CFB Cold Lake is one of the main air bases of the Royal Canadian Air Force. It not only hosts Canada’s tactical fighter training, but also deploys and supports fighter aircraft to fulfill the domestic and international roles of Canada's air force.
Based here is 4 Wing which has two operational CF-18 squadrons and two training squadrons, including Phase IV of NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC), and numerous premier support units, making 4 Wing Canada’s largest and busiest wing. As such, 4 Wing has some unique amenities in the world, including an almost unrestricted 1.17 million hectare air weapons range equipped with state-of-the-art threats and targets. Because Cold Lake is situated in almost the middle of nowhere, it is attractive to host larger training programs for NATO squadrons such as the annual Maple Flag Exercise, which draws international participation.
Cold Lake is a combined military and civil airfield and offers good viewing spots for both likings.
The air base can be reached easily by car. From the city of Edmonton, take the highway 28/28A north, which leads to Cold Lake. It is a long quite boring road to drive, and it will take you about 3 hours before you reach Cold Lake village. Upon entering Cold Lake village just follow the road until you see the signs 4 Wing Cold Lake. Follow the signs and you will get towards the base. At the end of the road, you arrive near the first spotting place at runway 22.
Around the Airport
This place is the best when runway 04/22 is in use. You can position yourself here just left of the centreline and aircraft are not too high here. Even when runway 13/31 is active you will still see flying activity on this runway. From this spot you also have a good view on the main ramp. You can read off serials of aircraft parked on the main ramp in front of hanger 4 of 409 sqn but you need strong binoculars.
To get here go left at spot 1, drive on and take the first exit to the right, jst before the restricted area gate. Here you are at the Medley ramp. All cargo aircraft are parked here and small civilian aircraft. From this point you have clear view on the main ramp. You can also read off 409 and 410 sqn CF-188’s parked outside. Here you are basically at the opposite of the holding point of runway 22.
3Public Viewing Area
Cold Lake has an open base policy. That means that everyone can drive onto the base's recreation area. Just drive through the main gate, and follow the road. Keep on straight ahead until you exit the base again using the gate at the back. Follow the road again until you see a big parking lot on your left side. Here you are half way of the runway 13L. Shots can be taken at the taxitrack, although a massive fence hinders your view. Being too high for an average stepladder, your only option is to photograph through the fence. Moreover, a maximum of 300mm is allowed here and enforced by the MP.
One spot to take pictures is the public viewing area, marked on the map as spot3. (Stefan Goossens)
Also seen at spot 3: A French C-135FR coming in for landing at runway 31. (Christian Schrik)
|275.8||Ground / Maple Flag Clearance Delivery|
|255.7||Tower outer (13R, 31L)|
|226.5||Tower inner (13L,31R)|
|322.8||Cold Lake terminal/departure|
|336.0 / 350.5||PAR|
|AETE||CT-114, CH-146, CF-188, CF-188B|