Pinetree Line Miscellaneous Items
1962 – RCAF Manning of Group III Sites – National Archives of Canada
Jan 30, 1962
RCAF Manning of Pinetree Radar Stations Group III
Being Taken Over from USAF
- Several days ago I spoke to you about the radar stations we are taking over from the USAF in connection with a married quarter requirement for these stations.
- I did not go into any detail at that time about the operational reasons why these Pinetree Stations must be operated as military units, that is, units under RCAF command and control for all purposes and manned, operated and maintained by RCAF personnel. It is important, however, that you know these reasons so that I can have your support for the stand I have taken that regardless of other considerations, the operational importance of the Pinetree Radars to the whole NORAD air defence system makes it mandatory that the Group III Radar Stations being taken over from the USAF continue to be operated for all purposes as military units. I could not agree with any compromise to this position.
- Treasury Board, acting on the advice of its own staffs, advice which has been ignored the military requirement as explained to them by the RCAF, has seen fit to question the need to operate these Group III Pinetree Stations as military units. The Board, apparently, has been led to believe, incorrectly, that there are no fundamental military reasons or conditions to preclude these stations from being maintained and supported by civilian contractors and they quote the Mid-Canada and DEW Lines as precedents for their proposal. My staffs have made a determined effort to explain to the TB staffs the difference in role and function between the Pinetree Line and Mid-Canada Lines so that they would understand why a contractor type of operation, while acceptable (not necessarily desirable) in the case of the DEW and Mid-Canada Lines, was operationally unacceptable in respect to the Pinetree Line. Notwithstanding these efforts, they have questions the validity of the military factors which make the Pinetree Line so much more operationally important than the early warning lines. They have persisted in their view that contractor, in lieu of military maintenance and support, ought to be considered and they have requested the RCAF to undertake a cost comparison of the two methods of operation and to report to the Board the conclusions of this study.
- It is inconceivable to me that anyone could seriously contemplate the idea of taking away from military control and contracting to industry such a vital part of our air defence obligations, obligations which we share with the US under NORAD. Because I feel so strongly about this and because I am sure your own views are equally as strong, I would like to review some of the fundamental differences in function between the DEW, Mid-Canada and Pinetree Radar Lines and the operational factors which have led the RCAF and the USAF to operate their Pinetree Line Radar Stations as military units from the beginning and why they must continue to be operated in this manner.
- The DEW and Mid-Canada Lines are primarily early warning lines. Unlike the Pinetree Line, they do not commit or control weapons. Their function is to alert the air defence system and SAC by providing inputs to NORAD control agencies when the northern area of the continent is penetrated. The Mid-Canada, like the DEW Line is maintained and supported by contractor personnel, an arrangement the RCAF did not prefer but which was dictated by reasons of shortage of services personnel. My concern is whether we have gone too far in our reliance on civilian support in this area, particularly in respect to communications and while we have no plan to introduce any change to the present arrangement, I am certainly opposed to any extension.
- The Pinetree Line, on the other hand, has a multi-purpose function and is a much more important and complex system. It provides early warning, performs an identification function and most important of all, it commits and controls all weapons during the interception, attack and recovery phases, at present by manual control and eventually through a system of SAGE integration and centralized data control at NORAD Region and Sector Headquarters.
- The Pinetree Line, because it controls and commits weapons for employment against enemy carriers, is of vital operational importance to the whole air defence system. It is this function, along with identification, that distinguishes the Pinetree Line from the other two lines.
- The radar and other equipments employed in the Pinetree System are extremely complex, much more so that those in the Mid-Canada and DEW Lines. Maintenance of these equipments must be carried out on a continuing basis to prevent breakdown and to reduce time "off air" to a minimum. To introduce a large civilian maintenance element, not under direct RCAF but under contractor control would greatly increase the difficulties of ensuring complete coordination between the maintenance and operational elements of the radar units, thereby endangering the overall effectiveness of the whole ground environment system. The military commander must have the power and the authority to command immediate response by the maintenance and support elements so as to exploit the full capability of the operational element. This can only be achieved by a policy of military manning of all essential functions.
- These are the reasons we cannot accept any further civilianization of the Radar Lines and why it is necessary for me to be allowed to proceed with my plan to operate these Pinetree Stations being taken over from the USAF as military units, commanded, manned and operated by the RCAF. In so doing I am establishing no precedent; it is entirely consistent with the way we operate our own Pinetree Stations and the way the USAF operates similar stations in the US as well as in Canada. It is also consistent with the position the RCAF took during the negotiations which preceded the Triangular Agreement between Canada and the US and of which Cabinet was made aware. In that regard on 13 June, 1961, you informed the House as follows:
"The military personnel, of course, will be provided from within the existing RCAF staffs. The total number which will be required to man these stations will be in the neighbourhood of 1,700 to 1,800 – and some 800 to 900 civilian staff"
Finally, in September of last year (1961), Cabinet authority was given to increase the RCAF’s service ceiling by 1239 positions, 485 of which were to be used in assisting the RCAF to man the first three USAF Radars to be taken over.
- There was never any doubt in my mind that the RCAF’s plan to operate the USAF Group III Stations as military units, manned by service personnel, was known and accepted at the highest possible level. That Treasury Board, at this late stage, should see fit to interject a new proposal, one that is incompatible with the effective discharge of our air defence obligations and indeed incompatible with every reason for the maintenance of military forces, is most disturbing.
- It is my plan, therefore, to proceed to operate the Group III Pinetree Stations which the RCAF is taking over from the USAF as military units, manned by Air Force personnel, regardless of what a study might produce as to comparative costs. It would be helpful for me to know that in doing so I have your full support.
Chief of the Air Staff
Douglas S. Harkness
Minister of National Defence
Jan 30 1962