A Cold War Era, American Radar Station at Red Cliff
Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove
Date Last Modified: November 15, 2015
Shortly after WWII, the Cold War immediately began and out of fear of invasion or attack, the United States Air Force (with the aid of the Royal Canadian Air Force) began constructing a number of radar stations located approximately along the 50th parallel. This system of radar stations was known as the Pine Tree Line and in 1951 an area 10 km north of St. John's was chosen for one of these stations.
The radar base became known as the Red Cliff Air/Radar Station. Construction began here in 1951 on an AN/CPS-6B radar system, an operations building, several barracks buildings, a steam-power plant, and several other essential buildings. It was completed and opened in 1953. Lower on the hill near the site of an American WWII gun battery, an AN/CPS-5 radar and operations building was constructed during this time as well.
In command of the Red Cliff Radar Station was the 108th AC&W Squadron who in 1953 became re-designated as the 642nd Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron. These American servicemen operated the radar which was used to record unidentified aircraft's speed, altitude, and direction. If an unidentified aircraft was found, the information was passed on to intercept fighter jets stationed nearby at the Torbay Air Force Base. The base also served as a navigational aid for friendly aircraft in the area and ended up answering many search and rescue calls during its operation. Red cliff was under the command of the American base, Fort Pepperrell located on the north shore of Quidi Vidi Lake.
Like all Pine Tree Line radar stations, Red Cliff was built to be completely self contained and self supporting. This meant the base was able to produce its own power, provide its own water and contained living quarters for personnel working on the base. In the picture above the entrance to a large underground water tank can be seen in the foreground. Behind it are the remains of the power plant and fallen down steam plant. Some walls and water tank supports are still standing but for the most part, it is completely fallen down.
The base finally closed on October 1, 1961, when new technology made the radars obsolete. When the site closed everything except for electrical and heating equipment was taken to Harmon Air Force Base in Stephenville. Like most abandoned American military sites on the island, great amounts of trash and equipment were not properly disposed of. Old jeeps, trucks, oil drums, and other litter can be found partially buried in the ground and in the forest around the area.
Not many of the original buildings are left standing. The operations and radar buildings on top of the hill are still let partially standing, along with the concrete shell of the power plant. The old steam plant appears to have collapsed many years ago while most of the other buildings and barracks were destroyed or moved when the site was decommissioned in the 60's.
When Red Cliff was being constructed in 1951, a dam and pump house was built on Outer Cove Brook. Water was pumped from here up the hill to Red Cliff. When decommissioned, the dams main water control gate was removed allowing water to flow through. The pump house still seems to be intact but no entrance is clearly visible.
The dam is located off Lower Road near Outer Cove. A small trail can be found off the right of the road just before you get to McDonald's Road also on your right.
Red Cliff Battery
In 1941 the United States Dept. of Defense began choosing sites to put a military presence on the island. They did this so they could install gun batteries and defensive bases along the coast. They did this because protection was needed for ship convoys that traveled the waters and for protection of other bases further inland. Red Cliff was one of the areas chosen and shortly after being picked a coastal defense battery and lookout were built on the hill.
When the battery was built, an ammunition bunker and two large underground rooms were also constructed to support the battery. These rooms were used for army personnel and storage. Many sources are also unsure as to when, but at some time during its operation, two 8 inch American guns on barbette mounts were relocated here from Signal Hill in St. Johns. The battery operated from 1943 until the end of the war in 1945.
The abandoned radar site is conveniently located on a road named Red Cliff Road in the community of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove, north of St. Johns. After driving to the end of Red Cliff Road you`ll come to a dirt road gated off. A small parking area is located just off the road. This is also a starting point for the East Coast Trail. By continuing your way up the road you will eventually come to a fork in the road. Going left down the paved road will bring you to the battery site and going right while bringing you up to the main site. Several communication towers and a small building are located at the end of the road.
Outer Cove Town History
North American Forts
642nd Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron
Fortress America: The Forts That Defended America, 1600 to the Present By J. E. Kaufmann and H. W. Kaufmann