Distant Early Warning Radar: “The DEW Line Story” 1958 AT&T
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‘DESCRIBES THE CONSTRUCTION ALONG A 3,000 MILE LINE OF A SERIES OF RADAR SITES IN NORTHERN CANADA AND ALASKA, ILLUSTRATING THE EFFECTIVE COOPERATION BETWEEN PRIVATE INDUSTRY AND THE GOVERNMENTS OF BOTH COUNTRIES.’
Originally a public domain film, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and one-pass brightness-contrast-color correction & mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).
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 (see Project Stretchout and Project Bluegrass), in addition to the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland. It was set up to detect incoming Soviet bombers during the Cold War, and provide early warning of any sea-and-land invasion.
The DEW Line was the northernmost and most capable of three radar lines in Canada and Alaska. The first of these was the joint Canadian-US Pinetree Line, which ran from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island just north of the Canadian border, but even while it was being built there were concerns that it would not provide enough warning time to launch an effective counterattack. The Mid-Canada Line (MCL) was proposed as an inexpensive solution using a new type of radar. This provided a “trip wire” warning located roughly at the 55th parallel, giving commanders ample warning time, but little information on the targets or their exact location. The MCL proved largely useless in practice, as the radar return of flocks of birds overwhelmed signals from aircraft.
The DEW Line was proposed as a solution to both of these problems, using conventional radar systems that could both detect and characterize an attack, while being located far to the north where they would offer hours of advanced warning. This would not only provide ample time for the defenses to prepare, but also allow the Strategic Air Command to get its active aircraft airborne long before Soviet bombers could reach their bases. The need was considered critical and the construction was given the highest national priorities. Advanced site preparation began in December 1954, and the construction was carried out in a massive logistical operation that took place mostly during the summer months when the sites could be reached by ships. The 63-base Line reached operational status in 1957. The MCL was shut down in the early 1960s, and much of the Pinetree line was given over to civilian use.
In 1985, as part of the “Shamrock Summit”, the US and Canada agreed to transition DEW to a new system known as the North Warning System (NWS). Beginning in 1988, most of the original DEW stations were deactivated, while a small number were upgraded with all-new equipment. The official handover from DEW to NWS took place on 15 July 1993…
The original DEW line was designed to detect bombers and was unable to detect intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). To give warning of this threat, in 1958 a more sophisticated radar system was constructed, the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS).
The DEW Line was a significant achievement among Cold War initiatives in the Arctic. A successful combination of scientific design and logistical planning of the late 1950s, the DEW Line consisted of a string of continental defence radar installations, ultimately stretching from Alaska to Greenland. In addition to the secondary Mid-Canada Line and the tertiary Pinetree Line, the DEW Line marked the edge of an electronic grid controlled by the new SAGE (Semi Automatic Ground Environment) computer system and was ultimately centered at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, Colorado, command hub of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
…The DEW Line grew out of a detailed study made by a group of the nation’s foremost scientists in 1952, the Summer Study Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology…
The majority of Canadian DEW Line stations were the joint responsibility of the Royal Canadian Air Force (the Canadian Forces) and the U.S. Air Force. The USAF component was the 64th Air Division, Air Defense Command…