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Cold War Radar


The Mid-Canada Line was difficult to construct as it involved working in areas that no one had before, such as the tundra and the Great Northern Forest.  Its construction was so great that it was even compared to that of the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway).

The sites were proved by Air Force Headquarters/Department of Special Project and Bell Canada, so that the sites were deemed suitable.  This also involved making sure there was a line of site between stations by flying between them.  They were then surveyed by Bell Telephone, including their latitude and longitude.

The United States Air Force gave the helicopters needed on the Western line in the early stages.  In the East, the Royal Canadian Air Force gave the team.  The Eastern line used 6 H-19 RCAF helicopters, 2 Otter RCAFs and 1 Canso RCAF, while the West used the same under USAF.  RCAF had authority over both sections though. 

The conditions at the camps during this stage were very different, some in sleeping in hotels, some camping.  Many people were involved, for example the team in Manitoba was 70 people including navigators, pilots, and ground crew.

The MCL was built from 1954-1969, with the surveying happening in 1955 and 1956.  It was located about 400 miles north of the Pinetree line.  There was an idea to have “Sea Wings” from Alaska to Hawaii in the pacific and Cape Race to the Azores in the Atlantic.  However this $50-60 billion part of the plan was cancelled.

The radar sites themselves were built using many different foundations because there were all types of land conditions from rock to sand.  On top of the radar stations, there were also places along the Line for Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants, POL supply points.

Bell Telephone Company (as part of the Trans Canada Telephone Association) was the Management Contractor for the Line and the process was all Canadian.  It was one of the biggest projects that the Canadian Forces ever took on.  There were many groups with interests in the Line, including the Department of Defence, the RCAF, Bell, and construction companies, which caused tensions. 

Contractors on the Line included Okanagan Helicopters Limited and the Canadian Marconi Company.

The costs associated were enormous, and continued to grow.  The estimated expense was $85,000,000 by the RCAF.  The government approved $120,000,000 in June 1954.  By June 1955 it had escalated to $170,000,000, and $204,000,000 by November the next year.  Then in May 1957 it reached $239,782,750, before finally reaching $3,000,000,000 in February 1959. 

Many ideas were taken from the process and it offered insight about the sub-Arctic and how to run a project of this magnitude.