Filling the gap: 9 Wing Gander gets a little radar help from Quebec

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Filling the gap: 9 Wing Gander gets a little radar help from Quebec

On a woods road just outside the town limits in Gander, a special unit with the Canadian military has set up a remote radar unit that has a critical mission: nothing less than keeping Canada safe.

"We're here as the coast radar is being brought down for maintenance," said Maj. Josh Riley,  the commanding officer for 12 Radar Squadron, based in Bagotville, Que.  

The unit is "filling the gap," he said, in what's known as the Canadian Air Defence Identification Zone, the defence boundary that circles Canada's waters. 

"What we do is provide a radar picture in the area that's not covered while the coastal radar is down," he said, adding the data are forwarded to Canadian Forces Base North Bay. 

The coastal radar is located on the base of 9 Wing Gander, and is one of several similar radar installations across the country. 

The crew with 12 Radar Squadron will be here until that work is finished. 

The site includes a radar unit, two generators, satellite communication and radar shelter. Someone is on duty at the site 24 hours a day. 

Riley told CBC Radio's Central Morning Show the work they do is important to national security.

"We have situational awareness on all air traffic in Canada so that we can react if there's something like a 9/11 type of event or foreign powers bringing aircraft into Canada," he said. 

"If an aircraft comes into the identification zone, and we can't identify, then we can scramble fighters or react appropriately and find out what their intent is and who they are." 

While this mission is a special operation, Riley said it's a chance for 12 Radar Squadron to use their skills in a practical situation. 

"We're mandated to practice once a year, but also there's the operation deployments such as this one, which is operational and practice at the same time."