Parachuting-in: Arctic airdrops support Canadian Armed Forces operations and presence in the North

News Article / July 22, 2020

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Royal Canadian Air Force Public Affairs

Members of 436 Transport Squadron conducted an airdrop of supplies at Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert on June 22, 2020. The squadron used a container delivery system and a CC-130J Hercules to drop a training load without needing to land on the Arctic runway at the northeast tip of Ellesmere Island. The load consisted of four training bundles full of water weighing 1000 pounds each.

The airdrop was conducted as proof of concept for a capability that had not been tested in recent years. It was also realistic training in dropping supplies in a remote and harsh environment for the members of 436 Squadron and CFS Alert. Built in 1950, CFS Alert was supplied via airdrop during the construction of the Station. In fact, this year marks the 70th anniversary of the crash of Lancaster 965, which crashed while delivering cargo to the Station via airdrop, killing all on board.

Since then, improvements to aircraft technology and capabilities, as well as station infrastructure, have made this method of resupply much safer, but mostly unnecessary. Air drops are normally used in tactical situations to replenish soldiers on the ground, but they still have a place in regular sustainment missions, especially in austere environments like the Arctic. This capability provides 436 Squadron aircrew with more options when it comes to delivering critical supplies to help maintain Canada’s presence in the Arctic. “It enables us to be more flexible,” said Captain Scott Sinclair, the Aircraft Commander for the mission, “Weather in the Arctic is unpredictable and can make for some interesting challenges. This provides us another way to enable operations at Alert if we aren’t able to land.”

CFS Alert is of critical importance to Canadian Armed Forces presence in the Arctic. It also supports important scientific research and all domain awareness in the North. It is a significant strategic location in the Arctic; but being so remote, requires logistics and planning to continue operation. In a single year, between 1.9 and 3 million pounds of freight are sent to the Station to help sustain it and in turn support scientific research as well as all other Station operations.

For now, this airdrop was a one-time exercise; but that doesn’t mean this method or re-supply won’t be used in the future to help enable the mission. “The Arctic is strategically important for Canada. Sustaining CFS Alert is a no-fail mission critical for continental defence and our commitment to NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command). This capability is another tool in our repertoire to support those initiatives,” said United States Air Force Brigadier-General Edward Vaughan, Deputy Commander Canadian NORAD Region and Deputy Combined/Joint Forces Air Component Commander for 1 Canadian Air Division.

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