Operation LOOKOUT

International Operation Name: not applicable

International Operation Dates:  not applicable

Mandating Organization: Government of Canada

Region Name:  North America


Canadian Operation Name: Operation LOOKOUT

Canadian Operation Dates: 1960/01/08 – 1964/03

Mission Mandate:

Mission Notes: 

In the late 1950s, the United States and Soviet Union were rapidly developing more and more advanced intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).  Along with the development of the missiles, both nations were studying means of detecting any incoming missiles.  In the United States the Advanced Research Projects Agency (name changed to DARPA in 1972) was designing satellite-based systems to observe ICBMs by detecting the heat from the launch vehicle and then the heat from the warhead re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. 

Canada was asked to take part in the program, not only because of NORAD and the defence of North America, but also through the work being done by the DND’s Canadian Armaments and Research Development Establishment (CARDE).  CARDE was conducting studies on the composition of the atmosphere using infra-red equipment on high-latitude balloons.  In addition, Canada had a very useful aircraft for the program.  The CF-100 Canuck could reach an altitude of 45,000 feet while equipped in its tip tanks with instruments designed for infra-red detection.  It also could carry a heavy payload, had an excellent range and was extremely stable.

Phase I

On 21 September 1959, Air Force Headquarters authorized participation in Operation LOOKOUT, as the Canadian portion of the tests were called.  By this time, the ARPA program had been transferred to the USAF.  RCAF participation would include two CF-100 Canucks, two flight crews and 24 airmen, plus two defence scientists from CARDE.  They would deploy to Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. On 8 January 1960, the two CF-100s (serial numbers 18439 and 18453) flew to the island on the island, accompanied by a 426 Squadron North Star and a C-119 from 436 Squadron carrying the airmen and scientists.  During operations from Ascension, the CF-100s measured the infra-red emissions from nose cones re-entering the atmosphere. 

Phase II

The second phase would extend from April to June 1961 from Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, where the CF-100s would measure the plume from launches.  On tracking flights the CF 100s worked as a team with C-119 and U-2 sensing aircraft.

Phase III

Phase III would continue the work of Phase II, from Patrick AFB and also were be made from Eleuthera, Mayaguana and San Salvador downrange in the Bahamas, commencing September 1961. 

On 20 February 1962, the CF-100s at an altitude of 40,000 feet observed the launch of astronaut John Glenn into space.  Other astronaut launches included those of Alan Sheppard, Walter Schirra, Scott Carpenter and Gordon Cooper.

During the Lookout missions, and as a favour to NASA, the CF-100s also tested the infra-red scanner that was later deployed on the Nimbus weather satellite.

The CF-100 detachment returned to Canada in the spring of 1964.  Over 150 missile launches were observed during phases II and III.

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