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The Cruise Missile

CFB Cold Lake was developed for the testing of all forms of weapon systems, and there has been an ongoing cooperative relationship between Canada and all of its allies in this regard. It was therefore not surprising when the American government asked to use the weapons testing range for its new Air Launched Cruise Missiles in the 1980s.

The cruise missile concept was not a new one by the time the Trudeau government agreed to allow testing of the weapon over Canadian airspace. Guided missiles had already been used since the Second World War, when the Nazi Germany developed the V-1 and V-2 rockets near the end of the conflict. While such rockets were crude compared to today's designs, they were effective enough in devastating attacks launched against England.

At war's end, the Allies—and the United States in particular—took great interest in the technology behind the Nazi guided missiles. Captured V-1 components were shipped to the United States for study, and in three weeks, the United States had a guided missile of its own, named the JB-2. Orders were made for the mass production of this flying bomb, but the war ended before they could be deployed in the field, and production was cancelled.

There was continued interest in the guided missile by the US military throughout the 1950's and 1960's, but other missile development programs, such as those that led to the birth of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), took precedence over the guided missile, and slowed its evolution during this time.

It was in the 1970's when the first practical cruise missiles took shape. These missiles were vastly improved versions of the previous incarnations, able to travel greater distances and pinpoint distant targets more accurately with improved guidance systems and propulsion technology. Development of these missiles continued throughout the 1970's and into the early 1980's, when the United States approached Canada to allow testing of the latest cruise missile technology over Canadian soil.

The cruise missiles caused significant controversy in Canada. Because it was a new weapons system that could travel for great distances at low levels and remain undetected by radar, making it virtually unstoppable, many activists and concerned citizens argued that the cruise missiles would play a role in destabilizing the arms race and increasing instability around the world.

The Federal Court ruled against such arguments and the Canadian government moved ahead to allow the weapons range to be used for the testing of the Cruise Missiles. In 1983, the Canada-United States Test and Evaluation Program or CANUSTEP agreement was signed between the two countries, which, among other things, allowed for the testing of cruise missiles in Canadian, and specifically Albertan, airspace.

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