DYE Stations

DYE Stations were Distant Early Warning Line sites of the DEW Line eastern extension in Arctic North America in Greenland (DEW Greenland Extension,[1] "DEW East")[2] and Iceland. DYE Stations were equipped with the 600 MHz AN/FPS-30 long-range radar within geodesic domes of about 60 feet diameter. Crews were regularly supplied and rotated by C-130 aircraft of the 109th Airlift Wing (NYANG) staging through Sondrestrom Air Base.


The DEW Line became operational on August 13, 1957,[3] with "CINCNORAD...operational control of the Cape Lisburne-Cape Dyer" radar stations as with other air defense elements.[4] On June 30, 1958, the Eastern DEW Extension had 4 stations and there were 4 DER & 4 AEW&C aircraft operating for the Atlantic Barrier[4]: 45  and on July 19, 1958, DYE 1 (DYE 4 on August 3) was begun[1]: 88  by Western Electric using helicopter-assisted sealift at the coasts and airlift from Sondrestrom Air Base for the interior stations.[citation needed] By October 1, 1958, DYE communications were linked to the NORAD Combat Operations Center at Ent Air Force Base via the AT&T Denver Toll Test Center.[4]: 53 

From 1954, the U.S. Air Force expected that the air defense radar network would have to extend across the North Atlantic to Europe or the Azores, and by early 1956 studies to this effect were approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After successful completion of the DEW Line, in 1957 U.S.-Canadian attention turned to the implementation of plans to close the North Atlantic radar gap with physical stations to replace the radar early warning aircraft EC-121s then patrolling the ocean. Arctic veteran, Colonel Bernt Balchen, preferred a line going north around Greenland's polar coast, and others suggested a coastal line south to Cape Farewell, but eventually the service settled on a direct line across the ice cap to Iceland, the Faroes, and the United Kingdom. An initial plan to place a main station at Kangeq near Cape Farewell was abandoned before construction began.

Negotiations with Denmark, concluding with an agreement on 20 March 1958, settled on four stations in Greenland, one on a mountain near Holsteinsborg, two innovative sites in central Greenland, and one at Kulusuk Island near Angmagssalik, not too far from the former USAAF airfield Bluie East Two. The Danes raised objections to the Kulusuk site due to fear of undesirable fraternization with the inhabitants of a local Eskimo village. The result was that the DYE-4 site there was placed off-limits to locals, although this policy failed resoundingly. Legally, the DYE-1 through -4 were annexes of the Sondrestrom joint Danish-American Defense Area under authority of the 1951 Greenland Bases Treaty. Unlike the case with the other U.S. bases in Greenland, Denmark took no interest in the DYE stations and, except for engineering operations, did not participate in their operation; and unlike other U.S. bases, they did not become a cause for domestic controversy.

Since the stations were built at high elevations, surveys indicated that during normal propagation conditions they should essentially close the gaps across Davis Strait and Denmark Strait, the latter with the aid of a later radar station at Isafjordur at the Northwestern corner of Iceland. Construction was influenced by mixed experience with two earlier ice cap radar stations near Thule (Site 1 and Site 2). The new design used pillars which would delay subsidence of the station into the ice. In this sense the stations were similar to the Texas Towers that had been built for air defense radars in coastal waters off the United States, except that the “tripod” was anchored in the ice, and the legs were eight massive steel beams. Periodic re-alignment of the station could be accomplished by adjustment of the beam attachments. At the inland stations, the nearly horizontally pointing troposcatter parabolic antennae had to be enclosed as part of the superstructure.

Snow accumulation of about one meter per year caused subsidence which eventually necessitated a re-foundation. In 1977 and 1982, Danish Arctic Contractors carried out a delicate re-pillaring of the two ice cap stations through a “jacking-up” procedure that also laterally moved the station.


RCAP' officers would be assigned to the line to the extent that they would be pre40miDate 8.JIIOD.g the military personnel at each Canadian main station (l.e., PIlI, CAM, rox, and DYE). A senior ReAP officer would be designated "Officer-in-Charge" and would be responsible for all non-contractual duties to be performed in accordance with the guidelines established by NORAD. USAF would continue to administer the contract with F'I.'X!O and would assign officers to accomplish these duties. Additional costs to the RCAP would be limited to that necessary for supporting the ReAP personnel.

On 19 January 1959, representatives of RCAF, USAJI', RCAII' ADO, USAP ADO, and RAD I met to work out the details tor the new IBDD1D8 concept. It was agreed that there would be seven omcers at each CaDM.18.1l Main station—five from the RCAP' and two fraI mAl". '!be 'RCAP contingent was to be headed by a Squadron Leader who would be designated DEW Sector COIIIIIBl'lder.

The DEW data center (callsign DYE,[1] 66°40′N 61°21′W / 66.667°N 61.350°W / 66.667; -61.350) at Cape Dyer on the eastern tip of Baffin Island was 1 of 4 "Canadian Main stations" (cf. PIN, CAM, FOX) and in January 1959, the station's manning switched to an RCAF Squadron Leader being the "Officer-in-Charge" as "DEW Sector Commander", 1 of 5 RCAF officers at DYE (2 additional officers were USAF).[1]: 79 

The stations were linked by tropospheric scatter and by HF radio, and all maintained radio watch on VHF 126.2, UHF 236.6, and HF 3023.5 (Receive only); also on guard (121.5 and 243.0). They also had radio beacons colocated; at one time TACAN stations. The minimally manned stations radioed air traffic to fuse with other DEW Line tracks at NORAD in Colorado Springs and thus anchored the Greenland DEWIZ (Distant Early Warning Identification Zone) requiring positive ID of southbound tracks. The stations did not serve in civilian air traffic control, but their communications relay capabilities were of occasional utility to civilian air traffic.


The DEW Line was a drastic response to an urgently felt requirement for continental air defense, but when it was completed, the problem essentially evaporated – first, because ballistic missiles overtook the airbreathing threat by about 1960, and second, because overhead reconnaissance revealed that the size and capability of the Soviet bomber force had been vastly overestimated. The three to six hours of warning that the Line might have provided thus became of little relevance. In addition, had the DYE stations warned of a raid, there would have been no means of interception or further tracking until landfall hours later; and they did not fully close the GIUK gap (Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom).


During the resurgent tension of the 1980s, Canada and the United States (which jointly operate NORAD) decided to replace the obsolescent DEW Line with an update known as the North Warning System (NWS). However, by the late 1980s, the Soviet Union was collapsing and replacement of the again subsiding DYE stations was deemed not worth the expense. In connection with the turn-over of Sondrestrom to the Danish government in 1992, the DYE stations were abandoned and left to sink into the ice, an ongoing process. DYE 1-3 were evacuated in 1988, and DYE 4 in September 1991.

In addition to air defense radar tracks, Dye Stations provided thirty years of meteorological observations — the 2 ice cap sites (e.g., Dye 3) were used for ice core drilling.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e Preface by Buss, L. H. (Director) (14 April 1959). North American Air Defense Command and Continental Air Defense Command Historical Summary: July–December 1958 (Report). Directorate of Command History: Office of Information Services.
  2. ^ USAF Control and Warning Support System 416L (PDF) (Report). Western Electric. Retrieved 2013-07-25 – via Ed-Thelen.com single file--also available as page pictures at SMECC.org). Note: Printed after December 1958--the Reno ADS (p. 2 map) became part of the 25 AD on 15 Feb 1959.
  3. ^ Condit, Kenneth W. (1992) [1971 classified vol]. "Chapter 15: Continental Defense". The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy: 1955-1956 (Report). Volume VI of History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Washington, DC: Historical Office, Joint Staff. |volume= has extra text (help)
  4. ^ a b c Preface by Buss, L. H. (Director) (1 October 1958). North American Air Defense Command Historical Summary: January–June 1958 (Report). Directorate of Command History: Office of Information Services.
  5. ^ Greenland during the Cold War (in Danish). Danish Institute for Foreign Policy. 1997. ISBN 9788760169212.
  6. ^ [full citation needed]  This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.
    ONC Charts, 1977, and other cartographic material.