Long-planned air operation in the Arctic completed by NORAD

Apr 18, 2022 1 THULE AIR BASE, Greenland - THULE AIR BASE, Greenland – Two Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornets await flying missions during Operation NOBLE DEFENDER at Thule Air Base, Greenland, March 15, 2022. The North American Aerospace Defense Command maintains robust air defense capabilities over the continental United States, Alaska and Canada. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carlos Ferran)

Operation NOBLE DEFENDER was recently completed, demonstrating the North American Aerospace Defence Command’s (NORAD) capability and readiness to defend both Canada and the United States in the challenging Arctic environment. This dynamic force employment operation was conducted between January 15-31, 2023, across multiple Arctic locations and the coasts of Canada and the United States.

“Our ability to operate in the Arctic is critical to our ability to defend our homelands,” explained General Glen VanHerck, Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command. “Operation NOBLE DEFENDER successfully demonstrated our willingness and capability to conduct operations above the Arctic Circle in even the harshest weather conditions and proved a concept of integration with key Arctic partners to defend northern approaches to North America.”

This iteration of NOBLE DEFENDER had been long planned and signified the first time NORAD deployed F-35s to Thule, Greenland. It was an effective demonstrating of the agility of capabilities supporting Arctic defense with support from the Kingdom of Denmark to allow air defense operations from this location.

The operation involved approximately 225 American and Canadian personnel and aircraft from all three NORAD Regions. In addition to Thule Air Base, Greenland, they also deployed to Iqaluit Forward Operating Location, Nunavut, 5 Wing Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, and from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Equipment involved included four F-35s, three CF-18s, four KC135s, one CC-150, one E-3, and one CG-149.

Concluding the operation was a demonstration of the command’s ability to conduct globally integrated layered defence. This involved NORAD fighters in an exercise to intercept a U.S. Strategic Command B-52 representing a threat platform. NORAD CF-18s escorted the U.S. bomber in transiting northern Canada and the central United States. NOBLE DEFENDER takes place throughout the year and is a recurring NORAD air defence operation that demonstrates the capability to maintain mission readiness in various environments as well as to preserve capacity for follow-on operations.

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