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 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.