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By Lt. Col. Doug Hickey, deputy commander
821st Air Base Group
North American Aerospace Defense Command and the United States Northern Command participated in Operation NOBLE DEFENDER at Thule Air Base, Greenland, March 14 to 17, 2022.
NORAD and USNORTHCOM are Canadian and the American bi-national military commands charged with three missions in the defense of North America: aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning.
NOBLE DEFENDER is part of a recurring series of NORAD operations and readiness exercises and designed to demonstrate a cohesive coordination amongst North American partner nations, including the Royal Canadian Air Force and U.S. Air Force. The operation is centered on the ability to respond to both aircraft and cruise missiles threatening North America.
“Thule Air Base is committed to supporting emerging requirements in the Arctic,” said Col. Heather McGee, 821st Air Base Group commander. “The success of the recent Operation NOBLE DEFENDER demonstrates that the Airmen and Guardians at Thule [Air Base] are prepared and ready to ensure the United States can deter adverse actors while operating in a challenging and remote arctic environment.”
Aside from Thule Air Base, Greenland, and other Alaskan air bases, the operation was also based out of Canadian Forces Station Alert, Nunavut; Whitehorse, Yukon; Yellowknife, Northwest Territories; 17 Wing/Canadian Forces Base Winnipeg, Manitoba; 22 Wing North Bay, Ontario and 5 Wing Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador.
The operation saw Canadian CF-18 fighters operating from northern airfields to intercept aircraft role-playing as threats. Fighter aircraft were supported by Royal Canadian Air Force and United States Air Force KC-135 air-to-air refuelers.
The monitoring and control of North American airspace remains a primary mission focus area for NORAD. The command maintains robust air defense capabilities to execute the airspace mission over the continental U.S., Alaska and Canada.
"Exercising in the Arctic allows us to demonstrate our resiliency and advance our operational capabilities that are critical for integrated deterrence and layered defense,” said General Glen VanHerck, NORAD/USNORTHCOM commander. “The men and women of NORAD, in Canada and the United States, remain steadfast in our sacred obligation of deterring threats, and if required, defending North America.”
NORAD remains committed to working collaboratively with our partners for an all-domain approach to Arctic security to address emerging challenges and capabilities.
A stable, rules-based order in the Arctic benefits all Arctic community nations by facilitating economic development, fostering regional cooperation on shared challenges, and ensuring a stable, conflict-free Arctic. The relationships between Arctic allies and partners strengthens the collective deterrent against strategic competitors.
Essential experience resides in the units stationed in the far north, from our Canadian defense partners and overseas allies to the American services.
“We look forward to continued cooperation with NORAD/NORTHCOM and our international partners in future operations and events at Thule Air Base,” said McGee.
The Arctic nations will continue conducting exercises and operations in order to maintain its capabilities.