Saturday, September 24, 2005

Stations of the past: Gloucester

Jerry Proc has produced another great compilation of history, photos, anecdotes, and other information about one of the Royal Canadian Navy SIGINT stations: the latest one covers HMCS Gloucester, which operated from 1943 to 1972.

Gloucester badgeInitially known as No. 1 Station HMCS Bytown, the Gloucester station was built as a high-frequency direction-finding station tracking U-Boats in the North Atlantic. Later known as Naval Radio Station Gloucester, HMCS Gloucester, and finally CFS Gloucester, the station continued its HFDF role into the Cold War period. In 1948 it also became the training school for the Communications Special trade. The station also hosted the headquarters of the RCN's Supplementary Radio System. The station closed in 1972, at which time the CFSRS training school was moved to Kingston. Only the former gymnasium at the station still stands, now serving as the Greely Legion Hall.

Go to the HMCS Gloucester page for more details of the story. Jerry Proc's other pages are also well worth checking out.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

New DG Military SIGINT

The Department of National Defence announced today that "Captain (Navy) Andrea Siew, a Reservist, will be promoted Commodore AWSE (Acting While So Employed) and appointed Director General Military Signals Intelligence at the Communications Security Establishment."

Commodore SiewCommodore Siew (shown at right) will replace BGen Glenn W. Nordick (bio), who was the first to hold the position of DG Military SIGINT, having been appointed to the newly created job in July 2004. Nordick also served as J2 Intelligence Capabilities at NDHQ, but Siew apparently has not been appointed to that position. Siew's official bio doesn't seem to be up yet on the DND website, but a quick tour around the web shows that she was a member of the INT 82 occupation, presented a paper entitled "Maritime C4I And Surveillance: The National Perspective" at the 2001 conference of the Canadian Association of Security and Intelligence Studies, and served as Director Quality of Life in 2002-2003. She retired from the Reg Force in October 2003 after 24 years of service. She has also served as Intelligence Branch Advisor.

As noted above, the position of DG Military Signals Intelligence is a relatively new one (and certainly a new one to me: Nordick's appointment slipped by me entirely), and it evidently implies that a new directorate of Military SIGINT was created in CSE in 2004. CSE already maintained dedicated resources to the Support for Military Operations (SMO) role, but this suggests that there has been a considerable increase in those resources, which I suppose is what then-Chief Keith Coulter was telling us when he said in May that "these days [CSE's business] is hugely a support to military operations ... because we have troops deployed abroad and we're very involved in helping to intercept communications so they can paint the picture of what the local threats are to them."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy... Screw?

Keith Coulter, the recently departed Chief of CSE, is moving on to new challenges. The Prime Minister has appointed Coulter Commissioner of Corrections in the Correctional Service of Canada, effective immediately. The official announcement is on the PM's website.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Huff-duffers go postal

I'm no philatelist and I wouldn't think of dispensing philatelic advice. But I'm guessing that CFS Bermuda is the only HF-DF station featured on a postage stamp, given that information about such places used to be more typically mailed on microdots.

CFS Bermuda stampIssued by the Bermudian government in 1996 as part of a set commemorating former Second World War and post-war bases in Bermuda, the CFS Bermuda stamp shows the Canadian Forces symbol, some generic looking antenna masts, and Canadian personnel at work in the operations room. The actual HF-DF array is not depicted.

(Belated kudos to DND's Defence Matters, vol. 2, no. 3, April 1997 for mentioning the release of the stamp.)

NRS/CFS Bermuda operated from 1963 until 1993, providing cut-off bearings on Soviet missile submarine transmissions and other maritime targets.

Interestingly, the Bermuda HF-DF station was not the only Cold War-era naval SIGINT system immortalized by its own postage stamp. The U.S. Navy's WHITE CLOUD ocean surveillance satellite system, first launched in 1976, was actually shown in some detail on a U.S. stamp issued that year.

[Update 28 June 2015:

As can be seen here, the satellite was actually depicted on something called a "space cover", an unofficial, commercial product created for collectors, rather than a government-issued stamp. The artwork and other information on such items was often far from accurate, but in this case it was apparently pretty close.

An almost identical image was later printed in Aviation Week and Space Technology ("Navy Ocean Surveillance Satellite Depicted," Aviation Week and Space Technology, 24 May 1976, p. 22). According to space historian Dwayne Day, that image "is consistent with a series of [subsequently] declassified drawings dating from 1973 and depicting the Multiple Satellite Dispenser and outlines of the sub-satellites" (Dwayne A. Day, "Above the clouds: the White Cloud ocean surveillance satellites," Space Review, 13 April 2009).

Update 29 June 2015:

Based on his own research into the question, Dwayne Day concludes that the Aviation Week article came first and that the space cover, although apparently postmarked on the day of the launch, was printed later.]

Are there any other SIGINT stamps out there?