Thursday, December 3, 2009

DEW Line - Early Warning Line

Arctic DEW Line
Point Lay Alaska DEW Line

The Distant Early Warning Line, also known as the DEW Line or Early Warning Line, was a system of radar stations in the far northern Arctic region of Canada, with additional stations along the North Coast and Aleutian Islands of Alaska, in addition to the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland. It was set up to detect incoming Soviet bombers during the Cold War, a task which quickly became outdated when intercontinental ballistic missiles became the main delivery system for nuclear weapons.

The DEW Line was the northernmost and most capable of three radar lines in Canada; the joint Canadian-US Pinetree Line ran from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, and the Mid-Canada Line ran somewhat north of this.

Early history

Improvements in Soviet technology rendered the Pinetree Line and Mid-Canada Line inadequate and on February 15, 1954, the Canadian and American governments agreed to jointly build a third line of radar stations, this time running across the high Arctic. The line would run roughly along the 69th parallel, 200 miles or 300 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. The United States agreed to pay for the line, and employ Canadian labour. The majority of Canadian DEW Line stations were the responsibility of the Royal Canadian Air Force (Canadian Forces after 1968) although some manned facilities were jointly staffed with the U.S. Air Force.
The construction project employed more than 25,000 people. The line consisted of 63 stations stretching from Alaska to Baffin Island, covering almost 10,000 km. The locations were mapped out by John Anderson-Thompson[1] The project was finished in 1957. The following year, the line became a cornerstone of the new NORAD organization of joint continental air defence.

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