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Cold War Radar

Radar in NATO

Like in North America, NATO and Europe used a variety of radar in order to get the clearest picture possible.

NATO Airborne Early Warning Force:

The NATO Airborne Early Warning Force, of NAEWF, was used as air surveillance.  They kept an eye on the members of the Warsaw Pact.  Canada was involved in this project, making up 123 out of 1557 members in the early 1980s.  This group used Airbone Early Warning radar to see beneath their own planes, and also drew on navy and ground radars across Europe.


The NATO Air Defence Ground Environment (NADGE) was created in 1963.  It consisted of sparse radar stations from Norway to Turkey.  They were however, brought up to date in the 1970s and 1980s to include fifty long-range radar stations along with gap filling radars and computers.  It combined with the British UKADGE, Spanish Combate Grande, and French Strida II networks.


Britain’s radar stemmed from the Second World War although it was updated somewhat in the 1960s and turned into UKADGE, the United Kingdom Air Defence Ground Environment.  It included ground radar sites at Sonrfelli, Saxa Vord (in the Shetlands), Benbecula (on the isle of UIS), Bishop’s Court (in County Down, Northern Ireland), Buchan (Scotland), Boulmer (Northumberland), Neatishead (Norfolk), and Hartland Point and Portreath (Cornwall).  It also drew on civilian radar sites.

Sornfelli was part of a Danish self-governing area, the Faroe Islands, and had both radar and radio.  NATO staff worked there but the islands were also full of Russian ship workers and fishermen.

The British also made use of American AWACS.  They had NIMWACS, which were their version, hoping to replace old Lancaster bombers.  They ran into computer problems with this though.

Greece and Turkey:

Both of these countries were home to vital NADGE stations but they fell into disrepair.


Iceland was a part of the SOSUS (Sound Surveillance System) radars in the North Atlantic.  They had stations near Keflavik and at Hofn, with others added later to watch Iceland’s airspace and where the aircrafts travelled when they left.


Italy possessed ground radar, especially in the south.  NATO had an AWACS forward operating base in Sicily which was vital.


Norway was very important for to NATO, holding fourteen of their radar stations.