4 Wing Cold Lake
4 Wing Cold Lake is the busiest fighter base in Canada. It provides general purpose, multi-role, combat capable forces in support of domestic and international roles of Canada's Air Force. Home of fighter pilot training for the Canadian Forces, 4 Wing attracts Top Gun crews from all over the world to our annual air combat exercise, Maple Flag.
4 Wing Cold Lake is, without question, the home of the fighter pilot. It not only hosts Canada's world-class tactical fighter force training, but also deploys and supports fighter aircraft at a moments notice to fulfill the domestic and international roles of Canada's Air Force.
As an international Centre of Excellence for tactical fighter operations, deployable combat support and leading edge training, 4 Wing focuses on people, leadership, innovation and technology.
Two operational CF-18 Squadrons and two training squadrons, including Phase IV of NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC), and numerous premier support units, make 4 Wing Canada's largest and busiest fighter wing. As such, 4 Wing has some of the best and most sought after amenities in the world, including an almost unrestricted 1.17 million hectare air weapons range equipped with state-of-the-art threats and targets.
It is the vast array of support facilities and amenities that make Cold Lake exercises so attractive and successful including the annual Maple Flag Exercise, which draws international participation and continues to expand each year.
4 Wing will generate, deploy, employ and sustain agile, mission-ready, combat-capable, integrated air power to support Canada's security needs at home and abroad.
4 Wing will be a leader in providing agile, mission-ready, combat-capable integrated air power to effectively support Canada's security needs at home and abroad. In addition, 4 Wing will be recognized for its unwavering support to its members and their families; they are our foundation.
In the early 1950s, an army of construction workers started building Canada's premier fighter base in the heart of the Lakeland. Half a century later, 4 Wing carries on that tradition, and continues to be at the cutting edge of military fighter aviation. The year 2004 marks the Gold Jubilee of a unique relationship between CFB Cold Lake and the communities of the Lakeland. For the last fifty years, the City of Cold Lake has enjoyed a relationship unmatched between a Canadian Forces Base and the civilian world.
4 Wing Cold Lake began in 1952 when the site was chosen by the Royal Canadian Air Force for an air weapons training base. In selecting the site, factors such as population density, accessibility, weather, possible future development of resources and the suitability of land for aerodrome construction had to be considered.
The site near the former town of Grand Centre was finally chosen because of its advantages of adequate drainage, flat terrain and nearby gravel deposits.
Construction of RCAF Station Cold Lake began in 1952, and the first contingent of personnel arrived March 31, 1954. Operations began that day.
In 1953, the federal government signed an agreement with the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan for the use of a tract of land 180 km by 65 km for use as an air weapons range. This was and continues to be the "raison d'être" for 4 Wing Cold Lake and its operations.
The Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) has evolved to the point where it is considered to be one of the finest facilities of its kind in the world. The CLAWR covers an area of 1.17 million hectares straddling the Alberta/Saskatchewan border. Several factors unique to the CLAWR make it an ideal choice for combined air operations training.The heavily forested terrain with numerous lakes resembles European topography and differs from the desert conditions in southwestern Nevada. For these reasons, the internationally renowned Maple Flag Exercise is held on the range every year with ever growing success.
In 2004, the Cold Lake base reached a momentous milestone with 50 years of operation and service to the Canadian Forces. The occasion is marked with various activities and events in recognition of this historic accomplishment.
Message from the Wing Commander
Welcome to Cold Lake.
I am extremely pleased that you are considering the exciting, world-class training opportunities offered by 4 Wing Cold Lake. This fighter-base, which is the largest and busiest fighter base in Canada, is a source of great pride for me, and I am sure the reasons why will become evident as you explore the material contained in this Tactical Training Opportunities for Coalition Partners information package.
4 Wing is an international centre of excellence for tactical fighter operations and training. With its vast expanses of open terrain and unrestricted airspace, its cutting-edge technology, its superior weapons ranges and target complexes, and its knowledgeable and experienced personnel, 4 Wing is ready to work with its international partners to achieve specific unit tactical training goals.
Many exceptional training opportunities exist at 4 Wing for Canada's friends and allies. With its proven expeditionary facilities, knowledgeable personnel, and location in a sparsely-populated area of Canada, 4 Wing is the ideal venue for expeditionary force training.
The fighter-base's reputation and experience with large-scale international air combat exercises such as Maple Flag makes the Wing the perfect venue for any type of tactical fighter pilot training. Exercise Maple Flag presents opportunities for the entire war fighting team to plan, coordinate and execute the coalition air campaign, including the application of the entire weapon system's team against defended targets and capable adversaries in a real-world scenario.
As fighter forces around the world embrace simulation, emulation, no-drop-bomb scoring, ADCTS, etc., venues such as the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) will continue to be vital to the development of coalition air operations.
The secret to 4 Wing Cold Lake's success continues to be commitment, dedication and teamwork underpinned by a burning desire to attain the highest possible level of excellence. I look forward to welcoming you to 4 Wing, and exploring with you the tactical training opportunities available at 4 Wing. I am confident these training opportunities will help maintain and develop allied interoperability and help make our militaries stronger fighting forces.
4 Wing Cold Lake, Canada's largest and busiest fighter wing and site of a number of exciting training opportunities.
4 Wing - with its focus on people, leadership, innovation and technology - is an international centre of excellence for tactical fighter operations, leading-edge technology, and deployable combat support.
This fighter wing is made up of two operational CF-18 squadrons, two training squadrons, and a host of first-rate support units. The Wing is proud to be host to Phase IV of NATO Flying in Canada (NFTC), a training program that contributes to making NATO a strong fighting force.
Some of the best and most sought after amenities in the world, including an almost unrestricted 1.17 million hectare air weapons range equipped with state-of-the-art threats and targets; a vast array of support facilities; an annual, international air combat exercise called Maple Flag - these are just a few of the reasons 4 Wing Cold Lake is a leading, world-class centre for coalition training.
Training assets and opportunities that are unmatched.
- Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) Capability and are ready to provide Canada and her friends and allies with national and international AEF training opportunities. Air Expeditionary Unit (AEU) Base Camp includes an AEU Command Centre, field kitchens, mess tents, ablution facilities, as well as medical, supply, and engineering facilities. International partners are invited to exercise their expeditionary capabilities at 4 Wing by making use of the base's vast space and the expertise of its personnel.
- Stadium-sized hangars can accommodate virtually all aircraft types used in training operations.
- Three large runways and a vast amount of ramp space make large-scale operations and training exercises at 4 Wing a rewarding experience. 4 Wing can host more than 220 fighter-sized airframes, and provide take off and landing options for almost any type of aircraft.
- On-Site Ground Control Intercept (GCI). With its experienced controllers and AN/TPS-70 radar, 4 Wing GCI integrates skilfully into any training exercise, giving aircrews realistic training in a modern simulated air combat environment.
- The mission of 4 Wing's Air Force Tactical Training Centre (AFTTC) is to be a centre of excellence for air and ground training, and coordinate the provision of support services to Canada and her coalition allies wishing to conduct tactical training at 4 Wing. AFTTC's knowledgeable and capable staff specializes in the management of international, coalition air combat exercises such as Maple Flag.
Tactical Combat Force Training
4 Wing is a world-class centre of excellence for tactical fighter operations. Experienced and skilled operational and support personnel at 4 Wing are ready to work with international partners to achieve specific unit tactical training goals.
With its optimal location, outstanding training assets, vast and unrestricted airspace and cutting-edge technology, 4 Wing is a leading centre for coalition training.
4 Wing's reputation and experience with large-scale tactical exercises such as Maple Flag make it the perfect venue for any type of tactical fighter-pilot training.
Graced with north-eastern Alberta winters, 4 Wing is the perfect location to conduct night operations. The sun sets early in the evening and rises late in the morning, providing pilots with the opportunity to training for many hours in complete darkness.
The Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) has multiple drop zones and austere airfields, making it a premier location for tactical transport training.
Cutting-edge technology, such as the Surface Threat Electronic Warfare (STEW) system, provide aircrews with realistic training in a modern simulated air combat environment. Premier debriefing tools allow aircrews to maximize the training benefit of missions conducted at 4 Wing.
Survival and CSAR
4 Wing's diverse terrain and four seasons make it the perfect place to conduct survival training and combat search and rescue (CSAR) exercises.
The Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR), with its vast and unrestricted airspace with no civilian air traffic and more than 600 targets, is a attractive training area for allied air forces. Fighter crews from all over the world use the range annually during Exercise Maple Flag.
With proven expeditionary facilities, knowledgeable personnel and an ideal location, 4 Wing is the venue to train for real world, expeditionary force deployments.
NATO Flying Training
4 Wing Cold Lake's reputation as one of the world's finest fighter-training facilities prompted the establishment of Phase IV of the NATO Flying Training in Canada(NFTC) program in Cold Lake. The immense size of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) provides ample airspace for effective jet-pilot tactical flying training, making it the ideal location for Phase IV's Fighter Lead-In Training (FLIT) module.
NATO Flying Training in Canada
NFTC was launched in 1994. Collaboratively designed to meet the pilot training objectives of Canada and NATO-members, the program provides training and military instruction from all participating nations. Also involved in the NFTC program are Bombardier Inc., a company that provides aircraft maintenance, and Canadian Aviation Electronics (CAE), a company that supports 4 Wing's state-of-the-art flight simulators.
NATO flying training is broken up into four phases. Phase I is the selection phase, and is the individual responsibility of each nation. Phase II (basic) and III (advanced) train and award pilot wings to successful candidates, and take place in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Phase IV, the tactical training phase, is the final phase of training in the NFTC program, and takes place in Cold Lake, Alberta.
The NFTC program will continue to provide Canada and her allies with top-notch pilot training for the next 20 years, thus helping to make NATO a strong, fighting force.
After flying the CT-156 Harvard II in Moose Jaw, students fly the CF-155 Hawk in Moose Jaw and Cold Lake. In Cold Lake, students become members of 419 Squadron, a unit with a strong and proud history. Students learn air-to-air and air-to-ground combat operation procedures, and prepare for training in high performance jet aircraft.
4 Wing Cold Lake is located 287 km (180 miles) north-east of Edmonton, and 600 km (373 miles) north-east of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.
- Area - 661,190 square km (6.6% of national total)
- Population - 2,974,807 (2001 census, Statistics Canada); 80% urban, 20% rural
- Major Cities - Edmonton, Calgary
- Time Zone - Mountain Time; seven hours behind GMT, six hours behind GMT during DST
- Temperatures - January: -8'C in south, -24'C in north; July: 20'C in south, 16'C in north
- Natural Resources - Oil, Natural Gases, Lumber, Coal
- Wildlife - Big Horn Sheep, Bald Eagles, Pika, Elk, Moose, Ptarmigan, Black Bear, White-Tailed Deer, Osprey
Opportunities for varied and challenging training exist at 4 Wing thanks in part to the diverse topography and four seasons experienced in north-eastern Alberta.
- Farm land
4 Wing is ideally located close to Land Force Western Area Training Centre (Wainwright), and relatively close to Canadian Forces Base Suffield.
The skies above 4 Wing are home to one of the largest unrestricted airspaces in the world. Its Low Flying Area spans from British Columbia to Manitoba.
This vast, sparsely-populated airspace allows pilots to proceed tactically almost immediately after take off. The close proximity of the base to the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) reduces costs normally reserved for transit time, and allows aircrews to focus without delay on the training objectives at hand.
4 Wing is ideally located close to Land Force Western Area Training Centre (Wainwright), and relatively close to Canadian Forces Base Suffield.
- home to one of the largest unrestricted airspaces in the world.
- Low Flying Area (shaded green area) in comparison with Europe.
- The Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) airspace is divided into multiple Air Combat Manoeuvering (ACM) areas, thus availing military personnel with the ability to perform multiple air combat operations at one time. These ACM areas can also be combined to form a massive, operational theatre-sized airspace that is perfect for large-scale coalition exercises such as Maple Flag.
- Aircraft flying within the CLAWR are able to manoeuver at supersonic speeds from the surface of the range to an infinite altitude, thus providing absolute training freedom in any situation.
Cold Lake Air Weapons Range
The Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) covers more than 1 million hectares (11,600 square km), and is the only tactical bombing range in Canada. Vast, unrestricted airspace with no civilian air traffic and more than 640 targets make it an attractive training area for allied air forces. Fighter crews from all over the world use the range annually during Exercise Maple Flag.
New weapon delivery systems, such as Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), fit within the usage template for the CLAWR. Additionally, three special-use ranges are available for meeting specific training needs.
The Jimmy Lake Academic Weapons Range is available for low, medium and high altitude practice weapons delivery.
The features of this range include:
- Strafe pits for air-to-ground gunnery
- Skip pits for modular practice bombs
- Rocket range
Heavy Weapons Range
The Shaver Heavy Weapons Range gives pilots the ability to deliver live heavy weapons such as precision guidance munitions (PGMs) or laser-guided bombs (LGBs) on various target-types. The ability to practice with live ordnance provides invaluable training experience for aircrews.
Primrose Lake Evaluation Range (PLER) is 4 Wing's primary test range. Part of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR), it has two land drop zones and one water drop zone.
Photo- and video-theodolites, as well as impact scoring, are available at all three drop zones. Infrared system testing, such as minimum discernible temperature resolution, is also possible at PLER.
The Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) airspace is divided into multiple Air Combat Manoeuvering (ACM) areas, giving coalition forces the ability to perform multiple air combat operations at one time.
4 Wing's Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation System (ACMI) gives tracking capability to participant aircraft in both the tethered and non-tethered mode.
Over 640 Targets
The CLAWR contains more than 640 different target types that range from mock airfields to industrial complexes.
More than 640 targets making up nearly 100 target complexes are strategically placed throughout the CLAWR. The tactical, industrial, airfield and threat targets are coordinated to offer realistic simulations of war zones and to maximize training opportunities on the range.
Because of the realism and the abundance of targets in the CLAWR, the range has been described by coalition partners as "the world's largest Hollywood set."
Surface ThreatsThe Surface Threat Electronic Warfare (STEW) system provides aircrews with realistic ground-threat radar waveforms simulating in-cockpit Radar Warning Receivers (RWR).
A large variety of target types are located throughout the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR). These targets are built to resemble tanks, missile launchers, radar sites, industrial sites, command and control centres, and various types of vehicles and aircraft.
The great number and variety of weapon targets interspersed within the CLAWR make it a dynamic and realistic training environment. Varying training scenarios with differing strike targets can be quickly created to suit specific training needs.
Mock Airfield Targets
Among the impressive target complexes within the CLAWR are its seven mock airfields. These airfield targets simulate complete aerodromes and include runways, ramps, taxiways and dispersal areas. Buildings and ¾-scale airframes and vehicles are also present, thus adding to the realism and training efficacy of these mock aerodromes.
A large variety of buildings, communication towers, fuel depots and vehicles have been placed throughout the range. These mock-ups accurately simulate tactical targets, and provide aircrews with realistic targeting opportunities that emulate real world target groupings.
Targets within the Shaver Heavy Weapons Range are designed for heavy, live-drop ordnance.
Many no-drop infrared and radar-significant industrial complexes are dispersed throughout the CLAWR. These targets give aircrews the opportunity to use different types of sensor pods and exercise sensor-targeting skills.
Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment
The Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE) is the flight test agency for the Canadian Forces. With an extensive infrastructure and a military and civilian team with a wide variety of skills and knowledge, AETE provides cost-effective, timely and quality engineering evaluations of the airworthiness and operational effectiveness of the Air Force's aerospace systems.
AETE has a full spectrum of military and civil flight-testing capabilities, and in addition to providing testing for the Canadian Forces, offers its services to industry and other armed services.
A key aspect of the evaluations conducted by AETE is that the evaluations are conducted using aircraft in flight as the test bench. Using the Primrose Lake Evaluation Range (PLER), AETE conducts a wide range of state-of-the-art testing, including: Night Vision Imaging System (NVIS) testing, electromagnetic compatibility testing, and ejection seat testing.
The Canadian Flight Test Centre (CFTC), which includes the Primrose Lake Evaluation Range (PLER) and AETE, boasts a test bay capable of handling aircraft as large as CC-130 Hercules and CP-140 Aurora. With re-enforced floor anchors, aircraft structural testing and load applications are conducted with ease. CFTC test facilities are a temperature-controlled environment, thus permitting calibration of sensitive instrumentation at any time of the year.
The personnel of AETE are proud to be accountable for the evaluation of all new equipment introduced into the Canadian air fleets, and are proud to be called upon to provide informed opinion about the sometimes difficult issues associated with the technological aspects of the application of air power.
Community and Recreation
Situated in the Lakeland Region of north-eastern Alberta, the City of Cold Lake consists of three areas: 4 Wing, Cold Lake South and Cold Lake North.
Cold Lake is home to nearly 12,000 people. The military community of 4 Wing makes up 48 percent of the total city population, and has close relationships with other communities within Cold Lake, including the thriving First Nations communities.
4 Wing's growing partnerships with the local communities provide a solid foundation of strength and support as the Wing continues to train, deploy and support world-class tactical fighter forces to meet Canadian, and allied, needs.
4 Wing is an essential component of Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Cold Lake, and houses a number of training facilities and opportunities.
Cold Lake South
Cold Lake South is the central business core, and includes a number of hotels, restaurants, automobile dealerships and boutiques.
Cold Lake North
Cold Lake North is a picturesque family community hugging the shores of Alberta's seventh largest lake.
Cold Lake Recreational Activities
Quality of life and opportunities for sport and leisure are critical to the achievement of the mission.
The expansive number of facilities in Cold Lake that cater to every interest and need in recreation testify to the fact that 4 Wing "plays" as hard as it works and trains.
Col. J.J. Parr Sports Centre - a multi-use complex covering an area of more than three acres that includes:
- 2 National Hockey League (NHL)-sized ice rinks
- 25-metre competition pool
- fully-equipped weight and cardio room
- mini-gym for aerobics and martial arts
- tennis, squash, racquetball courts
- main gymnasium featuring basketball, badminton, volleyball, and European handball courts
- hot tub and sauna
Northern Spirit Leisure Centre - a new facility that is home to:
- Palm Springs Golf Club, a premier 18-hole golf facility
- Cold Lake Curling Club and a 6-sheet curling rink
Outdoor Fun - the Cold Lake area's four distinct seasons provide a variety of backdrops for outdoor fun:
- Winter - cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice-fishing
- Spring/Fall - hiking, cycling, bird-watching
- Summer - swimming, water-skiing, sailing, camping
4 Wing is able to accommodate any size of training contingent with on-base accommodations in excess of 1000 beds. The local community augments this number with over 800 beds available for use during large training exercises.
4 Wing has two large dining facilities capable of feeding 1400-1500 training partners per day with a large assortment of menu items. In addition, the local community provides a variety of restaurants for the enjoyment of coalition partners and exercise participants.
The base provides many personal amenities that will make training at 4 Wing a comfortable and enjoyable experience. These services are within walking distance from on-base accommodations, and include amenities such as:
- Health Clinic
- Dental Clinic
- Post Office
- Shopping Mall
- Hair Salon
- Bank Machine
- Gas Station
- 18-hole Golf Course
- Hockey Rinks
- Weight and Cardio Room
- Swimming Pool
Military Family Resource Centre
4 Wing is the home of fighter pilot training for the Canadian Forces, providing air- and ground crew with the skills they need to make a fighter squadron function whenever and wherever required.
A large number of people provide vital support services, thus enabling 4 Wing to accomplish its mission of training, deploying and supporting world-class tactical fighter forces to meet Canadian, and allied, needs. It is they - and their families - that make 4 Wing Cold Lake a community, not just a business.
The Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC) is a non-profit, charitable organization located on base that provides military members and their families with a number of important services. The MFRC runs a number programs including: childcare programs, a youth centre for children aged 13-17, and quality of life services such as employment assistance, career coaching, and family separation and reunion services.
4 Wing's continued efforts to revitalize the workplace, recreational facilities, and services offered to the families of military members serves as a constant reminder to all that emphasis on quality of life is critical to the achievement of the mission.
- 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron
- 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron
- 410 Tactical Fighter (Operational Training) Squadron
- 417 Combat Support Squadron
- 431 Air Demonstration Squadron (Snowbirds)
- 1 Air Maintenance Squadron
- 42 Radar Squadron
- 10 Field Technician Squadron
- 4 Wing Air Reserve Flight
- Forward Operating Location Inuvik
- Forward Operating Location Rankin Inlet
Working together for the future
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Crash during 2016 Cold Lake air show
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Our Contact Details
Public Affairs Officer
Phone: (780) 840-8000 ext. 8121
Fax (780) 840-7300
All general or media enquiries, including all questions or suggestions regarding any section of the 4 Wing web site, can be addressed to the 4 Wing Public Affairs Officer.