Alsask, Sask. radar dome used in Cold War era restored

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Alsask radar dome used in Cold War era restored
WATCH: The Canadian Civil Defense museum has restored a site in rural Saskatchewan which helped in Canada's defense against the Soviet Union during the Cold War – Jan 29, 2021

If you’ve taken the drive from Saskatoon to Calgary, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Alsask’s radar dome close to the provincial border.

The tall structure was operational for decades, defending Canada against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

“This was the longest conflict that Canada ever has been involved in,” Brent Bauman with the Canadian Civil Defence Museum and Archives (CCDMA) said.

“The difference is this didn’t turn into a shooting war.”

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There were three different lines of defence preparing for potential attacks across Canada. The Alsask radar dome was part of the Pinetree Line, which spanned from coast to coast.

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“The radar systems that were used and the communication systems that were used allowed dispatch of either nuclear-armed missiles or nuclear-armed aircraft to go and intercept,” Bauman said.

“This would’ve triggered the warnings to Canadians with air raid sirens or those kinds of things that were prevalent back in the 1960s and 70s.”

The structures also acted as a deterrent, as bombers knew they would be seen if they attacked.

The Alsask radar dome is the only structure from the Pinetree Line still standing.

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In 2018, the CCDMA began clearing and restoring the site. There was lots to be cleared and a lot of pigeon droppings to clean up, but the organization knew it was worth the elbow grease.

Terry Collins was a radar technician who served in Alsask. The CCDMA turned to him to have a better glimpse into what the dome looked like while it was being used.

“Alsask was an important site as far as the techs were concerned and we really enjoyed being there. It was one of the most fun sites I’d ever been in,” Collins said about his time serving in Alsask.

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Collins said the site originally had three domes, with four radars in total. The remaining dome was the search tower.

Terry Collins created a 3D illustration of the original site. CCDMA / Supplied

Collins said finding preserved equipment would give people a better sense of what the technology was. He also thinks photos throughout the floorplan could help paint a picture.

While it won’t be restored to its full glory, it represents a piece of history.

“It recognizes the effort that the people made with their entire careers in scanning the northern skies and looking for the end of the world coming,” Bauman said.

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The museum is now offering tours, which will begin again on long weekends starting in May. Organizers hope it will help people appreciate how it was used to protect Canadians during some uncertain times.

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In the future, the site may include an aircraft from the Cold War era or a memorial of those who served.

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