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Cold War Radar



A radome shields radar equipment, as in this 1957 image

A radar dome, or radome was a structure that was place outside radar equipment to shield it from the weather.

Before the DEW Line, infatable radomes were often used.  The move towards the North required something that could better stand up against the harsh winds and weather experienced there.  This resulted in new radomes, including a sturdy frame created by Lincoln Labs.

At RCAF Fort Churchill, another new radome was created through a joint effort of the National Research Council (NRC) and the Royal Canadian Air Force.  The new radome resembled an igloo and shielded the Ground Approach Control Quadradar there.

Fort Churchill had on of the highest windchill factors, even worse then locations further north.  Because of this, their radar was used on a regular basis to help direct aircraft.  Therefore they needed a radar that could deal with the weather on a long-term basis.

When the RCAF looked to the NRC in 1955 for a way to shield their radar, their requirement was that the radar's range could not be diminished by more than 10% (it ended up only being by 2%).

Clinton Radome

The radome at CFB Clinton

The first method they tried to create this shield was using plastic and stressed skin.  However, they soon discovered that foam was better for the frequencies.

The first foam creation was made of Polystyrene (Dylite) in 1957, and consisted of diamond panels which were glued together.  The problem with this model was that it could catch fire easily.

They then switched to Polyurethane in 1959, again using diamond panels.  This time they measured 56 by 83 inches and were put together using foam dowels so that every part was the same density.  This prevented any interference with the radar.

The result was a radome that measure 3 1/2 inches thick and 26 feet.  It was light, but sturdy, and it did not catch on fire easily.  They painted it red and white so that it did not blend in with the snow around it and installed it in the fall of 1960.  The design was noticed by people outside of Fort Churchill, including the United States.

By the early 1960s radomes were quite popular at radar sites, helping to cover Quadradar from weather on many stations.