THE GOLDEN YEARS (1950-1964)

RADAR LINES – OUR FIRST LINES OF DEFENCE

Radar stations. Southern Canada or the far North. Manned or unmanned. Love ’em or hate ’em.

They were a front line in the Cold War, and their modern descendant continues to be North America’s eyes and ears.

All the lines were joint Canada-U.S. projects. The Pinetree Line (at the 50th parallel with a spur line running from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, to Baffin Island) and Mid-Canada Line (further south) operated from the mid-1950s to the 1960s.

The Distant Early Warning Line — the DEW Line — replaced them and was completed in 1957. Its 22 stations stretched from Alaska, across Canada’s northern coast to Greenland at about the 69th parallel. According to Defence historian Dr. Stephen Harris in The Canadian Encyclopedia, the “extensive co-operation between Canada and the U.S. to solve the common problem of North American air defence was an important first step in the creation of the bilateral North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) in 1958, which integrated all Canadian air-defence radars and fighter forces”.

In 1988, the North Warning System (NWS) began operations, replacing the DEW Line and the remaining Pinetree Line stations. Its 52 stations (15 long-range and 39 short-range radars in Alaska and Canada) are on the same parallel as the DEW Line. In fact, several DEW Line stations were upgraded and incorporated into the NWS. It continues operations to this day.

Foymount, a Pinetree Line station in Ontario.

Sgt Gerald Watson checks radar test equipment at Foymount.

FOCUS ON… THE VAMPIRE

DH-100 Vampire

The DH-100 Vampire was the RCAF’s introduction to the jet age. It saw service from 1946 to 1958. For seasoned Spitfire and Hurricane pilots, the aircraft took some getting used to. After all — where was the propeller?!