Greenland Air Base Unharmed by Apparent Meteor Explosion
Thule Air Base in Greenland is operating normally after reports that a possible meteorite exploded in the air above it, officials told Military.com on Friday.
"There's been no impact to Thule Air Base," Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Hope Cronin said in an email.
News outlets reported a meteorite exploded several miles from the base July 25 following tweets from space enthusiasts who tracked the explosion.
"Meteor explodes with 2.1 kilotons force 43 km above missile early warning radar at Thule Air Base," tweeted Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists. Kristensen this week tweeted about the event after a user, named "Rocket Ron," publicized that a "fireball was detected over Greenland on July 25, 2018 by US Government sensors."
NASA, which tracks meteor, comet, asteroid and other space debris movements, confirmed these details.
"Meteors of this magnitude or greater, caused by the impact of small asteroids (few meters in size) with Earth’s atmosphere, occur a few times a year," JoAnna Wendel, a NASA spokeswoman, said. "By comparison, the 2013 meteor over Chelyabinsk, Russia released over 200 times the energy of the Greenland meteor."
Kristensen downplayed the idea that the explosion may have been something else -- for example, a Russian missile aimed at Thule, which operates the Upgraded Early Warning Radar (UEWR), formerly known as the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System.
"We're still here, so they correctly concluded it was not a Russian first strike," Kristensen tweeted Wednesday.
"There are nearly 2,000 nukes on alert, ready to launch," he added.
Officials on Friday were not aware if the U.S. military launched intelligence, surveillance or reconnaissance aircraft or the WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft, known as the "nuke sniffer," in response to the blast.
The blast was limited, Kristensen told Task & Purpose Friday, suggesting it was not a threat to the several hundred military and civilian personnel stationed at Thule, which is mostly underground.
Thule, under Peterson Air Force Base's 21st Space Wing, 821st Air Base Group, operates and maintains missile warning and space surveillance systems and conducts "satellite command-and-control operations missions," according to the Air Force.
"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 militaries, civilian and contractor personnel," according to the group's Air Force page.