The Courier

Canadian Armed Forces members and others stand near a cruise missile in this 1980s era photograph – Photo from 4 Wing Imaging 

A new exhibit being planned at the Cold Lake Air Force Museum aims to tell the story of a controversial time in the history of the area. The museum is preparing a display on the United States Air Force cruise missile testing that occurred in Canadian airspace in the 1980s.

A model of a cruise missile – Photo by the Cold Lake Air Force Museum

“This will be an immersive display,” says Museum Curator Wanda Stacey. “We’re really looking to tell both sides of the story, the sides of those who were part of the test and those who protested it.”

“We’re hoping to take guests back to the 80’s with this display.”

The community made international headlines in 1984 when the first of seven AGM-86 Tomahawk missiles were fired as part of the Canada–United States Test and Evaluation Program partnership test between the US and Canadian governments. The missiles were controversial for their ability to carry nuclear warheads.

The evaluations saw protests in Cold Lake by both local and international groups. Elsewhere, outrage at the testing even saw court challenges against the federal government.

“At the time, most people were against it. We want to showcase what it was like to be there at that moment,” adds Stacey.

All of the tests involved the use of Strategic Air Command B-52 bombers. Tests involved both captive carry and live launch tests over the Mackenzie River Delta and Eastern Canada, terminating in the Primrose Lake Air Weapons Range.

Military officials at the time said the location was chosen for terrain and weather conditions similar to what would be expected in the Soviet Union.

Stacey says the public should be able to come and take a look starting in May.

“The museums are back open for the public on the May Long weekend of 2022, and we expect to have the exhibit ready at that time for people to come and experience.”

The Cold Lake Air Force Museum is one of four located on Radar Hill, the former site of 42 Radar Squadron on the north edge of Cold Lake South.

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