Tag Archives: Greenland

Join an F-16 pilot on a low level mission over Greenland with a GoPro

HQ video with RDAF F-16s low level over Greenland ice sheet.

Here’s another interesting footage filmed with GoPro cameras of a Royal Danish Air Force F-16 flying along the ice rim east of Kangerlussuaq, to the DYE-2 radar station, over the icefjord near Ilulissat, over the inspectionship Knud Rasmussen, and over the town of Ilussisat where the polar explorer Knud Rasmussen was born.

The RDAF deployed three F-16s from the Fighter Wing Skrydstrup to Greenland. Only two aircraft were fitted with 600 gal extra-tanks borrowed from Portuguese Air Force and and these two (with arctic-day glow missiles – the remaining aircraft was probably a spare) deployed north to Thule AB and south to Nuuk (Greenlands capital).

H/T to Eggert Norðdahl for providing some more details about the RDAF deployment and to John Kristensen for the link to the video

On this day in 1968 a B-52 crashed in Greenland with 4 hydrogen bombs

On Jan. 21, 1968, a B-52G Stratofortress belonging to the 380th Strategic Bomb Wing from Plattsburgh Air Force Base, New York, crashed in in Greenland in what is remembered as the second “Broken Arrow” incident (yes, that codeword is not only used in movies).

The bomber, using radio callsign “Hobo 28” was flying an armed peacetime airborne alert mission known under the codename of “Hard Head”:  its purpose was to maintain a visual surveillance of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS), which provided early warning of Soviet missile launches, at Thule Air Base.

During the mission, the Stratofortress experienced a cockpit fire, failed to make an emergency landing at Thule and eventually crashed on sea ice in North Star Bay.

Six of the seven crew members were able to eject the aircraft but the four hydrogen bombs carried by the B-52 (that did not detonate because of “Weak Links” safety mechanisms) released radioactive material.

In spite of an attempt to restrict the leaks, the high winds, the cold temperatures and the fire caused by the burning Stratofortress caused the dispersion of some other radioactive material into the sea.

Btw, one of the four B-28 Thermonuclear remains unaccounted for, after 46 years.

The crash, which followed the other Broken Arrow incident occurred in Spain two years earlier, highlighted the safety (and diplomatic) risks those kind of airborne alert missions, which were immediately ended.

Image credit: Wiki

 

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Broken Arrow incidents: when U.S. B-52 bombers lost their nuclear weapons during the Cold War

Back in 1955, when it entered the operational service  with the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC), the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress had the nuclear strike against the Soviet forces as its main mission.

During the Cold War, in particular between the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s the United States and the Soviet Union nuclear arsenals grew up so much that the Doomsday Scenario appeared to be quite close so as the consequent danger of the worst case scenario: the MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction).

The MAD soon became also a principle which stated that a nuclear power would not try the destruction of another one due to the fear that it would be destroyed itself.

To ensure the application of the MAD principle both super powers created their own nuclear deterrent.  U.S. one was made by submarine-based missile force and by land-based missile force integrated by the manned bombers of those the mighty BUFF (Big Ugly Fat Fellow – B-52 nickname) was the best expression.

DESERT STORM

During the “MAD age” there were several B-52 crashes that involved not only the airframes alone, but also the nuclear weapons aboard the aircraft: these were code named “Broken Arrow” incidents.

The two most famous of the Stratofortress Broken Arrow incidents happened in Spain and Greenland.

The first happened on Jan. 17, 1966, when a B-52G collided with a KC-135 Stratotanker during aerial refueling above the Mediterranean Sea, near the coast of Spain. Both aircraft exploded in mid air killing seven aircrew members.

B-52G

The Stratofortress carried four B28 thermonuclear weapons, three of those hit the land near Palomares: two of them caused a non nuclear TNT explosion, but in their impact with the land they released some radioactive plutonium.

The fourth bomb was lost into the Mediterranean and it was found unexploded at a depth of 2,550 feet on Mar. 17;  it was recovered only on Apr. 7 by some U.S. Navy ships.

The second incident involved another B-52G and it occurred on Jan. 21, 1968 when a Stratofortress crashed in Greenland.

The bomber failed to make an emergency landing at Thule AB (Air Base) in Greenland after having experienced a cockpit fire and it crashed on sea ice in North Star Bay.

Even if six men of the seven crew members were able to eject safely, the four B28s aboard scattered and some radioactive material was released. An attempt to restrict the radiation leaks immediately started, but it turned out to be a really though operation, due to the high winds, the cold temperatures and the fire that not only burned the B-52 but also caused the dispersion of some other radioactive material into the sea.

Display of might

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

At the end, most, but not all, of the bomb parts were recovered and this incident produced some concern to the Danish government, since Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark and because Denmark had stated that its lands were nuclear-free zones.

These two very well known BUFF Broken Arrow incidents along with the embarrassment they caused brought this kind of missions, carried out with nuclear weapons aboard, close to the shores of other countries, to an end.

Written with David Cenciotti

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