text.skipToContent text.skipToNavigation

Thule Air Base


This U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project involves the removal and replacement of the center 170-foot keel portion of approximately 10,000 feet of existing asphalt runway pavement. Replacement of materials is through the upper six inches of existing runway. The project renovations include the replacement runway edge lighting, runway threshold bar and other associated electrical upgrades. The region is glaciated, and the existing soil is generally permafrost, which exists one to six feet below the surface and to a measured depth of 1,600 feet. The goal is to upgrade the runway every 20 years.

Deep within the Arctic Circle in Greenland sits one of the U.S.’s most isolated air bases. At more than 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Thule Air Base is the halfway point between Moscow and New York.

Thule Air Base was created by an agreement signed April 27, 1951, and covers approximately 254 square miles. It provides security, communications, civil engineering, personnel, services, logistics and medical support to remote active duty units in a combined United States, Canadian, Danish and Greenlandic environment of 600 military, civilian and contractor personnel. Shealy Electrical — now Border States — worked with two Denmark-based contractors: Munck Civil Engieering A/S (primary contractor) and Intertec A/S (electrical subcontractor) on a project to reconstruct part of the main air strip.


There were many obstacles for our International Services team when working on the Thule Air Base project. The most recent project at Thule was the air landing strip reconstruction:

  • Limited delivery window
  • Major runway upgrade
  • Two-year project
  • Extreme temperatures

One of the most important factors on this project was timing. Thule is locked in by ice for seven to nine months per year, but during the summer, the ice breaks enough around the base’s port to allow for the resupply of food, fuel, construction materials and cargo. This three- to five-month period is when we had to have all major supplies sent to Thule on an international ship leaving from Northfolk, Virginia.

To address the temporary issues with plane landings, we worked with Intertec A/S to provide a Precision Approach Path Indicators (PAPI) system while the runway was being reconstructed. The major parts of the project were changing the paint scheme to follow the airfield standards and new inset and elevated Crouse-Hinds runway lighting.

An additional issue was the constant breaking in the asphalt of the air strip from the extreme temperatures. The original runway was painted white to prevent thawing of ice-rich soil. In the winter, the ice freezes and the air strip would rise. When the ice melts, it lowers and creates cracks. The solution to this was installing an Owens Corning XPS Insulation that prevents the rising and lowering of the strip.


Thule Air Base was able to address problems with the air landing strip. The new lighting and painting the runway to airfield standards will provide safer landing conditions. The insulation has made a huge impact on repairs that were previously needed due to the extreme conditions.