Radar Dismantled After 35 Years of Service

The Cold Lake skyline is changing. The Area Surveillance Radar (ASR) tower, easily recognizable by the golf ball shaped dome mounted on a 20-metre tower, is being torn down after more than 35 years of service.

The ASR and Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR) combination were the bread and butter of the air traffic controllers at the Instrument Flight Rules Control Centre. It gave them a clear picture of the skies surrounding Cold Lake in any weather, giving them the bearing, distance, altitude and identification of every aircraft in range. The radar was connected to the NORAD network, helping with the defence of Canada.

Originally called the Westinghouse on route radar, the ASR replaced the 1960s-era Marconi radars. That replacement project started in 1979, and Cold Lake received its Terminal Radar and Control System (TRACS) radar in 1982. This was the first solid state electronics radar used by the RCAF.

The ASR-SSR radar outlasted its life expectancy by about 15 years thanks to maintenance by heavy radar technicians and later by ATIS technicians. Due to parts shortages and changing technologies, a replacement project was initiated in 2009. 4 Wing’s new ASR/SSR, manufactured by Airbus, was put into service in September 2016.

A team of technicians from 4 Wing TIS, 3 Wing Bagotville and 14 Wing Greenwood is demilitarizing the old radar. The demolition is a massive undertaking, as it is composed of hundreds of thousands of parts.

The radar’s life at 4 Wing might be over but the ASR dome and dish will be preserved for posterity at the Cold Lake Air Force Museum. The display will be open by the end of this summer.

Radar Dismantled After 35 Years of Service

The “golf ball” dome from the old ASR radar is on its way to the Cold Lake Air Force Museum. (Photo by Jeff Gaye)


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