Distant Early Warning Line

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DEW Line Station in Point Lay, Alaska
Map of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line

The Distant Early Warning Line (DEW Line) was a chain of radar stations along the US and Canadian Arctic .

It was developed by American scientists with Canadian support in the early 1950s and built between 1955 and 1957. The aim of the Distant Early Warning Line was to uncover possible air strikes by the Soviet Union on North American targets and to give the US Air Force (USAF) of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) sufficient advance warning time so that they could use their armed forces for defense Retaliatory strike, could mobilize. With the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and submarine-launched missiles (SLBM), however, the Distant Early Warning Line was overtaken by the arms race by the end of the 1950s .


The USA emerged from World War II as the only nuclear power. American military strategists did not see this supremacy endangered in the immediate post-war period and therefore only gave defense projects on North American soil a subordinate priority. With the detonation of a nuclear explosive device by the Soviet Union in 1949, these ratings were quickly revised. The NSC 68 safety study commissioned by the US President Harry S. Truman in response to the successful nuclear test formulated the new assessment of the danger situation accordingly. Accordingly, large cities and industrial centers in Canada and the USA were now threatened by nuclear-armed Soviet bombers. As part of the deterrent strategy ( containment policy ) formulated in NSC 68, warning systems should now be set up along the Arctic border.

See also


  • David F. Winkler: Searching the Skies. The Legacy of the United States Cold War Defense Radar Program . Headquarters Air Combat Command, Langley AFB, VA 1997.
  • Joseph T. Jockel: No Boundaries Upstairs. Canada, the United States, and the Origins of North American Air Defense, 1945-1958 . University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver 1987.

Web links

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