LATEST UPDATE 1 APRIL 2014 (ADDITIONAL PHOTO AND MISSION SPECS) | The Ukrainian Air Force started its low-key annual military transport operation with NATO-members Denmark and the US on 13 March 2014, part an air transport and technical agreement made by the two countries years ago.
During operation Northern Falcon 2014 an Ukrainian AF IL-76MD (Іл-76МД, NATO reporting name Candid) strategic airlifter from Melitopol Airbase near the Crimean peninsula took off from Borispol airport for Aalborg Airbase in Denmark. After picking up equipment at the Danish Air Force base the mission goes to Thule Air Base on Greenland, run by the US Air Force’s 821st Air Base Group. Thule is the US military’s northernmost installation, located 750 miles (1207 km) north of the Arctic Circle.
As of 28 March 2014 the Ukrainian “Candid” already completed 11 missions included transport of over 137 tons of cargo and more than 166 thousand liters of fuel, accumulating more than 51 flight hours since the start of the operation. Amongst the cargo are seven 50 m3 fuel tanks that are too big to be transported on board the Royal Danish Air Force’s own C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.
Thule Air Base
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. The base hosts the 12th Space Warning Squadron who operates a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System designed to detect and track ICBMs launched against North America. 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 has a 10,000 foot runway and services 3,000 flights per year.
The 20 Ukrainian troops tasked and their IL-76MD are tasked with transporting 600 thousand litres (157,032 gallons) of fuel and other cargo from Thule to Constable Pynt (Point), the airstrip of the Danish most remote forward location called Station Nord in East Greenland. Only 933 km (504 nm) from the North Pole it is a science station manned 24/7 by a small detachment of 5 volunteering military men from the three branches of the Danish armed forces that provide dog sledge patrols.
The air bridge provided by the Ukrainian Candid is the life line of the station. The plan is to execute 58 missions with a total of 100 flight hours in the skies over Greenland, during which temperatures can drop as low as -50 degrees Celsius (-58 Fahrenheit) and wind speeds up to 20 metres (60 feet) per second. In fact, during the last weekend of April the Ukrainian IL-76 crew had to combat a snow storm with 2 metres fresh white powder at Station Nord.
The flights are executed without the help of radio navigation equipment on the ground and without alternative landing spot. The final flight of Northern Falcon 2014 is planned for 10 April.
Source: Ukrainian Ministry of Defence / US Air Force / Danish Ministry of Defence / Flyvevåbnet