Canadian Wings :: The History & Heritage of the Royal Canadian Air Force

4 Wing / CFB / RCAF Station Cold Lake

Alberta Canada, Pine Tree Line

Construction of what would become known as RCAF Station Cold Lake began in 1952 at the height of the Cold War after the site in Alberta's Lakeland District"" was chosen by the Royal Canadian Air Force for the country's premier air weapons training base. The chosen location was near the town of Grand Centre, and was based on factors such as low population density, accessibility, weather, suitable terrain, and available land for air weapons training.

Personnel arrived at Cold Lake on March 31, 1954 with operations at RCAF Station Cold Lake beginning that day. The following year, the federal government signed an agreement with the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta for use of a tract of land measuring 180 km by 65 km covering an area of 11,700 square kilometres. This became known as the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) and is the raison d'être for the location of the base.

CLAWR is the northern equivalent to the United States Air Force's Nellis Air Force Range and provides a different training environment with heavy boreal forest and numerous lakes more closely resembling European terrain. It hosts over 640 actual targets and 100 realistic target complexes, including 7 simulated aerodromes with runways, tarmac, aircraft, dispersal areas and buildings, as well as mechanized military equipment such as tanks, simulated radar and missile launching sites, mock industrial sites, and command and control centres.

On February 1, 1968 the RCAF merged with the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Army to form the unified Canadian Forces. RCAF Station Cold Lake saw its name changed to CFB Cold Lake and became the responsibility of Air Defence Command. ADC and several other CF commands transformed in 1975 to become Air Command (AIRCOM).

In addition to its value as a training base, CFB Cold Lake's fighter/interceptor aircraft defend the western half of Canadian air space and together with aircraft from CFB Bagotville cover Canada's Arctic territory. They are operationally controlled by NORAD from CFB North Bay and Cheyenne Mountain Operations Centre in Colorado Springs. Cold Lake aircraft forward deploy to airfields throughout western and Arctic Canada as operational requirements dictate.

Cold Lake also hosts NATO flight training operating from nearby 15 Wing Moose Jaw, as well as 5 Wing Goose Bay. MAPLE FLAG is a major international air weapons training competition hosted annually by CFB Cold Lake in May-June, making use of CLAWR. The name is derived from the USAF's famous Red Flag training exercises at the Nellis Air Force Range in Nevada.

 


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