John Bubb

Tropospheric Scatter Communications Site

Saglek Labrador Canada Circa 1969/70

This information is dedicated to the engineers responsible for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) Tropospheric Scatter communication sites. It was my privilege to work at the Saglek site in Northern Labrador during the late 1960's and early 1970's. Now into the new millenium, I still remain in awe of the work that was performed in such remote and hostile locations in response to the challenges of the Cold War.

The BMEWS site at Saglek was part of the DEW (Distant Early Warning) Line tropospheric scatter communications network and was part of a chain of stations extending from Thule in Greenland down the East Coast of Canada into Newfoundland. Saglek was located between the Hopedale site to the South and the Resolution Island site to the North. BMEWS communications sites replaced an earlier and less reliable tropospheric scatter system known as “Polevault”. By the time I got to Saglek the Polevault antennas and equipment had been removed but they are visible in Fred Boutin’s Moving Panorama of Saglek photographed in 1962 (they are the wire-frame dish antennas at the very end of the Panorama in the foreground)

BMEWS stations were responsible for maintaining telephone and teletype communications. They operated in the UHF band and were extremely reliable. It was a very rare occurrence to lose the communications link, even for a few seconds. During the 14 months I personally worked at Saglek, the communication link was continuously maintained without any failure due to equipment malfunction at the site. Reliability was ensured through full redundancy of equipment, regular and comprehensive preventive maintenance, and the personal commitment of maintenance personnel (determination that communications would not be lost on your shift).

The following diagram shows the approximate layout of the Saglek communications site. North is to the Right. Click on the abbreviations and words following the diagram for an explanation of the contents. For much more information on Saglek and the entire Pinetree Line, go to

PA, R and T               Tx, Ex and HE             NBG               Pic 1              Pic 2           Antennas