The mission of the 821st Air Base Group is to enable force projection, space superiority and scientific research in the Arctic Region for our nation and allies through integrated base support and defense operations.
The group operates and maintains Thule Air Base in support of missile warning and space surveillance and satellite command and control operations missions. The group provides security, communications, civil engineering, personnel, services, logistics and medical support to remote active duty units in a combined U.S., Canadian, Danish and Greenlandic environment of approximately 550 military, civilian and contractor personnel.
It operates the Department of Defense's northernmost deep-water seaport as well as a 10,000-foot runway and associated airfield. The 821st also provides logistics resupply operations support for smaller military sites both in Greenland and northern Canada, as well as support for several arctic scientific studies.
In 1946, a combined Danish-American radio and weather station was established in the area near what is known today as Thule. The 1951 Defense Agreement between Denmark and the United States established the Thule Defense Area, and the base itself was built under Operation Blue Jay (1951-1953).
The origin of the 821st Air Base Group dates back to the establishment of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning Site in 1961. Throughout the years, several commands were responsible for the base, including Northeast Air Command, Air Defense Command and Strategic Air Command.
The unit was first designated as the 12th Missile Warning Squadron and later became the 12th Missile Warning Group. Air Force Space Command took control of Thule in 1983 and the unit was redesignated as the 12th Space Warning Squadron in 1992. In June 2002, the 821st Air Base Group was created as the host unit for Thule Air Base.
Thule Air Base is located on the northwest coast of Greenland, 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle and approximately 946 miles from the North Pole. Greenland is the largest island on earth with more than five-sixths of its surface covered by the polar ice cap. The ice cap is more than 10,000 feet thick in some areas. The closest town is Qaanaaq, 75 miles northwest of the base with a population of about 600.
Because of its northern location, Thule experiences constant darkness from November until February and constant sunlight from May to August. Average winter temperatures range from 13 to 20 degrees below zero, with 85 degrees below zero being the lowest recorded reading. Summer temperatures normally range from 30 to 44 degrees with the highest recorded reading being a tepid 68 degrees.