The New York Air National Guard delivered more than 100,000 pounds of cargo to Canadian Forces Station Alert, the most northern permanently inhabited place in the world, from September 26 to October 4 as part of a joint operation with the Canadian Armed Forces.
CFS Alert, built in 1956, maintains signals intelligence (SIGINT) facilities to support Canadian military operations, hosts researchers for Environment and Climate Change Canada, and plays a key role in projecting Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic. The station, located on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut — 490 miles south of the North Pole — is home to around 55 Canadian Forces military and civilian personnel year-round.
The resupply mission to the station is known as Operation Boxtop and takes place in the spring and fall.
Twenty airmen from the NY ANG’s 109th Airlift Wing, based at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, N.Y., flew seven missions to CFS Alert as part of the twice a year effort to supply the station. The 109th personnel included two full crews of six Airmen, for a total of twelve, and eight maintenance personnel.
The 109th Airlift Wing, which also flies the largest ski-equipped aircraft in the world, the LC-130, teamed up with the Canadian Armed Force’s 8 Wing, based in Trenton, Ontario to conduct the mission. 8 Wing is the higher headquarters for the Alert station.
The Canadian Forces funded the 109th’s participation in accomplishing the resupply mission as part of broader bi-national Arctic Force Package initiative.
The mission profile called for one C-130 Hercules from the 109th to fly to Thule Air Base in Greenland, the northernmost installation operation by the U.S. military, and then fly cargo from there to Alert. The 109th Airlift Wing carried bulk cargo which allowed the Canadian Armed Forces, which employed a C-130J Super Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane, to focus on carrying fuel for generators and heating. The three aircraft flew missions around the clock to supply the Alert outpost.
The conditions in the Arctic this time of year can be less than ideal and the crews experienced freezing fog, low visibility, and high winds, making approaches and landing difficult at times. Despite the weather, the 109th Airlift Wing crews were able to complete 37.4 hours of flying for the operation.
The 109th Airlift Wing has a long history of operating in the Arctic in support of American and Canadian operations. In 2014, 2015 and 2016, the 109th Airlift Wing participated in Operation NUNALIVUT, an annual Arctic operations exercise.