Skip to main content
Cold War Radar

Ground Controlled Approach and RAPCON

A Ground Controlled Approach (GCA) unit was one which was located next to the runway and provided radar control to aircraft.  Terminal control on the other hand was located a good distance away in the control tower.

This was replaced by Radar Approach Control, or RAPCON, which placed these operations together.  RAPCON thus brought radar and control together and was used to help control crowded airspace and land aircraft when the weather was poor.By bringing the two operations together, the entire process was safer and could direct more planes at one.  

The first Royal Canadian Air Force RAPCON was built at Goose Bay in 1956.  It included a precision radar indicator and three surveillance radar indicators.

In the early 1960s RAPCON was improved under the RCAF, in both Canada and Europe (at No. 1 Air Division).  All together, 8 new unites were added and the older ones updated.  The four new stations in Canada were at St. Hubert, Comox, Portage La Prairie, and Bagotville.  The four in Europe were mobile when not in use.

The other improvement that was made on GCA was rotatability.  Since the GCA had to be located next to the runway, it was aimed at one or both ends.  The system was placed onto a turntable, allowing it to rotate when needed.  By the early 1960s, 5 were rotatable, 4 in Europe and 1 at RCAF Station Trenton.