base has saved almost $37 million in energy savings and in base operating costs».

Ultimately, the consolidation effort will benefit the Airmen protecting the U.S.

«The consolidation will provide Airmen improved support because they are receiving modernized facilities and the buildings will be closer together», Rodriguez said. «It’s great to see the project funded and in the works».

Building 101, a new modern 48 person dormitory for housing unaccompanied enlisted personnel stationed at Thule Air Base, Greenland (Photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
Building 101, a new modern 48 person dormitory for housing unaccompanied enlisted personnel stationed at Thule Air Base, Greenland (Photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)


Side Bar

Construction challenges in the Arctic

Construction in the Arctic can be challenging due to severe weather and limited daylight, which requires the use of unique building materials, techniques and fast-paced construction.

Most of northern Greenland is covered with permafrost, which is permanently frozen ground – ranging from 6 to 1,600 feet/from 1.8 to 488 m in depth.

This requires structures to be constructed with a special elevated Arctic foundation. If buildings are not constructed off the ground, the heat from inside the building can melt the permafrost, making the ground unstable and causing buildings to sink.

Buildings are elevated 3 feet/0.9 m from the ground with the use of spread footings that go down about 10 feet/3 m deep and concrete columns that come up and support the floor system above the ground.

Construction takes place during the summer and autumn months when the temperature is a «balmy» 40 degrees Fahrenheit/4.4 degrees Celsius. In the winter, temperatures can be as low as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit/minus 34.4 degrees Celsius.

Of Thule’s proximity to the North Pole, the region has 24-hours of sunlight from May thru August and 24-hours of darkness from November thru February.

The warmer weather makes it possible to break up the iced-in shipping lanes. This allows cargo ships into port with fuel and building materials.

Building materials include prefabricated parts so that the workers can perform construction rapidly. Materials include concrete foundations, insulated steel and metal walls and roof panels.

When winter arrives, workers begin interior construction. This work includes constructing mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems that are designed to withstand extreme frigid sub-zero temperatures.