In 1951, Kiewit was selected to construct an air base in the high arctic at Thule, Greenland. This then top-secret project, known as Operation Bluejay, required the hiring and training of 5,000 workers, and the procurement and transportation of countless shiploads of equipment and material through iceberg-laden seas.
Kiewit and its joint venture partners would remain at Thule for the next 15 years. In addition to further development of the base, they constructed BMEWS (ballistic missile early warning system) radar screens as big as football fields and the eastern end of the DEW (distant early warning) Line, building radar domes right on the Greenland icecap.
In 1952, the Atomic Energy Commission awarded Kiewit the $1.2 billion Gaseous Diffusion Plant project at Portsmouth, Ohio. The plant, which was one of the largest construction contracts the government had ever awarded, was needed to refine uranium 235 for both military and civilian nuclear operations.
Kiewit helped strengthen the nation’s defense capabilities with the construction of many missile base projects in the 1950s and 1960s. Among them were two Minuteman missile base projects at Rapid City, South Dakota, and Minot, North Dakota, which began in 1962.