CFS Beaverlodge (1953-1988) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station initially established as Saskatoon Mountain Air Station at the end of the Korean War. Located 12 miles east of Beaverlodge in Alberta, Canada. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of C-21. Turned over to the RCAF on 1 Apr 1963 as RCAF Station Saskatoon Mountain. Name changed on 15 Nov 1963 to RCAF Station Beaverlodge and again in 1966 to CFS Beaverlodge. Closed in 1988.
Established in 1953 and became operational in 1953 as Saskatoon Mountain Air Station manned by the 919th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron.
Initial equipment included the FPS-3 search radar with a FPS-502 search back up and a TPS-502 height-finder radar. In March 1959 a FPS-20A search radar became operational replacing the FPS-3 and the FPS-502. The TPS-502 remained the only height-finder until February 1961 when an FPS-6B height-finder was accepted. A second FPS-6B was added in the third quarter of 1961.
This configuration (an FPS-20A SAGE qualified long-range search radar and two SAGE qualified FPS-6B height-finders) met the requirements for transition to SAGE System operation.
SAGE System Transition
The transition of the manual GCI system to the automated SAGE system began with the installation of the FST-2 coordinate data transmitter and search radar upgrades. The FST-2 equipment digitized the radar returns and transmitted the digital returns to the SAGE direction center. Under the SAGE System, interceptor aircraft were directed to their targets by the direction center computers and controllers, greatly reducing the need for local controllers and equipment at every radar station.
The FST-2 was a very large digital system using vacuum tube technology. Over 6900 vacuum tubes were used in each FST-2 requiring 21 air-conditioned cabinets, 40 tons of air conditioning, 43.5 kva of prime power and usually a large new addition to the operations building. The FST-2B modification added two more cabinets but with newer solid state (transistor) technology to process coded responses from aircraft transponders.
SAGE System Operation
With the abrupt shutdown of DC-15 on 29 May 1963, control was switched to the McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12 but under manual control until DC-12 was able to reconfigure. Design deficiencies with the primary and secondary communication lines to Seattle further caused the SAGE operational date to slip to 15 Jan 64. Manual SAGE operation continued until DC-12 was able to complete all the SAGE links and the data lines were re-engineered.
On 15 Jun 1964 manual SAGE operations ceased and automatic SAGE data (FST-2 data) was accepted by McChord SAGE Direction Center DC-12. On 15 Jul 1964, Beaverlodge was officially "SAGED". On 17 Jul 1964, FPS-6B height-finder #0 was converted to an FPS-507. On 9 Sep 1964, the FST-2 installation was formally accepted by the RCAF.
CFS Beaverlodge was operationally responsible to the 25th NORAD Region at McChord AFB Washington. The station was administratively accountable to Canadian Forces Air Defence Command, and its successor Fighter Group. With the shutdown of the SAGE System in 1983, it is assumed that CFS Beaverlodge was incorporated into the McChord ROCC. In August 1984, CFS Beaverlodge became part of the North Bay ROCC at North Bay until CFS Beaverlodge closed in 1988.
The first announcement of the closure came in April 1985. CFS Beaverlodge was deactivated on 1 April 1988 and the gates officially closed on 31 Aug 1988.
The physical plant of the site was divided into the main site, a cantonment area, a housing area and a radio site. The main site housed the operations buildings, the radar towers, and the backup generators. The cantonment area housed the enlisted barracks, the bachelor officer's quarters, the orderly room, the dining hall, the motor pool and other support buildings.
Apart from the cantonment area were trailer park areas that provided housing for married personnel. The main housing for married personnel was the DND owned Mobile Home Court in the Town of Beaverlodge. This court was located between 10th and 11th streets at 7th Avenue in Beaverlodge and consisted of 36 sites and a playground.
A separate radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Like most early radar stations, CFS Beaverlodge originally had a radio transmitter site and a separate radio receiver site used by local controllers for voice direction of fighter interceptors to their targets. With the SAGE System, the SAGE Direction centers had the primary task of directing intercepts and the local radio sites were reconfigured, usually into a single site that was known as the Ground to Air Transmitter Receiver (GATR) site. The GATR site communicated with the interceptors from either the local site or the SAGE direction center via voice commands and/or a digital data link.
All evidence of the radar base has been removed. The Quonset huts were sold and relocated. All rubble was removed from the site. The site was seeded down to grasses and left to regenerate. In 1992 the site of CFS Beaverlodge was officially returned to the Province of Alberta.
On 26 Jul 1995, Saskatoon Mountain was designated a Natural Area encompassing a total of some 1767 acres. Now a part of Saskatoon Mountain Park, a Provincial Park.