Canada, US team up to test extreme cold weather airfield repair solutions

Press release from the Royal Canadian Air Force

In winter, a large yellow construction-type vehicle pours water into a shallow, rectangular hole filled with stone debris.
A boom truck pours water over debris and snow as one method to “patch” a hole in a runway, during the Cold Rapid Airfield Damage Repair tests at 5 Wing Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador on January 22, 2020. PHOTO: Submitted

From RCAF Public Affairs

Personnel from Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) and the US Department of Defense (DoD) joined forces in Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador from January 21 to February 4, 2020, to test Cold Rapid Airfield Damage Repair (CRADR) techniques.

Under the Canada-US Test and Evaluation Program (CANUSTEP), DND and DoD agreed to collaborate on the creation of a plan to evaluate current Airfield Damage Repair (ADR) practices, and to test new and emerging technologies specific to CRADR, all under extreme cold weather conditions.

Throughout the two-week period, the primary objective of the tests was to find out what personnel, equipment, materials and processes are required to rapidly assess damage to an airfield and repair it, in extreme cold weather conditions.

The tests resulted in the expansion of knowledge in a variety of disciplines, including materials/additives, equipment specifications, and the standardization of processes for execution – all while taking into consideration the human element of operating in extreme cold weather.

The most valuable outcome of these tests was the confirmation of our shared ability to rapidly repair almost any form of damage to an airfield, no matter the location or condition – a capability that will surely facilitate military operations between our two countries well into the future.

“As a former aviator supporting the US Antarctic Program, I was happy to see our two nations exchange logistics and sustainment lessons from the Arctic and Antarctica,” said US Air Force Brigadier General Ed Vaughan, Deputy Commander Canadian NORAD Region and Deputy Joint Force Air Component Commander. “The capabilities we test here can be leveraged during situations involving bad weather, emergency unforecasted events, and even for continental defense.”

A total of 41 personnel ranging from technicians to subject matter experts with experience in both the Arctic and Antarctica supported the testing and collaboration effort from the early planning stages all the way through to execution. An enormous amount of data, coupled with different levels of experience in the field, presented various challenges for the team to consider in the overall plan.

Executing the plan required a great deal of flexibility and creative thinking in the field as extreme cold factors persistently affected personnel, materials, and equipment. The combined team planned the test for almost two years, and managed to execute it in just two weeks. “The steep learning curve from the test was a challenge across most of the personnel”, said Private Frank Dopplinger, an Electrical Distribution Technician from 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia. “We took a team of 16 members who never worked together before to perform a task that has never been done before. Overall, it went well, and was a great opportunity to gain experience operating equipment I have never touched.

The ability to share and test various repair techniques in such a unique environment will surely pay off well into the future. This cold weather testing will increase mission readiness capabilities while reducing repair time and costs.

“We were able to apply our knowledge gained from Antarctica and establish new repair technologies that have proven to be successful as runway repairs”, said research civil engineer Terry Melendy, from the US Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center. “Teaming up with our experts in conventional ADR technologies, we have expanded all of our capabilities in cold environments.”

Along with the benefit of testing and implementing new CRADR technologies, the time spent in Goose Bay was a great training opportunity for operators and tradespersons alike. Having a chance to operate unique machinery such as a wheel saw, a “C-17 Load Cart,” and a Dynamic Cone Penetrometer expanded on the skills and experience for everyone involved. The hands-on training and consistent challenges the members experienced contributed greatly to their professional and leadership growth.

Overall, the test’s success was reflective of the dedication and professionalism of the partnership between Canada and the US, and our commitment to work together through any challenge or obstacle. Although it comprised many different areas of expertise and backgrounds, the team was not distracted from its goal to support our combined armed forces.Canada and the US share relationships at multiple levels of government, and testing opportunities and agreements such as these solidify our bonds and our unified goals, no matter the operating environment.

Date of publication: 18 Feb 2020

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