CFB Goose Bay

CFB Goose Bay
CFB Goose Bay
Goose Bay Airport
CFB Goose Bay 5 Wing crest.png
CFB Goose Bay.jpg
WMO: 71816
Airport type Military/Public
Owner Government of Canada
Operator DND
Goose Bay Airport Corporation
Location Goose Bay, Labrador
Elevation AMSL 160 ft / 49 m
Coordinates 53°19′09″N 060°25′33″W / 53.31917°N 60.42583°W / 53.31917; -60.42583Coordinates: 53°19′09″N 060°25′33″W / 53.31917°N 60.42583°W / 53.31917; -60.42583
Website 5 Wing Goose Bay
CYYR is located in Newfoundland and Labrador
Location in Newfoundland and Labrador
Direction Length Surface
ft m
08/26 11,051 3,368 Concrete with asphalt overlay
16/34 9,580 2,920 Concrete with asphalt overlay
Statistics (2010)
Aircraft movements 28,871
Source: Canada Flight Supplement[1]
Environment Canada[2]
Movements from Statistics Canada.[3]
CFB Goose Bay Diagram

Canadian Forces Base Goose Bay (IATA: YYRICAO: CYYR) (also CFB Goose Bay), is a Canadian Forces Base located in the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador.

CFB Goose Bay is presently operated as an air force base by the Royal Canadian Air Force and is the site of NATO tactical flight training in Canada.

The base was initially a Royal Canadian Air Force station[4] and later a United States Air Force base known as Goose AFB, housing units of the Strategic Air Command[5] and Aerospace Defense Command. It was later home to permanent detachments of the Royal Air Force, the Luftwaffe, the Aeronautica Militare, and the Royal Netherlands Air Force, in addition to temporary deployments from several other NATO countries. The base is the home of 444 Combat Support Squadron and also serves as a forward operating base for NORAD CF-18 Hornet interceptors.

CFB Goose Bay's airfield is also used by civilian aircraft, with civilian operations at the base referring to the facility as Goose Bay Airport. The airport is classified as an airport of entry by NAV CANADA and is staffed by the Canada Border Services Agency. CBSA officers at this airport currently can handle general aviation aircraft only, with no more than 15 passengers.[1]


Second World War

World War II Goose Bay patch

During World War II Newfoundland was a dominion in the Commonwealth of Nations. Fearing that a German invasion of Newfoundland could be used as a prelude to an attack on Canada, in 1940 Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and Newfoundland Governor Sir Humphrey T. Walwyn entered into negotiations regarding the strengthening of defensive positions along the Newfoundland coast.[citation needed] Notwithstanding that Newfoundland was a separate political entity, Canada built several strategic bases in Newfoundland and Labrador, including Goose Bay, to act as staging points in the eastern air route across the Atlantic via Greenland, Iceland, and the British Isles.

In the summer of 1941, an RCAF survey team determined a suitable location for an air base on a large low-lying plateau above the flood plain where the Churchill River emptied into Lake Melville. The westernmost portion of Lake Melville is Goose Bay, at the head of which is the harbour of Terrington Basin. These navigable waters, connected to the Atlantic Ocean through Groswater Bay, the outer portion of Hamilton Inlet, provided marine access and good anchorage for cargo ships which would service the base.

Construction soon followed the initial surveys and three (3) 7,000 foot runways were opened on 16 November 1941. The first military aircraft landed on 9 December. At this time, over 3,000 RCAF personnel were assigned to RCAF Station Goose Bay. Following the runway construction of 1941, workers continued to build other facilities on the base.

The Permanent Joint Board on Defence allowed the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) to build its own facilities on the south side of the base. The United States facilities at Goose Bay were placed under the United States Army Newfoundland Base Command (NBC), which was assigned to the Northeastern (later Eastern) Defense Command (NBC). NBC's mission was to provide ground, antiaircraft, and harbor defense of the U.S. bases in Newfoundland, to work with Canada in defending Newfoundland, and to cooperate with United States and allied naval forces in Newfoundland defense.

By 1942 there were 1,700 USAAF personnel and 700 civilians posted to the base, making the area the largest population concentration in Labrador at the time. In 1943, RCAF Station Goose Bay was the busiest airport in the world and the neighbouring town of Happy Valley was created to house construction workers and civilian employees. In addition, USAAF aircraft from Antisubmarine Command used Goose Bay for patrols over Baffin Bay and the Greenland Coast, and Air Transport Command used the airfield as a staging and refueling base for several North Atlantic Transport routes from the United States to Iceland and on to Prestwick, Scotland. Numerous Eighth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberators transited the airfield in their deployment to the European Theater of Oprations.

During the Second World War and the Cold War, the Royal Air Force used the RCAF facilities on the north side and was referred to as RAFU Goose Bay.

Following the war, the RCAF and USAAF maintained a presence at the base. On 31 March 1949 Newfoundland became Canada's tenth province when it entered Confederation.

United States Air Force use

Northeast Air Command

Northeast Air Command - Emblem.png
59th Figher-Inerceptor Squadron F-89D-45-NO Scorpion interceptors stationed at Goose Bay AFB

The USAAF was inactivated in September 1947 becoming the United States Air Force (USAF). The USAF retained usage of its facilities at the base, renaming its specific area Goose Air Force Base (AFB). Initially, the United States facilities at Goose Bay remained under the jurisdiction of the wartime Newfoundland Base Command. The NBC was inactivated by the Army on 1 October 1950, and jurisdiction of the United States facilities was transferred to the new USAF Northeast Air Command (NEAC). NEAC activated the 6606th Air Base Wing at Goose AFB initially for operation and control of the base support facilities and organizations.

The USAF Air Defense Command detached the 59th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron to Goose AFB on 28 October 1952, placing it under NEAC's 64th Air Division, headquartered at Pepperrell AFB. The 59th FIS operated F-89 Scorpion jet interceptors from the airfield, assisting in the air defense of the region.

The 6606th ABW also supported several tenant organisations on the base from Military Air Transport Service (MATS). The 1708th Ferrying Group transported Military Assistance Program aircraft from the United States to friendly governments in Europe and the Middle East. The MATS 8th Weather Squadron provided information both to USAF as well as RCAF and civilian weather organizations.

NEAC also activated the 6615th Air Transport Group (Medium) at Goose, which operated C-119 Flying Boxcar and C-54 Skymaster transports. In addition, it supported the 22d Helicopter Squadron operating YH-21 Shawnee helicopters, and SA-16 Albatross Amphibians used by the MATS 6th Air Rescue Group, Air Rescue Service. These aircraft operated over a wide area from Newfoundland, Labrador, Baffin Island various sites in Greenland supporting NEAC radar and early warning installations.

Goose AFB also supported numerous temporary deployments of Strategic Air Command (SAC) bombardment units from Second and Eighth Air Forces, using the base as a staging area for overseas deployments as well as a refueling stop. On 10 November 1950, a USAF B-50 bomber flying between Goose Bay and Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona was forced to jettison and detonate three unarmed nuclear bombs over the St. Lawrence River near Saint André de Kamouraska, Quebec. As the plutonium cores of the bombs had been removed and stored at Goose Bay, the onboard bombs contained only the high explosive implosion assemblies, and were thus considered "unarmed". Encountering engine trouble, and with contemporary doctrine requiring that aircraft be lightened by dropping ordnance, the flight crew released the bombs. The weapons detonated at 2,500 feet (760 m) over the river — apparently causing no damage. The episode was not disclosed by the Canadian government until 2000.[1]

In 1953, the USAF signed a 20-year lease agreement with Canada for its continued use of the air base. Goose Bay's strategic location as one of the closest North American air bases (by flying time) to the Soviet Union ensured it a prominent role.

Strategic Air Command

SAC Shield.svg

Northeast Air Command was inactivated on 1 April 1957 and Strategic Air Command received jurisdiction of the USAF facilities. SAC activated the provisional 4082d Strategic Wing as its command and control facility at the base, being under the SAC Eighth Air Force, 45th Air Division. The 814th Combat Support Group took control of the base support organizations.

Goose Bay soon began to see B-47 Stratojet bombers and KC-97 aerial refuelling tankers, followed by KC-135 Stratotankers in 1960, using the base as a refueling facility and stopover during REFLEX deployments to SAC bases in the United Kingdom and Morocco.

The primary mission of the 4082d SW, however was to be a dispersal organization for SAC B-52 Stratofortress intercontinental bombers. The wing was not assigned B-52s on a permanent basis, it did however, support deployed aircraft from other SAC wings, along with KC-135 Stratotankers from 1957 until 1972. Goose Bay also took over many of the functions provided by the former Ernest Harmon AFB in Stephenville which closed in 1966. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Goose Bay was home to over 12,000 USAF personnel and their families.

The 4082d Strategic Wing was redesignated the 95th Strategic Wing in August 1966 as part of a program to allow SAC to retain the lineage of its provisional 4082d SW and to perpetuate the lineage World War II bombardment units with illustrious combat records.

During this time, there was a small RCAF presence on the north side of the base, however pending budget cuts in the late 1960s prior to unification saw the RCAF transfer its responsibilities for operation of the base to the Department of Transport in 1967.

Air Defense Command

Air Defense Command.png

While SAC received jurisdiction of the United States facilities at Goose AFB with the inactivation of NEAC, Air Defense Command (ADC) took over the USAF atmospheric defense forces (including the NEAC 64th Air Division). The 4732d Air Defense Group was activated as a tenant unit at Goose AFB on 1 April 1957 to provide command and control of ADC units assigned to the base.

The 59th FIS was upgraded to the F-102A Delta Dagger in 1960. It continued defensive patrols over the region until it was inactivated on 31 December 1969.

The 641st Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron established a radar station 53°17′45″N 060°32′24″W / 53.29583°N 60.54°W / 53.29583; -60.54 (Melville AS N-24) about 4 miles (6.4 km) west of the base in November 1957. The USAF designated the site as Melville Air Station and designated the site as "N-24", however it was dependent upon and was logistically supported by the 4732d ABG at Goose AFB. Radars operated by the 641st AC&WS consisted of CPS-5, CPS-6B, FPS-502, FPS-20A, FPS-87A; MPN-4, TPS-502, FPS-6A, FPS-6B sets. In 1963, with the advent of SAGE, Melville AS was re-designated as "C-24".

On 1 July 1963 the 4732d ADG was re-designated as the Goose Air Defense Sector with the establishment of the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) Direction Center (DC-31). DC-31 was constructed near CFB North Bay, Ontario, 46°20′15″N 079°24′42″W / 46.3375°N 79.41167°W / 46.3375; -79.41167 (North Bay, DC-31) 971.1 miles (1,562.8 km) to the southwest. In 1966, control of DC-31 was reassigned to the 26th Air Division at Hancock Field, New York and the Goose ADS was inactivated. Subsequently, ADC activated the 37th Air Division at Goose AFB on 1 April 1966 to command its assets in Northeast North America, including the 59th FIS. It also received from the inactivating Military Air Transport Service responsibility for Air Forces Iceland and assigned it to the new 37th AD at Goose AFB.

On 16 January 1968 Air Defense Command was re-designated Aerospace Defense Command (ADCOM) as part of a restructuring of USAF air defense forces. ADCOM began inactivation of its assets at Goose AFB due of the need to eliminate intermediate levels of command in ADCOM driven by budget reductions and a perceived lessening of the need for continental air defense against attacking Soviet aircraft. The 59th FIS was inactivated and control of Air Forces Iceland was turned over to HQ ADCOM by the 37th AD on 31 December 1969. The 37th Air Division was inactivated by ADCOM on 30 June 1970.

In July 1971, Melville Air Station was turned over to the Canadian Forces and the 641st AC&WS inactivated, which ended ADCOM's presence at Goose Bay. The site remained in operation as CFS Goose Bay until 1988 as part of the Joint Surveillance System (JSS) as site "R-05"

USAF phasedown

On 1 February 1968 the RCAF was unified with the RCN and the Canadian Army to form the Canadian Forces. RCAF Station Goose Bay was renamed Canadian Forces Base Goose Bay (CFB Goose Bay). 1971 was a year of significant changes to the Canadian Forces operations at Goose Bay. The air base operations on the north side of the base (CFB Goose Bay) were closed, and the Canadian and RAF operations consolidated on the south side with the USAF. That same year the Canadian Forces renamed the entire facility Canadian Forces Station Goose Bay (CFS Goose Bay).

In 1973, the USAF's 20-year lease agreement was extended for 6 months to 1 July 1973. On that date, all USAF facilities were transferred to the Government of Canada, with the provision that the USAF be permitted to use Goose Bay for 3 more years.

In 1974, the town of Happy Valley merged with the military community of Goose Bay to form the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

On 1 July 1976 the USAF terminated its permanent presence at Goose Bay with the inactivation of the 95th Strategic Wing. Several USAF personnel were left at Goose Bay to handle the requirements of USAF aircraft that stopped periodically.

Royal Canadian Air Force

CFB Station Crest
5 Wing Goose Bay
Luftwaffe Tornados at CFB Goose Bay
Royal Air Force Panavia Tornados at CFB Goose Bay
US Air Force McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle at CFB Goose Bay
CH-135 Twin Huey from Base Rescue Goose Bay (later 444 Squadron)
Avro Vulcan XL361 on display at CFB Goose Bay

The former U.S. facilities were redesignated CFB Goose Bay (the second time this facility name has been used). The value of the airfield and facilities built and improved by the USAF since 1953 and transferred to Canada were estimated in excess of $250 million (USD).[citation needed]

The Canadian Forces continued to use Goose Bay for staging interceptor aircraft, however Canadian Forces Air Command concentrated on purchasing the new CF-18 interceptor in the late 1970s and early 1980s. CF-18s for eastern Canada were to be based at CFB Bagotville in Quebec, thus the future was looking bleak for both CFB Goose Bay and CFB Chatham.[citation needed]

In 1983, a NASA Boeing 747 transport aircraft carrying the Space Shuttle Enterprise landed at CFB Goose Bay to refuel on its way to a European tour where the shuttle was then displayed in France and the United Kingdom. This was the first time that a U.S. space shuttle ever "landed" outside the United States.[citation needed]

In response to lessons learned from the Vietnam War and the growing sophistication of Soviet anti-aircraft radar and surface-to-air missile technology being deployed in Europe, NATO allies began looking at new doctrines in the 1970s-1980s which mandated low-level flight to evade detection. CFB Goose Bay's location in Labrador, with a population of around 30,000 and area measuring 294,000 km², made it an ideal location for low-level flight training. Labrador's sparse settlement and a local topography similar to parts of the Soviet Union, in addition to proximity to European NATO nations, "sealed the deal" which saw CFB Goose Bay grow to become the primary low-level tactical training area for several NATO air forces during the 1980s.[citation needed]

The increased low-level flights by fighter aircraft was not without serious controversy as the Innu Nation protested these operations vociferously, claiming that the noise of aircraft travelling at supersonic speeds in close proximity to the ground ("nap of the earth flying") was adversely affecting wildlife, namely caribou, and was a nuisance to their way of life on their traditional lands. Many protests evolved into dangerous activities, including trespassing into the low-level flying ranges (at detriment of the safety of protesters), and even to shooting hunting rifles at the fighter aircraft. The protests, while having died down with changes in operating areas and raising of flight altitudes, have never really disappeared.[citation needed]

During the 1980s-1990s, CFB Goose Bay hosted permanent detachments from the Royal Air Force, Luftwaffe, Royal Netherlands Air Force, and the Aeronautica Militare, in addition to temporary deployments from several other NATO countries. Goose Bay was a very attractive training facility for these air forces in light of the high population concentration in their countries, as well as numerous laws preventing low-level flying. Many of the ranges surrounding CFB Goose Bay are larger than some European countries.[citation needed]

In 1988, the Pinetree Line radar site at CFS Goose Bay was closed. The permanent RNAF detachment left CFB Goose Bay in the 1990s, although temporary training postings have been held since.[citation needed]

On 11 September 2001, CFB Goose Bay hosted seven trans-Atlantic commercial airliners which were diverted to land as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon, following the closure of North American airspace as a result of terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. It was also the first Canadian airport to receive diverted aircraft.[citation needed]

In 2004 the RAF announced its intent to close the permanent RAF detachment, effective 31 March 2005. The German and Italian air forces have agreements signed to use the base until 2006, however these have not been renewed. These air forces still operate at Goose Bay, but plan to initiate simulator training instead.[6] The base continues in its role as a low-level tactical training facility and as a forward deployment location for Canadian Forces Air Command, although the total complement of Canadian Forces personnel numbers less than 100.[citation needed]

Base Rescue Flight and 444 Combat Support Squadron

To provide rescue and range support to the jet aircraft operating from Goose Bay the Canadian Forces provided a Base Rescue Flight consisting of three CH-135 Twin Huey helicopters. In 1993 the Base Rescue Flight was re-badged 444 Combat Support Squadron and continued to operate the same fleet of three helicopters. In 1996 the CH-135s were replaced with three CH-146 Griffon helicopters.[7][8]

Ballistic Missile Defence

Labradorian politicians such as Liberal Senator Bill Rompkey have advocated using CFB Goose Bay as a site for a missile defense radar system being developed by the United States Department of Defense. Executives from defense contractor Raytheon have surveyed CFB Goose Bay as a suitable location for deploying such a radar installation.[9]

Airlines and destinations

Airlines Destinations
Air Canada Express operated by EVAS Air Gander, Sept-Îles, Wabush
Air Canada Express operated by Jazz Air Halifax, St. John's
EVAS Air Iqaluit, Gander
Air Labrador Blanc-Sablon, Sept-Îles, Nain, Natuashish, Makkovik, Postville, Hopedale, Rigolet, Cartwright, Black Tickle
CHC Helicopter charter
Cougar Helicopters charter
Provincial Airlines Blanc-Sablon, Churchill Falls, Deer Lake, Sept-Îles, St Anthony, St John's, Wabush, Nain, Natuashish, Makkovik, Postville, Hopedale, Rigolet, Voisey's Bay Nickel Mine
Universal Helicopters charter

See also

Portal icon Canadian Armed Forces portal
Portal icon United States Air Force portal


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 - 1980, by Lloyd H. Cornett and Mildred W. Johnson, Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
  • Winkler, David F. (1997), Searching the skies: the legacy of the United States Cold War defense radar program. Prepared for United States Air Force Headquarters Air Combat Command.
  • Information for Melville AS, Goose Bay, NL

External links

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