The Courier

Canadian Forces Base (CFB) and 4 Wing Cold Lake

Who We Are

4 Wing Cold Lake is the busiest fighter base in Canada. It provides general purpose, multi-role, combat capable forces in support of domestic and international roles of Canada’s Air Force. Home of fighter pilot training for the Canadian Forces, 4 Wing attracts Top Gun crews from all over the world to our annual air combat exercise, Maple Flag.

4 Wing Cold Lake is, without question, the home of the fighter pilot. It not only hosts Canada’s world-class tactical fighter force training, but also deploys and supports fighter aircraft at a moment’s notice to fulfill the domestic and international roles of Canada’s Air Force.

As an international Centre of Excellence for tactical fighter operations, deployable combat support and leading-edge training, 4 Wing focuses on people, leadership, innovation and technology.

Two operational CF-18 Squadrons and two training squadrons, including Phase IV of NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC), and numerous premier support units, make 4 Wing Canada’s largest and busiest fighter wing. As such, 4 Wing has some of the best and most sought-after amenities in the world, including an almost unrestricted 1.17 million hectare air weapons range equipped with state-of-the-art threats and targets.

It is the vast array of support facilities and amenities that make Cold Lake exercises so attractive and successful.

4 Wing History

In the early 1950s, an army of construction workers started building Canada’s premier fighter base in the heart of the Lakeland. Half a century later, 4 Wing carries on that tradition, and continues to be at the cutting edge of military fighter aviation. The year 2004 marks the Gold Jubilee of a unique relationship between CFB Cold Lake and the communities of the Lakeland. For the last fifty years, the City of Cold Lake has enjoyed a relationship unmatched between a Canadian Forces Base and the civilian world.

4 Wing Cold Lake began in 1952 when the site was chosen by the Royal Canadian Air Force for an air weapons training base. In selecting the site, factors such as population density, accessibility, weather, possible future development of resources and the suitability of land for aerodrome construction had to be considered.

The site near the former town of Grand Centre was finally chosen because of its advantages of adequate drainage, flat terrain and nearby gravel deposits.

Construction of RCAF Station Cold Lake began in 1952, and the first contingent of personnel arrived March 31, 1954. Operations began that day.

In 1953, the federal government signed an agreement with the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan for the use of a tract of land 180 km by 65 km for use as an air weapons range. This was and continues to be the “raison d’être” for 4 Wing Cold Lake and its operations.

The Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) has evolved to the point where it is considered to be one of the finest facilities of its kind in the world. The CLAWR covers an area of 1.17 million hectares straddling the Alberta/Saskatchewan border. Several factors unique to the CLAWR make it an ideal choice for combined air operations training. The heavily forested terrain with numerous lakes resembles European topography and differs from the desert conditions in southwestern Nevada. For these reasons, the internationally renowned Maple Flag Exercise is held on the range every year with ever growing success.

In 2004, the Cold Lake base reached a momentous milestone with 50 years of operation and service to the Canadian Forces. The occasion is marked with various activities and events in recognition of this historic accomplishment.

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