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Operation Deep Freeze wraps up

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Operation Deep Freeze, the Air Force's mission to support scientific research in Antarctica, wrapped up this week after flying hundreds of missions, moving thousands of passengers and millions of pounds of cargo as part of a six-month mission.

The 109th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard sent seven of its specially equipped LC-130s to help support the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Program. The wing's "Skibird" LC-130s have skis for landing gear, letting the aircraft land on ice and snow.

This year, the wing flew 241 missions, delivering 3,100 passengers and 4.5 million pounds of cargo and fuel to research stations in Antarctica from October to late February, according to a release from the Guard. The wing deployed 575 airmen to McMurdo Station, with airmen spending an average of two months at the station.

The first aircraft returned to New York on Feb. 23, according to the unit. The rest will return next week.

This year, the unit's 27th supporting the mission, included a first: flying the IcePod, a special imaging sensor that measures the ice surface and ice bed. The pod is outfitted on an LC-130 and collect measurements as the aircraft flies its missions.

"IcePod focuses on the development of an integrated ice imaging system that can measure in detail both the ice surface and the ice bed, helping in the understanding of why ice sheets are changing at such a rapid rate," Lt. Col. Blair Herdick, chief of Atlantic Operations for the 109th, in a release.

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