Unit History: RAFU Goose Bay, Canada
Goose Bay is presently operated as an air force base by Canadian Forces Air Command and is the site of NATO tactical flight training in Canada. The base was home of permanent detachments of the Luftwaffe (Germany) and the Aeronautica Militare (Italy), as well as hosting temporary training deployments from the Royal Air Force (United Kingdom) and the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The base also serves as a forward operating base for CF-18 interceptors. Its primary formation is 5 Wing.
CFB Goose Bay’s airfield is also used by civilian aircraft, with civilian operations at the base referring to the facility as Goose Bay Airport. The airport is classified as an airport of entry by NAV CANADA and is staffed by the Canada Border Services Agency. CBSA officers at this airport currently can handle general aviation aircraft only, with no more than 15 passengers.
CFB Goose Bay has been designated as an alternate emergency landing site for NASA space shuttle launches because of its strategic location along the launch trajectory and its long runways
The Canadian Forces continued to use Goose Bay for staging interceptor aircraft, however Canadian Forces Air Command concentrated on purchasing the new CF-18 interceptor in the late 1970s and early 1980s. CF-18s for eastern Canada were to be based at CFB Bagotville in Quebec, thus the future was looking bleak for both CFB Goose Bay and CFB Chatham.
In 1983, a NASA Boeing 747 transport aircraft carrying the Space Shuttle Enterprise landed at CFB Goose Bay to refuel on its way to a European tour where the shuttle was then displayed in France and the United Kingdom. This was the first time that a U.S. space shuttle ever "landed" outside the United States.
In response to lessons learned from the Vietnam War and the growing sophistication of Soviet anti-aircraft radar and surface-to-air missile technology being deployed in Europe, NATO allies began looking at new doctrines in the 1970s-1980s which mandated low-level flight to evade detection. CFB Goose Bay’s location in Labrador, with a population of around 30,000 and area measuring 294,000 km?, made it an ideal location for low-level flight training. Labrador’s sparse settlement and a local topography similar to parts of the Soviet Union, in addition to proximity to European NATO nations, "sealed the deal" which saw CFB Goose Bay grow to become the primary low-level tactical training area for several NATO air forces during the 1980s.
The increased low-level flights by fighter aircraft was not without serious controversy as the Innu Nation protested these operations vociferously, claiming that the noise of aircraft travelling at supersonic speeds in close proximity to the ground ("nap of the earth flying") was adversely affecting wildlife, namely caribou, and was a nuisance to their way of life on their traditional lands. Many protests evolved into dangerous activities, including trespassing into the low-level flying ranges (at detriment of the safety of protesters), and even to shooting hunting rifles at the fighter aircraft. The protests, while having died down with changes in operating areas and raising of flight altitudes, have never really disappeared.
During the 1980s-1990s, CFB Goose Bay hosted permanent detachments from the Royal Air Force, Luftwaffe, Royal Netherlands Air Force, and the Aeronautica Militare, in addition to temporary deployments from several other NATO countries. Goose Bay was a very attractive training facility for these air forces in light of the high population concentration in their countries, as well as numerous laws preventing low-level flying. Many of the ranges surrounding CFB Goose Bay are larger than some European countries.
In 1988, the Pinetree Line radar site at CFS Goose Bay was closed. The permanent RNAF detachment left CFB Goose Bay in the 1990s, although temporary training postings have been held since.
On September 11, 2001, CFB Goose Bay hosted seven trans-Atlantic commercial airliners which were diverted to land as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon, following the closure of North American airspace as a result of terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. It was also the first Canadian airport to receive diverted aircraft.
In 2004 the RAF announced its intent to close the permanent RAF detachment, effective March 31, 2005. The German and Italian air forces have agreements signed to use the base until 2006, however these have not been renewed. The base continues in its role as a low-level tactical training facility and as a forward deployment location for Canadian Forces Air Command, although the total complement of Canadian Forces personnel numbers less than 100