Pinetree Line Miscellaneous

1954 – Conac and RCAF Negotiations – National Archives of Canada

ConAC and RCAF Negotiations

ConAC and RCAF Negotiations in Extending the Defence System

The basic plan for extension of the Continental Air Defence System, dated 18 July 1950, was jointly prepared by representatives of the USAF Continental Air Command (ConAC) and the RCAF. The Chief of Staff, USAF, and the Chief of Staff, RCAF, each having reviewed the basic plan, agreed through an exchange of letters in September of the same year (1950) to continue with more detailed planning before implementation of the system.

In October 1950 ConAC was directed by USAF Headquarters (The directive was a Top Secret letter – Subject: “Plan for Extension of Continental Air Defence System”) to meet with RCAF representatives to work out the detailed planning. The RCAF representatives met with USAF representatives at Mitchell Air Force Base, New York, in November 1950. They produced a Top Secret report (Since downgraded to Secret, this report was prepared by representatives of ConAC, RCAF and Northeast Command and entitled “A Detailed Study of the Extension of the Continental Air Defence Radar System”, dated 30 November 1950) with detailed examination and costing of 32 radar sites and one air defence control centre. Construction problems in extremely isolated areas, manpower requirements “which impinge upon the Canadian sources to the extent that overall Canadian economy may be adversely affected”, the technical problems of high powered low-frequency radio circuits backed up with high-frequency circuits, an astronomical overall price guessed at $191,806,000 – these were only some on the knotty difficulties that required solution.

The committee suggested that the magnitude of the cost and the complexity of manpower and other requirements might slow down progress, that the target date of 1 July 1952 might not be met in some instances. They produced a new priority list for consideration:

Priority #1

Chatham, Lac St. Joseph, Tour Au Pica, Edgar, McCarthy, Senneterre, Cape Scott (Holberg), Pembroke (Foymount), Falconbridge, Ste. Marie, Ramore.

Priority #2

Sayabec, Mt. Jacques Cartier, Halifax

Priority #3

Pagwa, Armstrong, Sioux Lookout, Beausejour

Priority #4

Stephenville, Goose Bay (GCI), St. John’s (ADCC)

Priority #5

Tatla Lake (Puntzi Mountain), Williams Lake (Baldy Hughes Mt.), Tete Jaune (Saskatoon Mt.)

Priority #6

St. Anthony, Gander, Bluie West I

Priority #7

Frobisher Bay, Cartwright, Hopedale, Hebron, Port Burwell

This report, with its over all circuitry analyses and extremely detailed costing for each of the sites, became the basis for further planning of the radar warning system.

USAF and RCAF Discussion of the Electronics Systems

The, in March 1951, Major-General FL Ankenbrandt and Air Commodore HB Goodwin and their advisers met in the Pentagon from 6 March through 9 March “to establish electronic equipment requirements and make recommendations of actions necessary to implement the 34-station joint Canada-United States radar extension plan”. They did not re-examine the original personnel estimates of 30 November 1950 other than to reflect that they were probably too low (“subject to review and revision upward”), but they did go into the electronic side in detail. They came up with a grand total cost of $47,490,000 and affirmed the policy decision that “the responsibility for maintenance subsequent to acceptance by the USAF and/or RCAF be that of the service operating the installation”.

Diplomatic Agreements on Radar Systems Policy

Further discussions were held by the Permanent Joint Board on Defence in lush surroundings, aboard the USS Franklin D Roosevelt (en route from Norfolk, Virginia, to Jacksonville, Florida) 13-17 April 1953. Earlier decisions were then restated at the diplomatic level and it was reaffirmed that of the 33 stations planned 11 would be financed and manned by the RCAF, 17 financed and manned by the USAF and 5 financed by USAF and manned by the RCAF. The cost sharing policy established back on 1 August 1951 held: the United States was to bear two-thirds of the cost, Canada one-third. (The Radar Extension Plan (REP) was formally authorized in Canadian Note 454, 1 August 1951, to the United States Secretary of State).

The Radar Extension Plan Steering Committee

As far back as January 1951, the discussions of the Permanent Joint Board on Defence had led to the formation of a Radar Extension Plan Steering Committee (REPSC). The REPSC met approximately every six weeks and made considerable progress towards agreements on the equipment and services to be provided at all units within the early warning system now called by the code-name Pinetree.

The REPSC, however, was severely handicapped by its awkward size and the difficulty of obtaining action on its own recommendations even though it was “the recognized implementing agency”. The machinery was too cumbersome.

The Pinetree Project Office

Accordingly, in June 1952, the Pinetree Project Office (PPO) was established. It consisted of representatives from the headquarters of the RCAF, the USAF, the Canadian Department of Defence Production (DDP), and subordinate commands of the RCAF and the USAF having an active interest in the programme. Arrangements were made to allocate responsibility to the RCAF’s Air Materiel Command when it became evident that considerable delays would be incurred if PPO accepted the responsibility for the RCAF portion of the programme. It was further agreed that Air Materiel Command should accept the full responsibility for the USAF-financed/RCAF-manned sites, excepting Gander, and that PPO in the latter case would merely provide contractual coordination through DDP.

All this sounds confused as well as confusing, but in practice it worked. The PPO was established on 5 June 1952. Two basic Canadian sections (RCAF and DDP) combined with the USAF section to “effect coordination during implementation”, as the official jargon has it. This meant that PPO provided guidance and information to staff agencies and directed contractors as a design authority and engineering agency.

By 31 December 1955 the work of Pinetree was sufficiently advanced that its principal problems had been solved and could be left to normal RCAF administration. DDP continued to “action and monitor” existing USAF contracts concerned with the programme and undertook to “liaise with the Pinetree Detachment of MAMA (Middletown Air Materiel Area)” already established in Ottawa. PPO submitted a final report and ceased to exist by the end of 1955.

The Basic Pinetree System

The radar warning and control system built as a result of all these negotiations is comprised of 33 prime radars and 6 gap-filler radars. It stretches from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island in three main sub-divisions:

  1. Newfoundland and Labrador (64th Air Division, Newfoundland)
  2. Eastern Canada (extending west to Beausejour, Manitoba), and
  3. Western Canada (extending from western Alberta to the Pacific Coast).

The Air Officer Commanding Air Defence Command, charged with the responsibility of maintaining, training, supervising and controlling air and ground forces to provide for the air defence of Canada, commands the entire Pinetree system including the 64th Air Division area.

The country is divided into sectors of operational responsibility within which each sector commander exercises operational control over all weapons and facilities. The five operational sectors, based on geographic considerations, are these:

64th Air Div. ADCC – Fort Pepperrell, Newfoundland

1 ADCC – Lac St. Denis, Quebec

2 ADCC – St. Margarets, New Brunswick

3 ADCC – Edgar, Ontario

5 ADCC – Vancouver, British Columbia

Three additional prime radar stations have been constructed and are now undergoing testing. These stations at Lowther (Ontario), Kamloops (British Columbia) and Barrington (Nova Scotia) are being financed and manned by the USAF.

Ground Control Interception (GCI) facilities are available at RCAF Station Cold Lake (Alberta) for training purposes. Three radar tracking and acquisition installations are provided at this station for air armament evaluation.

Financing and Manning Pinetree

Financial and manning responsibilities for the 39 sites are as follows:











AC&W Squadrons





Gap Fillers





The personnel establishments for AC&W squadrons vary with location and the difference is due to geographical area, operational and training commitments and various other factors. The following will give the reader an idea of positions and strength at three stations. The staff is analyzed into it’s main categories (operations, telecommunications, and administration):

  1. Station Foymount

  Operations Telecom Technical Admin. & Station Facilities




Other Ranks and Civilians




  • Station Lac St. Denis (Including 1 ADCC)

  Operations Telecom Technical Admin. & Station Facilities




Other Ranks and Civilians




  • Station Holberg

  Operations Telecom Technical Admin. & Station Facilities




Other Ranks and Civilians




The officers are up to 95% of the establishment strength in all cases, while the other ranks and civilians vary from 90 to 95% of established strength.

GCI Controlling Capability

All Aircraft Control and Warning (AC&W) Squadrons have GCI control capability, but in varying degrees. The degree of control depends upon geographical location, operational commitments and available staff.

Gap-Filler stations have no control capacity but furnish low-cover surveillance data to four parent AC&W Squadrons in critical areas of 64th Air Division. They are equipped with search-radar, air-ground-air and point-to-point communications and are capable of unattended operation.

Equipment Details

It has been though convenient to summarize the main data on current radar station equipment in Appendix “K”. This information, provided for this study by the Directorate of Radio Warfare, RCAF, has been amended to 13 September, 1957.

Siting and Location

In contrast to the DEW Line and Mid-Canada Line stations, which are located along fairly uniform parallels of latitude, the Pinetree Line stations are scattered across the southern portion of Canada to provide protection to the heavy concentrations of population and industry in Canada and northern portions of western and northeastern states south of the international border.

All stations are accessible by railroad except those on Vancouver Island, the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, and Newfoundland. In addition, all stations are accessible by road except the above noted stations and Pagwa and Parent.

In general each station is located on the highest point of land within its allotted sphere of operations. The operations building is usually found on the top of a hill or mountain and the domestic area in the valley below. Construction of the access road to the operations area was in many cases difficult and expensive, for the road had to snake or spiral its way to the summit. The necessity for rock evacuation was encountered at nearly every site and difficulty was experienced in providing water supply and sewage disposal at the top of the mountain. In many cases the water had to be trucked to the top.

A detailed description of locations of stations, valuable to the construction engineer interested in the problems of Pinetree construction appears in tabular form as Appendix “H”. This table gives elevations and soil conditions in both the operational and domestic areas and direct distances and road distances between various areas and nearest town or city.

Types of Stations

The stations of the Pinetree Line are designated as Type B, Type C, or Type II stations.

Type B station is a GCI facility consisting of an operations building of RCAF design and one, two or three radar towers plus domestic and service buildings. The radar towers, separate from the operations building, are self-supported steel structures either twelve-sided (USAF design) or square (RCAF design). The operations building has its own electric power plant, heat-exchanger plant and air-conditioning system, plotting room, control cabins and supporting offices and workshops.

Type C station is a GCI facility consisting of an operations building of RCAF design with two adjoining radar towers of similar construction plus domestic and service buildings. The radar equipment is installed on the roof of the operations building and on the two towers. In addition there are one or two separate radar towers, self-supporting steel structures, either twelve-sided or square.

Type II station is an Early Warning (EW) facility consisting of an operations building of USAF design and three or four radar towers, plus domestic and service buildings. The radar towers are separate from the operations building, self-supporting steel structures, and either twelve-sided or square. The operations building has a plotting room, supporting offices and workshops, and an air-conditioning system. The electrical power and heating plant is in a separate building.

Buildings and Accommodation

The buildings on the Type B and Type C stations are generally of RCAF design, Class II construction (that is steel structures with various forms of asbestos exterior). A detailed description of the types of buildings on Type B and Type C stations is found in Appendix “J”.

The buildings on the Type II stations are generally USAF design, Class III construction (that is wood frame with asbestos exterior). A detailed description of the types of buildings on Type II stations is found in Appendix “J”.

Type B and Type C stations provide an average accommodation for 450 persons, including dependents, while a further 150 persons must live off the station. Type II stations provide an average accommodation for 250 persons with 150 further persons living off the station.

The cost of Type B and Type C stations ranged from approximately $7,000,000 to $10,000,000. (This figure does not include radar and other technical equipment). The cost of Type II stations ranged from about $2,000,000 to $4,000,000. In all cases the variations in cost were governed by differing location and site conditions. The Pinetree Progress Report of September 1954 listed the total construction costs of the line at that time as $216,000,000 of which $84,000,000 had been financed by Canada. (Total equipment cost up to that time was $132,000,000). The grand total included approximately $15,000,000 for married quarters, schools, drill and recreation halls at Canadian-manned station). The cost has now risen far above that and will go higher as the Pinetree Line system of the “Combat Zone”, the inner ring of our radar defences, grows to improve existing capabilities, incorporate ground environment computers, and tie the complex weapons system (warning and weapons, whether fired from fighter interceptors or ground launched) together.

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