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Thule Air Base Gets New Name

  • Published
  • By Connie Dillon and Steve Brady

Thule Air Base, the Department of Defense’s northernmost installation, has been renamed to recognize Greenlandic cultural heritage and better reflect its role in the U.S. Space Force.

Following a ceremony held April 6, the installation is now known as Pituffik Space Base. Pituffik (pronounced bee-doo-FEEK) is the traditional Greenlandic name of the region where the base is located. The renaming better reflects its role in the U.S. Space Force, while paying homage to its ties to the Greenlandic people and culture. The base is located approximately 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle on the northwestern coast of Greenland.

“Today is a day of great significance as we commemorate the renaming of Thule Air Base to Pituffik Space Base,” said Chief of Space Operations U.S. Space Force Gen. Chance Saltzman in his opening remarks as the presiding official. “This renaming represents our wish to celebrate and acknowledge the rich cultural heritage of Greenland and its people and how important they are to the sustainment of this installation against the harsh environment north of the Arctic Circle.”

Saltzman added that the United States greatly values the contributions that the Greenlandic people bring to defending the Arctic region and to global security, and that renewed strategic competition in the Arctic can be expected with Russia’s historically significant presence in the region and the People’s Republic of China self-proclaimed near-Arctic power, seeking opportunities to expand its influence.

“From here, we have maintained an unbreakable bond working towards the collective defense and stability of the northern Arctic,” said Saltzman. “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the people of Greenland and Denmark for their partnership and friendship over the years. Today marks a new chapter in our shared history, one in which we recognize and celebrate the contributions and traditions of this land and its people…Together the men and women of Pituffik Space Base and our Greenlandic and Danish partners will ensure a safe, secure, and prosperous future both in space and above the Arctic Circle.”

Saltzman was joined by Greenlandic Minister for Foreign Affairs, Business, and Trade Vivian Motzfeldt and U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark Alan Leventhal; their presence was a testament to the collective commitment the countries have made to a shared defense and emphasized the importance of the installation. Members of the Greenlandic Parliament, Commander of the Joint Arctic Command Rear Admiral Martin la Cour-Andersen, and other Greenlandic dignitaries also attended the ceremony. 

Motzfeldt expressed her pride in Pituffik and Greenland and their part in ensuring the security and defense of the people of Greenland, the United States, and the transatlantic community. She then highlighted the importance of friendship and allies to work together in a changed and challenging world.

“With the decision to re-name, the U.S. has demonstrated its respect to the friendship between us, recognizing cultural heritage, and the history of the base,” said Motzfeldt. “I hope that this day will serve as an example of the ability of great nations to listen to even their smallest neighbors…Today the U.S. has proclaimed to the world, that here lies Pituffik Space Base, where even this far north, there is a people, and they have a name for the place from where we keep watch over all our peoples.”

Following Motzfeldt, Leventhal emphasized the U.S. government’s priority to continue to deepen their ties with the people and government of Greenland.

“We recognize the important role this installation has played in ensuring our countries and all of North America have remained safe and secure,” said Leventhal. “I hope today’s ceremony and the new name, Pituffik Space Base, will become a symbol of our cooperation in science, climate, and space research, the common defense of our countries, and the stability of this amazing part of the world that is so vital for our survival, the Arctic.”

Following the remarks, leadership unveiled the new base sign and the ceremony concluded with closing comments by Col. Brian Capps, Pituffik Space Base and 821st Space Base Group commander, who highlighted the friendship and connection with the Greenlandic community.

“May this base renaming serve as an opportunity for us here at Pituffik Space Base to re-affirm our commitment to that friendship and serve as a reminder of our special bond for many years to come,” said Capps. “Today is about connection to not only our fellow Guardians and Airmen, but to our partners, our allies, and most of all our friends.  It is only through this type of connection, do we truly find our strength both as a community and as allies…It is a true honor to be the first Pituffik Space Base commander.”

The renaming ceremony was hosted in conjunction with the Greenlandic Heritage Week festival held annually at the base. Greenlandic Heritage Week is a festival that celebrates Greenlandic Inuit culture and is attended by residents from local villages, with some making the multi-day trek by dog sled across the sea ice.

The base, built in 1951, provides installation support for vital space-based missions, is home to the DoD’s northernmost deep-water port, and has a 10,000-foot runway. It is operated by the 821st Space Base Group, a geographically separated unit of Space Base Delta 1 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The 821st SBG provides mission support to the base, including security forces, airfield management, and the day-to-day operations to enable force projection, space superiority, and scientific research in the Arctic region for North America and its allies. Pituffik Space Base also hosts the 12th Space Warning Squadron and 23rd Space Operations Squadron, Detachment 1.

The 12th SWS is part Space Delta 4, headquartered at Buckley SFB, Colorado. The squadron is part of the Integrated Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment network, which provides early warning of ballistic missile launches to National Command Authorities via the Missile Warning Center and North American Aerospace Defense Command.

The 23rd SOPS Det. 1 is part of Space Delta 6, headquartered at Schriever SFB, Colorado. The Detachment 1 mission is to provide telemetry, tracking and commanding operations to the U.S. and allied government satellite programs. Det. 1 is the northernmost unit of seven worldwide satellite tracking stations in the Satellite Control Network.


For more information about Pituffik, go to

For more information about 12th SWS, go to

For information about the 23rd SOPS Det. 1, go to

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