Nine Additional Temporary Radar Stations

Canadian External Relations - 1952


Volume #19 - 680.









Memorandum from Secretary of State for External Affairs
to Cabinet Defence Committee


[Ottawa, n.d.]


At the September 1952 meeting of the Permanent Joint Board on Defence, the US Section of the Board submitted detailed information with respect to a request they had made for permission to carry out surveys leading to the establishment of six additional temporary radar stations to improve cover against low-flying aircraft. These stations would be located at the following points in Ontario, and would require operating staffs as indicated:

Location Establishment
Military Civilian
Mattawa (Early Warning Type) 85 5
Trenton " 65 5
Sultan " 85 5
Wiarton " 85 5
Fire River (Early Warning Ground Control interception Type) 195 6
Peninsula (Early Warning Type) 85 5

In addition, the US Section stated that there would be a requirement for three stations in British Columbia, one at Birken, one at Kamloops and one at Nakusp. A request covering these three stations was submitted to the Canadian Section at the January 1953 meeting of the Board.

2. A study of the US request for the six stations in Ontario has been carried out by the Chiefs of Staff, who from the military and technical point of view recommend its approval (copy of Chiefs of Staff study attached). The conclusions reached by the study are summarized as follows:

(1) Of the six stations, the site at Mattawa is the only one which will directly affect the Canadian system as such. However, since the permanent system is designed to afford mutual protection to the United States and Canada, any additional stations sited to fill the low cover gaps within this system will increase the protection afforded. These gap filler radars must be sited in relation to the permanent system and this precludes their being sited in US territory.

(2) it is essential that the entire radar net, including these six stations, operate on a 24 hour basis. It would not be feasible to construct them and put them on a care and maintenance basis for manning on very short notice in an emergency. Development of automatic unmanned stations is under way, but will not be completed for some time.

(3) it is agreed that low cover gaps in the permanent system may be of serious consequence in view of the enemy's increasing capability to penetrate and attack the United States and Canada at low altitudes employing revised tactics and technological improvements.

(4) The RCAF is not at present in a position to man any additional radar stations, and cannot, in fact, man the existing stations on a 24 hour basis.

(5) it is recommended that the USAF request for the establishment of six additional temporary radar sites be approved and that, for the present, the USAF be permitted to man them.

3. The military study of the requirement for the three stations in British Columbia has not yet been completed, but it is expected that the conclusion will be similar to that arrived at in the case of the six stations in Ontario.

4. Assuming the necessity for all nine stations to have been demonstrated and that consequently their installation would be authorized, it would be most desirable for political reasons that the stations in the more populous regions, viz., Wiarton, Trenton, Mattawa and Kamloops should be manned by Canadian personnel. On the other hand, in the face of an operational requirement, it would be difficult to justify rejection of the US request because of the inability of the RCAF to meet the commitment.

5. Arrangements governing the existing joint US-Canadian radar system in Canada were set out in an Exchange of Notes which took place on August 1, 1951. This agreement specifies that the costs of construction (except housing for dependents), equipment and operation of the system will be shared on the basis of approximately two thirds by the United States and one third by Canada. it further specifies that in order to simplify the division of costs in accordance with this principle, the United States and Canada will each assume financial responsibility for construction, equipment and operation of those stations (with their assorted control facilities) respectively allocated to each of them by agreement between the appropriate authorities of the two Governments. The agreement further provides that

(a) So far as practicable construction of installations will be carried out by Canadian agencies using Canadian labour and materials, and that electronic and other equipment manufactured in Canada will also be used so far as practicable;

(b) Canada will acquire and retain title to all sites required for the extension;

(c) Canada may by agreement take over the naming of stations initially manned by the United States.

6. The US Air Force Member of the Permanent Joint Board on Defence in a Memorandum to the Board, dated September 19, 1952, stated that the United States Air Force was prepared to bear the cost of construction, manning and operation of the stations. He also stated that manning of the stations by trained Canadian personnel would be acceptable. He asserted that since these stations were originally planned for deployment in the United States, procurement action for the equipment had been completed, thus precluding procurement of equipment from Canadian sources.

7. It is considered that in view of the statements by the USAF Member of the PJBD with respect to construction and operating costs and manning the installation of these stations could be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the radar extension agreement of 1951. It is further considered that in spite of the statement of the USAF Member of the PJBD with respect to the procurement of electronic equipment, the Canadian Government should insist on the right to supply this if it so desires.

8. It has been recommended:

(a) that the United States be granted permission to carry out site surveys with a view to subsequent installation and manning by the United States of the six stations in Ontario, and, if recommended by Chiefs of Staff, the three stations in British Columbia, in accordance with the provisions of the radar extension agreement of August 1, 1951, (including the use of Canadian electronic equipment so far as practicable) it being understood that the United States will meet all costs of installation, operation and manning until such time as the RCAF may desire to take over the latter two functions;

(b) that Cabinet direct that every effort be made by the RCAF to take over the manning of the stations at Trenton, Wiarton, Mattawa and Kamloops at the earliest possible date.

9. Before supporting the above recommendation, however, I would propose that further consideration be given to the possibility of the RCAF manning some or all of the above radar stations.