Saint Margarets Air Station

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Saint Margarets Air Station (1953-1969) - A Cold War Canadian Radar Station first established in 1953 near the town of Saint Margarets in New Brunswick. Named Saint Margarets Air Station after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of C-5, later a Sage ID of C-5. Abandoned in 1969. Also known as CFB Chatham - St. Margarets Detachment.

History of Saint Margarets Air Station

Construction began in 1950 and became operational 1 Nov 1953 as Saint Margarets Air Station manned by the 21 AC&W Squadron. The station initially had both a Ground-Control Intercept (GCI) and early warning mission. The early warning mission involved tracking and identifying all aircraft entering their airspace while the GCI mission involved guiding Air Force interceptors to any identified enemy aircraft. Controllers at the station vectored fighter aircraft at the correct course and speed to intercept enemy aircraft using voice commands via ground-to-air radio.

Initial equipment included the FPS-3 search radar and a pair of ISG-98 height-finder radars.

SAGE 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.

The site began operation as a SAGE site in 1962 initially feeding the Topsham SAGE Direction Center DC-05 in Maine. The search radar was upgraded to an FPS-508 with two FPS-6B height-finders.

Gap Fillers

Saint Margarets AS was planned to have responsible for maintenance of some six remote unattended gap-filler radar sites. None of the planned Saint Margarets AS gap-filler radars became operational

BUIC System

Saint Margarets AS became a BUIC I GCI site in 1962 and a BUIC II manual backup site in 1966. It was selected as a BUIC III site and in 1968 the BUIC III system was implemented. The BUIC III system provided a backup for a SAGE direction center with the GSA-51 computer system and provided the ability to display sector wide radar data on consoles for local weapons controllers. The system duplicated the functionality of the vacuum tube direction center computers with the more up-to-date GSA-51 computer system and replaced the FST-2 with a more up-to-date coordinate data transmitter, the FYQ-47. As the threat from a soviet bomber fleet lessened, the decision came to mothball the United States BUIC system in 1974.

In Canada under BUIC III, St. Margarets was assigned as a BUIC NORAD Control Centre (BNCC) and became operational 1 Jan 1969. The 34 Radar Squadron at CFS Senneterre became BNCC No. 1 while 21 Radar Squadron at Saint Margrets was designated as BNCC No. 2. Saint Margarets became the only operational BNCC after CFS Senneterre was placed in stand-by status and Saint Margrets was solely responsible for backing up the underground North Bay SAGE Direction Center DC-31.

The unsupportable U.S. SAGE Direction Centers were consolidated and closed down in favor of new Regional Operational Control Centers (ROCC) with more modern computers. Canada, as a NORAD partner, chose the same path and the conversion took place between 1980 and 1983. The Canadian ROCCs were fully operational by August 1984 but the BUIC mission at Saint Margrets ended on 19 Jul 1983 and the station became a Long Range Radar (LRR) surveillance site.

Closure

Saint Margarets AS and the 21 Radar Squadron were deactivated in 1 Apr 1988.

Physical Plant

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 main site was a small housing area for married personnel. A separate Ground to Air Transmitter/Receiver (GATR) radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.


Saint Margarets AS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems
Unit Designations
  • 21 Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1953-1958)
  • 21 Radar Squadron (1958-1969)
21 Squadron Assignments
  • 1 Nov 1953 - Operational as 21 Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron.
  • 8 May 1958 - Designated 21 Radar Squadron.
  • 1 April 1988 - Deactivated.


Current Status

Abandoned.


Location: Saint Margarets in New Brunswick.

Maps & Images

Lat: 46.90917 Long: -65.20917

See Also:

Sources:

  • NORAD/CONAD Historical Summary Jan-Dec 1966, dated 1 May 1967, Command History Division, HQ NORAD/CONAD, Unclassified (originally classified Secret), pdf, pages 28-31, Backup Intercept Control Systems

Links:

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