4×20 skis make first-time C-130 ice landings possible
By Capt. Mikel Arcovitch, Joint Force Headquarters, Vermont National Guard
RESOLUTE BAY, NUNAVUT, CANADA – Thirty-seven U.S. and Canadian Soldiers were tactically inserted by way of an LC-130 Hercules on Arctic Ocean ice just east of Little Cornwallis Island in Nunavut, Canada, during exercise Guerrier Nordique 23 on March 15, 2023.
The multi-country and joint effort is the first ever platoon movement of its kind.
The New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing is the only ski equipped tactical C-130 with flying missions focusing on snow and ice landings, which is made possible by multi-capable Airmen trained to build and groom those runways. The LC-130H is equipped with 4 by 20 foot skis that make landing possible on specially built skiways and ski landing areas.
“We’ve been flying missions in Greenland and Antarctica for over 30 years, and this is the first time we’ve ever conducted a tactical insertion with Canadian reserve Soldiers,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Sala, officer-in-charge of the 109th Airlift Wing’s Polar Camp Skiway Team and Ski Landing Area Control Officers. “This is just the starting point for us to build from. We hope to expand our capacity and have more training missions like we had here with Guerrier Nordique. This exercise demonstrated the LC-130s full capability to infill and exfil tactical forces providing Arctic agile combat employment while also incorporating valuable training to our Multi-Capable Airman,” said Sala.
Soldiers and Airman loaded the LC-130 at the Canadian Armed Forces Arctic Training Center in Resolute Bay. They were flown northwest to a location just east of Little Cornwallis Island. Airmen from the 109th had groomed a ski landing area on the Arctic ice, which is where the aircraft landed. The location was previously secured by a small section of U.S. Soldiers, Canadian Rangers, and a Canadian Pathfinder.
After landing, Soldiers disembarked and set a security perimeter 100 meters from the landing zone. Dressed in overwhite camouflage, Soldiers established their security positions. Soldiers were equipped with individual weapons, machine guns, and everything they needed to sustain themselves for up to three days in the Arctic.
“This is only the beginning,” said Canadian Army Lt. Col. Andre Morin, land component commander for Guerrier Nordique. “The partnership between the Canadians and Americans is invaluable. I would like to see this exercise grow from here and make it bigger and better. We have now confirmed that we have the ability to deliver Soldiers in a very difficult environment. Eventually, in the future, I hope to have a Canadian battalion and a company from the United States.”
Guerrier Nordique is a cold-weather training exercise for the Canadian Army that takes place in a different location each year. Resolute Bay is one of the few places that is located above the 60th parallel or the Arctic Circle. The Vermont National Guard has participated each year since 2012 and hopes to continue well into the future.
“This is my sixth time participating in Guerrier Nordique and it’s gotten bigger and better each year,” said U.S. Army Maj. Matt Hefner, officer-in-charge for the U.S. Soldiers during Guerrier Nordique. “This year the 105th and 109th Airlift Wings took part in the exercise and we certainly hope they continue in this multi-national and now joint training. The sky is truly the limit.”
Most of the U.S. Soldiers delivered came from the National Guard; Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Utah were all represented. The 11th Airborne Division out of Fairbanks, Alaska, also sent two Soldiers. Canadian Soldiers taking part in the exercise are also mostly reservists from the 35th Canadian Brigade Group based in Eastern Quebec. Canada also sent Soldiers from the 34th Canadian Brigade Group, 4th Health Services Group, and from the Canadian Rangers. In total, 235 Soldiers and Airmen participated in Guerrier Nordique.
“Almost every single Soldier and Airman here are from the National Guard or a reservist in the Canadian Army,” said Hefner. “Organizing and executing this task has been a challenge, but seeing the Air National Guard, Army National Guard, and Canadian Army Reserve work together to execute this exercise has been an awesome experience. The Hercules landing and those Soldiers coming out in close to 50 below was awesome.”
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