Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   
Canadian Warplanes 8-1: Boeing CIM 10B Bomarc surface-to-air missile

Boeing CIM 10B Bomarc surface-to-air missile

Data current to 23 Dec 2019.

 (DND Photo)

Boeing CIM 10B Bomarc surface-to-air missile, RCAF, launched in the USA.  None were launched in Canada.

The Boeing CIM-10B Bomarc (IM-99B), was a supersonic long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) in RCAF service during the Cold War for the air defence of North America.  In addition to being the first operational long-range SAM, it was the only SAM deployed by the RCAF.

The Bomarc was stored horizontally in a launcher shelter with movable roof.  When required, the roof was opened and the missile was erected and fired vertically using rocket boosters to send it to high altitude.  The missile then tipped over into a horizontal position and reached a Mach 2.5 cruise level powered by its ramjet engines.  This lofted trajectory allowed the missile to operate at a maximum range as great as 250 miles (400 km).  The Bomarc was controlled from the ground for most of its flight.  When it reached the target area, the controllers directed the missile to begin a dive, activating an onboard active radar homing seeker for terminal guidance.  A radar proximity fuse detonated the warhead, which carried either a large conventional explosive or the W40 nuclear warhead.

As the nuclear threat moved from manned bombers to intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), the USAF reduced its initial plans to build 52 sites to 8 sites, with an additional two sites in Canada.  The first US site was declared operational in 1959, but with only a single working missile.  Bringing the rest of the missiles into service took years, by which time the system was obsolete.  Deactivations began in 1969 and by 1972 all Bomarc sites had been shut down.  A small number were used as target drones, and only a few remain on display today.

Boeing CIM-10B Bomarc nuclear-armed surface-to-air interceptor missiles equipped 446 Squadron at North Bay, Ontario and and 447 Squadron at La Macaza, Quebec.

The Bomarc Missile Program was highly controversial in Canada.  The Progressive Conservative government of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker initially agreed to deploy the missiles, and shortly thereafter controversially scrapped the Avro CF-105 Arrow, a supersonic manned interceptor aircraft, arguing that the missile program made the Arrow unnecessary.

Initially, it was unclear whether the missiles would be equipped with nuclear warheads.  By 1960 it became known that the missiles were to have a nuclear payload, and a debate ensued about whether Canada should accept nuclear weapons.  Ultimately, the Diefenbaker government decided that the Bomarcs should not be equipped with nuclear warheads.  The dispute split the Diefenbaker Cabinet, and led to the collapse of the government in 1963.  The Official Opposition and Liberal Party leader Lester B. Pearson originally was against nuclear missiles, but reversed his personal position and argued in favour of accepting nuclear warheads.  He won the 1963 election, largely on the basis of this issue, and his new Liberal government proceeded to accept nuclear-armed Bomarcs, with the first being deployed on 31 December 1963.  When the nuclear warheads were deployed, Pearson's wife, Maryon, resigned her honorary membership in the anti-nuclear weapons group, Voice of Women.

Canadian operational deployment of the Bomarc involved the formation of two specialized Surface/Air Missile squadrons.  The first to begin operations was No. 446 SAM Squadron at RCAF Station North Bay, Ontario, which was the command and control center for both squadrons.  With construction of the compound and related facilities completed in 1961, the squadron received its Bomarcs in 1961, without nuclear warheads.  The squadron became fully operational from 31 December 1963, when the nuclear warheads arrived, until disbanding on 31 March 1972.  All the warheads were stored separately and under control of Detachment 1 of the USAF 425th Munitions Maintenance Squadron.  During operational service, the Bomarcs were maintained on stand-by, on a 24-hour basis, but were never fired, although the squadron test-fired the missiles at Eglin AFB, Florida on annual winter retreats.

No. 447 SAM Squadron operating out of RCAF Station La Macaza, Quebec, was activated on 15 September 1962 although warheads were not delivered until late 1963.  The squadron followed the same operational procedures as No. 446, its sister squadron.  With the passage of time the operational capability of the 1950s-era Bomarc system no longer met modern requirements; the Department of National Defence deemed that the Bomarc missile defense was no longer a viable system, and ordered both squadrons to be stood down in 1972.  The bunkers and ancillary facilities remain at both former sites.

Data from Buteux, Paul, "Bomarc Missile Crisis", The Canadian Encyclopedia. (Toronto: Historica Foundation, 2012), and Wikipedia.

 (DND Photo, PCN 3608)

Boeing CIM 10B Bomarc surface-to-air missile from No. 446 SAM Squadron.  The former launch site is located five nautical miles north of North Bay, Ontario, adjacent to Highway 11N.  It was a designated target by Soviet strategic rocket forces.  The squadron was stood down on 7 April 1972, and formally disbanded on 1 Sep 1972.   The 28 coffins are still as they were, minus the missiles.  Many are currently being used as storage facilities.

 (DND Photo)

Boeing CIM 10B Bomarc surface-to-air missile, mounted on a transporter.

 (USAF Photo)

USAF Boeing CIM 10B Bomarc launch.

 (RCAF Photo)

Boeing CIM 10B Bomarc surface-to-air missile from No. 446 SAM Squadron.

 (USAF Photo)

Boeing CIM 10B Bomarc surface-to-air missile on launch erector in North Bay, Ontario, 1965.

 (City of Vancouver Archives Photo, AM281-S8- CVA 180-5479)

Boeing CIM 10B Bomarc (Serial No. 4444), on display at the Pacific National Exhibition, Vancouver, BC, ca 1962.

 (City of Vancouver Archives Photo, AM281-S8- CVA 180-5480)

Boeing CIM 10B Bomarc (Serial No. 4444), on display at the Pacific National Exhibition, Vancouver, BC, ca 1962.

(City of Vancouver Archives Photo, AM281-S8- CVA 180-5472)

Boeing CIM 10B Bomarc on display at the Pacific National Exhibition, Vancouver, BC, ca 1962.

(City of Vancouver Archives Photo, AM281-S8- CVA 180-5472)

Boeing CIM 10B Bomarc on display at the Pacific National Exhibition, Vancouver, BC, ca 1962.

Boeing CIM 10B Bomarc, ready to launch.  ( Photo)

 (Author Photo)

Boeing CIM-10B  Bomarc, Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.

 (Sare M Photo)

Boeing CIM-10B  Bomarc, Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton, Albert.

The Bomarc was not the only missile tested in Canada, this is an MGM-18 Lacrosse Missile in Cold Weather Trials at Churchill, Manitoba. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4234659)

The MGM-18 Lacrosse was a short-ranged tactical ballistic weapon intended for close support of ground troops.  Its first flight test was in 1954 and was deployed by the US Army beginning in 1959, despite being still in the development stage.  The program's many technical hurdles proved too difficult to overcome and the missile was withdrawn from field service by 1964.