leitrim_badge.jpg CFS Leitrim, located just south of Ottawa, is Canada's oldest operational signal intelligence collection station. Established by the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals in 1941 as #1 Special Wireless Station and renamed Ottawa Wireless Station in 1949, CFS Leitrim acquired its current name when the Supplementary Radio System was created in 1966. In 1946, the station's complement was 75 personnel. By 2005, the station had grown to 450 military personnel and 28 civilian employees.

PACERM PETERE, the station's motto means Research For Peace.
Crest Significance: The flashes indicate the role of the unit, while the green belt refers to the location of the unit in the Ottawa green belt. The crest of the Arms of Gloucester bears a maple tree. The fact that Leitrim is in Gloucester Township is recognized by the maple leaf.


Leitrim's mission is to:

* Operate and maintain signals intelligence collection and geolocation facilities in support of the Canadian cryptologic program. interception, decrypting and processing of communications for the Communications Security Establishment
* Operate and maintain radio frequency direction finding facilities in support of search and rescue and other programs.
* Maintain an operationally ready Cryptologic Direct Support Element in support of military operations.
* Provide technical and logistic support to other units of the Canadian Forces Information Operations Group.

Leitrim  reportedly forms part of the world wide ECHELON system.


Leitrim's history and some operational information has been borrowed from Bill Robinson's web document on Leitrim.

"In June 1942 # 1 SPECIAL WIRELESS STATION  (SWS) moved from Rockcliffe, Ontario to Leitrim, with operations commencing in July. It was a two storey building surrounded by barbed wire. The top floor contained a hand speed (Morse code) room and a high speed (machine generated Morse) room combined with a compilation room. The lower floor contained the offices for the Commanding Officer and his Station Warrant Officer, a coffee room, tech shop and boiler room. The incinerator was located outside the building. The antenna farm consisted of two Rhombic antennae, a Cage antenna and a Screen antenna. Personnel who were involved in copying Morse signals could not use a typewriter. The noise made by the typewriters was too loud for the weak signals they were trying to copy.

In 1949, # 1 SWS became known as Ottawa Wireless Station (OWS) and remained known as such until integration of the Canadian Armed Forces on 11 July 1966. The name then changed to CFS Leitrim.

In 1946, the station's complement was 75 personnel. By 1959, it had grown to about 200, by 1966, it was about 250, and, by the mid-1970s, it was approximately 350. The complement at Leitrim in 1993, was reported to be 400, of whom 250 or more are members of the Communicator Research trade.

In 1987, the normal rank of Leitrim's commanding officer was upgraded from Major to Lieutenant Colonel. This upgrade is related to an increase in personnel at the station coinciding with the 1986 closure of Inuvik.

In July 1992, DND announced a $29 million expansion at the station including the Operations Building extension. These are related to the Supplementary Radio System project to convert Alert, Masset and Gander to remote operations.

Apparently, US Army and Navy SIGINT detachments existed at the station during the 1950s and possibly later. There is no evidence of an Army detachment currently at the station, but a detachment of approximately 25 US Navy SIGINT personnel continues to exist at Leitrim. In December 1999 COMNAVSURFPAC reported that "about 30" US Navy personnel were stationed at Leitrim".

The year 1998 saw the farewell of the organization known as the Canadian Forces Supplementary Radio System.  Its name was changed to the Canadian Forces Information Operations Group (CFIOG). To mark the changeover, an All Ranks Mess Dinner was held at the Combined Mess at CFS Leitrim on May 7, 1998.

The birthday of the Supplementary Radio System is officially recognized as May 8, 1938. On that date , the Minister of National Defence approved the establishement of a tri-service "Wireless Intelligence Service". This was the first step in the development of the the RCN,  Army and RCAF in Supplementary Radio Activities.
From 1938 to 1949, supplementary radio activities were the individual responsibility of the three elements - the RCN, RCAF and the Army.

On 19 July 1966, the Canadian Forces Supplementary Radio Systems (CFSRS) was created in preparation of the unification of the Canadian Forces.  Stations previously controlled independently by the three services (indicated in the parentheses) would now be directed by a Commander headquartered at HMCS GLOUCESTER.

George Fraser comments on the most import accomplishment of SRS.  "I would say the most significant contribution made by our SUPRAD/SRS intelligence gathering system was during the Cold War and specifically the Cuban Missile Crisis. When President Kennedy was able to confront Chairman Khrushchev and point out to him that 'we' are aware and have pinpointed the diesel driven subs that were on their way to the Cuban area and that 'we' had targetted all of the Soviet Nuclear subs sitting on the bottom off the North American Coast  from Newfoundland to Florida all of which would be destroyed if he (Khrushchev) didn't pull back his ships from breaking the U.S. Blockade. It was reported at the time that Khrushchev was visibly shaken with this news and immediately altered his stance with respect to delivering missiles to Cuba.

In addition, it is my opinion that our contributions were many and continuous over the period and contributed in no small measure to the fact that we were able to contain the Soviets through our intelligence gathering. For example, we knew their aircraft, armies and naval forces movements throughout the USSR as well as globally. This information provided the Americans with the ability to target their warheads from silos across the U.S. on specific targets. Hell....we could tell you how many truck loads of ore was being moved in Siberia on a daily basis. These communications were in plain  language as were most of the Soviet communications in the very extreme north even some military detachments. That is why we were so successful in capturing the movements of their fighters when they scrambled in response to U.S. overflights. The USSR radar units also communicated in plain language.

Our intelligence operators - Navy, Army, Air Force and civilian can take great pride in the job they did in stopping the Russian Bear in his tracks. Other areas in which our Intelligence excelled are too numerous to mention. One had only need visit GCHQ or NSA to realize how Canadians were held in very high esteem by these organizations"

What is not well documented is the role that civilians played at Leitrim. The following was provided by a person who served at both Leitrim and Ladner.

"When I joined Leitrim in 1959-60, it was manned mainly by civilians. The Commanding Officer  and Station Warrant Officer were both Army as well as a few other military staff.  There was no RCN or RCAF personnel present.  Each of the watches (shifts) were 99%  civilian (about 15 per shift). Some were hired and trained on site while many others were ex service personnel.

A civilian was in charge of operations along with his staff and day workers. The techs were also 99% civilian. Antenna  riggers were civilians as well. The pay and admin staff was also manned by civilians. Gradually, the military moved in preempting and easing out further civilian hiring. Civilians were encouraged to volunteer at Alert. Some did, most did not. They wanted the same pay as Dew Line operators.

Ladner was in approximately the same situation/ Although more military served there, it was a 60-40 split in favour of civilian operators".

Leitrim in 1954. Download photo to enlarge. (Photo credit unknown) 

1954: Radio equipment for use on HYDRA circuits. (Photo credit unknown)
1954: Equipment racks on just one side of the Operations Room. (Photo credit unknown)

SRS from 1948 to 1956
SRS in 1976
CFIOG in 2006
(All grahics courtesy Department National Defence)

With the establishment of the Directorate of Supplementary Radio Activities in September 1949, the following officers served as Director Commander.

October 1949 - July 1952 Cdr. S.B. Shore 
August 1951 -  July 1955  Cdr. J.S. Hall
July 1955 - August 1961 Cdr. D.S.K. Blackmore
January 1961 - June 1970 Cdr. A. P. Johnsone
June 1970 -  June 1973 L.Col. W.R. Allen
June 1973 - July 1975  Col. T.J. Reader
July 1975 - August 1977 Col. D.A. Kidd
August 1977 - August 1980 Col. P.E. Morneault
August 1980 - July 1982 Col K.J. Perry
July 1982 - July 1985  Col. J.C. Heenan 
July 1985  - June 1989 Col. N.W. VanLoan
June 1989 - April 1993 Capt.(N) J.E. Croft 
April 1993 - July 1995  Col. P.A. Tappin
July 1995 - May 1998 Col. J.A. Stevens
1998 to 2001 R. Alward (as CFIOG)
2001 to 2003 R. Leitch (as CFIOG)
2003 to 2005  D. Nesmith (as CFIOG)
2005 -  J. Turnbull (as CFIOG)
Above and Below: A style of desk used in SRS stations circa 1950's. Confirmation has been received that this style of desk was used at Ladner, (Leitrim and Alert by default) , Churchill and Coverdale. The metal edging is original and was on all of them. Two SP 600's receivers sat side-by-side facing the operator while the typewriter sat on a  sliding shelf. It is believed that the left cutout was for for two, split  earphone jacks; the centre for a toggle switch; rightmost was a drawer for pencils.  To those operators of the WWII era who were accustomed to tables, desks such as this would have been considered a luxury.   (Photos courtesy Terry Whalley)
Decades ago, anything used at Leitrim was also used at Ladner and Alert  right down to the desks, chairs, the typewriters and the alzlyzing and processing equipment. Aklavik’s Ops room was too small for this type of desk, so smaller tables were used. Inuvik, which commenced operations in March 1961 used the purpose-built metal consoles.

From aerial views of the base, the only major component which can easily be identified is the antenna of the Pusher system. This is believed to be the AN/FRD-13 which is a primarily a British system.Unlike its big brother, the AN/FRD-10, the Pusher has no operations building in the center of the array. Instead, there is a small shelter which houses the goniometer and support electronics. Generally a Pusher covers the range of 1.5 to 30 MHz. It has two concentric rings of 24 antennas each  and sometimes doubled up to 48 each. The outer ring is 150 metres in diameter while the inner ring is 50 metres in diameter or thereabouts. There is no vertical screen between the rings.

Many different functions are performed at Leitrim. The Operations area is manned on a 7 x 24 hour basis so the bulk of the station's personnel are shift keepers.

Maintenance of the High Arctic Data Communications System (HADCS II), the link between Ottawa and Alert, is conducted from Leitrim. The station processes some intercepts received from Alert through the HADCS. It also performs Signal Development (SIG DEV) work and provides engineering, technical, and special logistics support to the other stations of the CFIOG. CFS Masset and CFS Gander are remotely controlled from this site.

A new Internet section was created at the station for the express purpose of monitoring the Internet to detect terrorists and hackers that are planning attacks on civilian or military targets or to disrupt and close down government Internet web sites.

CFS Leitrim is composed of the following units:

76 Communication Group (76 Comm Gp)
The mission of 76 Communication Group is to provide IT support to National Defence Headquarter Group Principals, Environmental Chiefs, their staffs, and controlled units.

Canadian Forces Crypto Maintenance Unit (CFCMU)
The mission of the CFCMU today is to maintain and repair cryptographic equipment, to perform acceptance testing on new cryptographic equipment being brought into service, and to install strategic secure information distribution systems (so-called "Red Distribution Systems") for the Canadian Forces (CF) and other government departments. It is also to test, and to do limited repair and modification, of fixed and mobile secure enclosures shielded against electromagnetic emanations.

Canadian Forces Crypto Support Unit (CFCSU)
The mission of CFCSU is to provide communication security material accountability, courier services, account inspections, third-level communications security material support and management services, custodian training and publish CF communications security publications and generation and distribution of electronic keying material for CF cryptographic equipment.

Canadian Forces Data Centre (CFDC)
The mission of CFDC is to provide reliable and timely data processing services to the CF. It is also to ensure backup recovery services for all of its users in the event of an operational overload or an emergency.

Canadian Forces Electronic Warfare Center (CFEWC)
CFEWC is mandated with the development of the CF Electronic Warfare Database (CFEWDB). This relational database contains information on a variety of related subjects including emitter parametrics and platform and weapon fitments. It is designed for use by the CF community at large as a single-source reference on EW-related matters. Its development continues with the intention of adding electro-optical and infrared signatures in the near future.

The station is located at 3545 Leitrim Road in Gloucester, Ontario. Its military routing indicator for both secure and non-secure traffic is RCCLEMA

Ed Sieb, VA3ES, has a Leitrim story to pass on. "Around 1992, while monitoring the 10 metre band, I noticed some interesting and odd signals about 29.454 MHz.   They sounded like some type of net call-up, in Russian.   Having  served in the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals myself, I instantly realized what I was listening to. Indeed it was a net call-up.  I grabbed a tape recorder and started to record the signals. At the same time, I called up Leitrim Station and spoke to the Duty Officer, a Corporal.  I gave all the information I had, the frequency, mode, etc.  He took it all down, thanked me and hung up.

About an hour later, in an effort to determine if indeed Leitrim had intercepted these sigs,  I called back and spoke to the same Corporal.  He refused to even acknowledge that they had  heard anything, which made sense, since any intercepts are considered SECRET and not to be discussed with any third party, i.e. me!  Fair enough.

About six months later, I met another ham, who by chance, worked at Leitrim. I mentioned the incident to him.   He acknowledged that indeed he knew all about it, and could now  reveal that my own interception of the
Russians was quite useful to them.  This was during the invasion of the Baltics, just prior to the collapse of the Soviet system".


October 1, 1966 saw the creation of the  Military Occupation (MOC) 291 (Communicator Research Operator)
and the Radio Telegraphic Operators (R&TG) of the Royal Canadian Signal Corps and the Royal Canadian Air Force Communications (Comm Op). Now, the Comm Research occupation is not only involved with SIGINT operations but with EW and Network Operations as well.

At one time, the Department of National Defence had a document posted on the web called the "MOS Review Report, dated March 25, 1997". It was a snapshot in time that was taken in the midst of the of the Alert/Gander/ Masset remoting project. Eventually this document was taken down because it was outdated, however it does provide a glimpse into the 291 Communications Research Trade up to the mid-1990 's period. Excerpts from this document, preserved and provided by Bill Robinson, are listed below.



1. Communicator Research operators/analysts are employed in support of Canadian/Allied intelligence efforts, electronic warfare, and High Frequency Direction Finding (HFDF).  They use a broad range of sophisticated electronic equipment to intercept and study foreign communications and electronic transmissions.

2. The current A-PD-055-002/PP002 (last update 91-06-28) Canadian Forces Manual of Military Occupation Structure (CFMMOS) does not accurately depict 1997 Communicator Research operations; work on updating this document will be initiated after the CFSRS remoting and other related projects are completed. General Communicator Research functions listed in A-PD-055 CFMMOS include:

 a.  collection, processing, reporting and distribution of  selected signals throughout the radio frequency spectrum;

 b.  receiving Morse and non-Morse transmissions;

 c.  operating receivers, demodulators, recorders and other computerized communications systems;

 d.  participating in the National and Allied Search and Rescue program;

 e.  maintaining approved standards of physical and communications security; and

 f.  performing authorized operator equipment inspections and initiating action for equipment repair.

3. Communicator Research specialties include:

 a.  Signals Development Operations;

 b.  Netted HFDF Operations;

 c.  Wideband Acquisition Operations;

 d.  Linguist Operations;

 e.  CENTERVELIC Operations;

 f.  Electronic Warfare Land Operations;

 g.  Cryptologic Direct Support Element Operations;

 h.  Communications Satellite Operations; and

 i.  Communications Centre Operations.


Positions used in this report are based on the DEPR Automated Establishment Report (AER) and REMAR for Comm Rsch 291 dated 31 Oct 1996. Because of the continuous personnel requirement changes being brought about by the reorganization of the Canadian Forces Information Management (IM)/Information Warfare (IW) Directorate, and the remoting of Canadian Forces Supplementary Radio Systems (CFSRS) operations from CFS Alert, 770 Comm Rsch Sqn Gander and CFS Masset to CFS Leitrim, this is not an accurate depiction of the Communicator Research occupation requirements for 1997/98.

NOTE: Current estimated PML for Comm Rsch 291 personnel Forces wide in 1997 is 668 with 570 employed
 directly in CFSRS. There is a forecasted (but not  yet approved) increase in Support to Military Operations (SMO) positions.  This will involve ECP action on current billets but will not change the overall PML.


Although there are no hard Comm Rsch billets assigned to first or second line units, there are personnel employed in MARCOM in new positions aboard HMCS Athabaskan (280 Class); unfortunately, these positions are staffed with military manning overhead (MMO) personnel because of the MARCOM personnel freeze. Even though a specialized equipment suite has been built into the ships operations which must be manned by Comm Rsch, the occupation does not get credit for staffing them.  In further support to MARCOM, personnel employed on permanent Cryptologic Direct Support Element (CDSE) teams both at Halifax and Esquimalt are identified under CFS Leitrim's REMAR not MARCOM; currently at 29 positions, there has been strong interest in having the CDSE compliment increased to 40 positions.  There is also a request, being staffed at the Comd SRS level at present, to provide another 10 positions to MARLANTHQ in APS 97.  The issue of MARCOM providing establishment positions for these personnel will have to be addressed.


There are 53 personnel serving in National Asset Units: 51 in 1 CDHSR, 2EW Sqn; and two in the Res EW Sqn Kingston (subordinate to CFSRSHQ). To ensure the guaranteeing factor criteria is met, an additional 18 trained personnel must be available to support the National Assets should deployment be required.  After APS 97, the majority of Comm Rsch personnel will be employed within ADM(DIS) units; guaranteeing factor numbers should be distributed equitably throughout ADM(DIS) to ensure minimum disruption to intelligence operations.

Difficulties are foreseen in providing the National Asset guaranteeing factor.  Land EW operations/skill sets are unique to personnel serving in LFC and the Res EW Sqn.  Personnel outside of these units do not have the expertise to act as emergency replacements for EW operations.  Finding ways to keep replacement personnel current on the land EW operational positions is extremely difficult.

Realistically, it is impossible to tie the guaranteeing factor numbers to individual billets located outside of the National Asset units because, in all likelihood, the person serving in the billet flagged would not have the experience or skill sets required.  To alleviate or minimize the problem, sufficient personnel should be rotated through the LFC EW environment each APS to ensure trained EW Specialist's are available for deployment sustainment.  Consideration should also be given to granting high level, Special Access (SA) security clearances to reserve personnel in the Kingston Res EW Sqn to train as guaranteeing factor replacements.

Minimum operational requirement (MOR) for national assets Number of positions in national asset units is 71 positions. Currently there are 53 staffed leaving a shortfall of 18 positions.


The process of achieving the Minimum Operational Requirement (MOR) to support Contingency Operations is through a comparison by rank of all positions required in either the Contingency Force or Vanguard elements and selecting the higher of the two figures.  The total number of Comm Rsch 291 required for the main contingency force is 71.  This is sufficient to sustain the Vanguard total of 69.


There are major problems and unique factors to consider when trying to determine if a Communicator Research position should be military or not.  The skill sets required for the Comm Rsch occupation, for the most part, have no established equivalent or employment stream in the public sector.  There is no curriculum available through university or community college which would prepare a person for a career as a signals intelligence (SIGINT) operator.  Portions of comparable skill sets which are used by other government departments such as the Canadian Coast Guard and Industry Canada's Spectrum Services are developed in-house and on a much reduced scale; the civilian counterparts have significantly different applications than those required by the DND intelligence community.  Foreign country communications protocols/procedures, modulation techniques, radio frequency propagation, and Morse code at speeds in excess of 30 WPM [1] are but a few of the unique trade requirements.

Every year CFSRSHQ surveys all Commands to determine forecasted Support to Military Operations (SMO) linguistic support requirements.  Comm Rsch training for and provide linguistic support for SMO deployments.  Languages currently available are Arabic (Farsi/Iraqi/Saudi), Czech, Creole, German, Korean, Russian, Serbo-Croat, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese (Mandarin). Also available are native speakers in Japanese, Dutch, Icelandic,  Hungarian, and Greek.  Language courses range in length from approximately 6 months in the Spanish-to-Portuguese conversion to 2 years in the case of Korean and Mandarin.  Multi-lingual individuals are not uncommon with some able to work in up to 5 languages.

No formal manpower credit is given to the Comm Rsch occupation for maintaining a linguist cadre.  There is a large number of linguists (eg: 140+ Russian) who, in most cases are not always employed using their specialty, nonetheless, they are still expected to maintain competency by training on their own time or through language maintenance programs at their home unit. Language requirements cannot be tied to specific billets because there is no way to determine the target language of the day.  The specialist resource pool is used as required, frequently deploying on short notice.


A total of 241 (31.4%) positions were identified as non-core military non-essential (MNE) positions.  While these positions could be considered to have potential for ASD, the tremendous changes ongoing in the MOC as a result of downsizing/remoting indicate that we should wait until these projects are finalized prior to initiating ASD studies.  Additionally, the finalization of the establishment positions required by MARCOM will have an impact on the number of positions suitable for ASD consideration.

Positions identified as MNE in this report may actually be staffed by linguists or other OSQ personnel who do not need their specialties in the day-to-day operations of their present job, but must still be gainfully employed until required.

One significant factor that future ASD studies must consider if recommending civilian replacements for current military staff is the Comm Rsch occupation had a civilian job classification counterpart until the 1980's when it was phased out. This was done in order to simplify management of personnel resources, avoid awkward staffing constraints such as closed competitions due to security clearances, and to avoid a classification with a severely restricted career path.


The current MOC structure does not reflect the final end-state for the Comm Rsch trade.  This will not be available until the SRS projects are finalized and the MARCOM and other establishment position requirements are addressed.


The remoting of CFSRS operations from isolated locations to CFS Leitrim has had a most significant impact on the training requirements of the occupation; a totally different operational environment now exists.  Because of the cost of the new equipment, CFSCE was not nor will be fully equipped to train Comm Rsch operators in actual field conditions.

IAW Comd SRS Training Directive 1/95, a Training Study Committee comprised of Comm Rsch subject matter experts (SME) and CFSCE instructional and standards staff was formed in November 1995 to determine post-remoting requirements.  The final report was presented in May 1996 and approved in principle for planning purposes in June 1996.   A training implementation team was staffed in September 1996 and is actively developing courses and modifying existing material to reflect new field requirements; to ensure CFRETS standards are maintained, CFSCE E Sqn training staff and the CFSCE HQ senior standards advisor (SSA) Comm Rsch continue to be involved in course development.

Because of the lack of equipment at CFSCE E Sqn, the training study committee recommended that all Comm Rsch specialty training be conducted at CFS Leitrim; QL training should remain at CFSCE.  If/when training responsibility is transferred to CFS Leitrim Trg Dept., personnel identified on CFSCE REMAR as specialist instructors should be reallocated to CFS Leitrim.


* The ASD process for Comm Rsch MOC 291 should be delayed until the downsizing/remoting activities are complete and the occupation is fairly stable.  By this time there should be accurate job descriptions for major task areas and a clearer picture of what future Canadian intelligence requirements will be.

* Staff ECP's to harden Comm Rsch CDSE positions in MARCOM.

*Rotate sufficient personnel through National Asset units to ensure a pool of trained EW specialist are available to support Core requirement guaranteeing factor.

* Grant SA Security clearances to reservists to who can be trained to meet the Reg Force EW Standard.  This would form the guaranteeing factor personnel base.

* Identify sufficient non-Core MNE positions as MER Linguist (various languages) billets for support to military operations.  These billets would form the nucleus of the SMO linguist cadre.

* Every effort should be made to ensure the final Comm Rsch 291 PML rank to rank ratio provides all personnel with reasonable opportunity/expectations for promotions throughout their career.

* When specialist training is removed from CFSCE E Sqn curriculum, transfer instructor billets from CFSCE to CFS Leitrim Training Dept.

* Update A-PD-055-002/PP-002 Canadian Forces Manual of Military Occupational Structure as soon as accurate trade description is available.

291 Operator at Work (#1) This 291 operator is monitoring equipment  associated with the HADACS satellite link which connects Ottawa to the Skull Point earth station on Ellesmere Island.  (Photo# REC90 1293 courtesy DND, Canadian Forces Joint Imagery Centre provided via Robert  Langille)
291 Operator at Work (#2). From top to bottom , the operator is using 1) Tektronix , 100 MHz Digital oscilloscope,  Model 2230. 2) H-P Model 8903B Audio Analyzer. 3) H-P Unknown.  4) Racal 6778C receiver. Can anyone confirm if such a configuration actually existed in the Supplementary Radio System and what was its purpose?  (Photo# REC90 1294 courtesy DND, Canadian Forces Joint Imagery Centre provided via by Robert  Langille)
/leitrim_ Sig Dev Training Bay.jpg
SIG DEV training bay - 1980s. Click on image to enlarge.  (DND photo) 

Chris Collin, a former 291 operator, offers some insight about equipment used by the 291 trade. "As of result of prevailing security, most kit was destroyed after it became obsolete. As the trade moved from operator/maintainers, to just operators, our connection with the equipment became somewhat distant in certain respects.  We had techs to take care of equipment problems but they rotated in and out of the Supplementary Radio System.  At times they did not always have the intimacy with the equipment that one might expect.   As a SigDev'er, we were certainly close to our equipment, but once,  and on a very dull mid-watch, I  counted 150 different pieces of gear in the racks which I used  while executing my duties.  That was a lot to keep track of, especially when equipment was superseded by something of the same functionality but bearing a new model number"

Chris goes on to comment about the 291'ers workplace. "Whenever an uncleared visitor entered a secure area,  it took a lot of work to render the area "safe". We always made sure there was no "sensitive" paperwork or manuals left in easy view. If there was any photography, it really took a lot of preparation since we basically had to hide many items out of view of the camera. Luckily  photography of a secure area was an infrequent event! "

MOC 294 was the technical side (more or less) of the 291 trade.  294er's were ex 291er's and had the necessary security clearance required to work in a SIGINT environment. Their job was to maintain the electronics in support of the SIGINT function.

The Canadian Forces no longer has Military Occupation Codes (MOC) therefore MOC 291 no longer exists.  MOC's have been replaced with Military Occupational Structure Identification Codes (MOSID). They are five digit codes, and 291ers have been classified under MOSID 00120.


Michael Pierce, a Master Warrant Officer in 2012, joined the Canadian Forces in 1982 and trained as a technician. He provides a brief history of the Radio Technician trade.

As a result of the Unification of the Canadian Forces  in 1968, all CF personnel wore the same green uniform.
Recruit Training (Boot Camp) was done in Cornwallis, NS. Performance Orientated Electronics Training was completed at The CF School of Communications and Electronics (CFSCE) in Kingston.

From here, the training split into multiple directions. On the dedicated Air side were the:

IE Instrument Electrical (551) tech
IS Integral Systems (521) tech
CS Communication Systems tech
RS Radar Systems tech

These trades worked exclusively on aircraft and they received their specialized training at CFB Borden.

On the ground side we had:

Radio Techs (221) maintained communications equipment.
Radar Techs (231) maintained radar equipment.
Terminal Equipment Techs (222) maintained terminal equipment ie telephone systems.
Teletype Techs (223) Maintained teletype equipment.

The Rad Techs were Jack-of-all-trades.  On the big air bases, the Rad Techs maintained communications equipment used by Air traffic control, mobile support equipment, etc. We also maintained TVs, VCRs, etc and eventually all IT/ADP as well.

Comm Tech (224) (any of the above 200 series trades when they reach the rank of Warrant Officer)

These trades worked on everything except aircraft. The Navy had similar trades, and I am not aware if any of the above techs ever being aboard ships. In the late 80s, the individual elements were once again recognized (Air, Land, Sea) and with the change back to Distinctive Environmental Uniforms for the Air Force, Army and Navy (blue, green/tan, white/black).

In the late 1990s, new trade names were assigned.

All the 200 series that worked for the Air Force became ATIS (226) Techs with blue uniforms.
All the 200 series that worked for the Army became LCIS (227) Techs with green uniforms..
There was a third trade, SIS (225) that maintained "special" equipment that fell between the blue and green trades. Incidentally, this trade concentrated on specialized equipment like that found in Alert.  This trade was dropped shortly after, and the 226/227 trades picked up the slack.

I was in Alert in 1994.  Officially, I was a Radio tech, wearing a blue uniform".


CFS Leitrim personnel perform the mission fully within the laws of Canada. An NDHQ Instruction DCDS 2/98 Guidance for the Conduct of Domestic Operations dated 10 July 1998 provides strict operational guidelines. This guidance applies to all military operations including the conduct of CFS Leitrim's operational mission.

Paragraph 75 of the Guidance states in part that "CF personnel shall not gather intelligence on Canadian citizens, including any exploitation of the electro-magnetic spectrum aimed at fulfilling intelligence requirements, without a specific legal mandate and directions issued by the Chief of Defence Staff." Paragraph 81 states in part that " the CF shall not produce domestic intelligence nor maintain domestic operations intelligence data bases without a specific legal mandate, based on a request for assistance which has been approved by the CDS." " The CF must not break the letter or the spirit the law." CFS Leitrim conducts their operational mission in compliance with Canadian law and at all times respects the privacy of Canadians.

SRS from 1948 to 1956
SRS in 1976
CFIOG in 2006
(All grahics courtesy Department National Defence)


As a result of the "remoting"  of stations of Alert, Massett and Gander, Communications Research operators may never see another posting other than Leitrim.


2011 saw the introduction of two new courses at the Canadian Forces School of Electronics (CFSCE) 2 Squadron Foxtrot Troop (2 Sqn F-Tp). These were Advanced Signals Analysis (ASA) and Morse Code Training.  MCpl Jason C. Doucette expands on this:

"Up until the middle of the last decade, signals analysis played an integral role in Comm Rsch operations. Analysts specifically trained to collect, analyse, and identify emissions in the radio frequency (RF) spectrum were employed wherever Comm Rsch positions were required. The majority located with the Signals Development (SigDev) Department at CFS Leitrim. The noted specialty of a Comm Rsch SigDev analyst was to utilize specialized collection and analysis techniques to identify signals in the RF spectrum that would otherwise have gone undetected. Over the years, SigDev analysts posted in four primary locations (CFS Leitrim, CFS Gander, CFS Alert and CFS Masset) have successfully identified new signals of interest, reinforcing the importance of the Canadian SIGINT contribution in the 5-EYES community.

Comm Rsch SigDev analysts received their training at CFSCE 2 Sqn F-Tp through a four month Signals Analysis course. This course provided an excellent foundation of signal analysis theory and techniques, but for the most part was limited to the study of technologies found in the high frequency (HF) band. Over time, the rapid technological advancement coupled with the increasing complexity of standard international communications, necessitated an update to the SigDev academic curriculum. The new Advanced Signals Analysis training plan was the result and put into effect in January 2011. The inaugural Comm Rsch ASA course serial 0001 - an 86 training day specialty course providing students with increased academic and practical study in communication technologies found across an RF range more than purely HF. Such technologies include microwave, satellite, advanced modem and voice communications.

The recent increase in deployed operations since the events of September 2001 has demanded a more tactical and agile approach to SIGINT collection and analysis. This is a fundamental change, especially in contrast to the earlier doctrine of a more strategic and fixed collection approach. These developments identified to the Comm Rsch community the need for a re-freshed Advanced Signals Analyst course in order to ensure that the seasoned operators were as knowledgeable on the entire target set as practicable and were updated on the analysis processes and IT suites in their charge.

As a result, the new ASA teaching plan includes a practical phase where students are expected to construct, configure, and maintain a signal collection and analysis suite similar to that encountered on deployed operations - be it land, sea, or air.

In May 2011, the Comm Rsch trade welcomed the newly graduated Advanced Signals Analysts back into the fold. With their expanded signal collection and analysis knowledge base, Advanced Signals Analysts look forward to repeating the analytical performance and efficiency established by the SigDev Departments of the past. With pride and with the expectation of the trade group and the CF on their shoulders, they will search in order to identify signals of interest.

As the ASA course focus is directed towards the adaptation of signal analysis techniques found in newer technologies, the role of Morse code as an emerging player in the communications world is again capturing the imagination of the Comm Rsch trade. Once considered moribund in the communication world, Morse code appears to be staging its comeback. An example of this lies in Toshiba's 2008 development of a handheld, thumb-operated communications device named "Clique", which uses only three keys to produce Morse code for sending text messages - a method rapidly increasing in popularity in Asia.

With evidence of such devices, it is not a surprise that the age-old technology has found its way back onto the Comm Rsch radar. Trade advisors and senior personnel have recognized Morse Code's re-emergence and quickly approved the re-establishment and maintenance of its training. The result is an updated Morse Code training program that is now available to Comm Rsch personnel awaiting Phase II training. As with the new ASA course, the initial iteration of this full-time five and a half month Morse Course (Serial 0001) commenced in January of 2011".

Master Seaman Cindy Draper monitors Pte Heffernan's progress during the inaugural session of the new Communicator Research Morse code training course - one of two new courses offered at CFSCE's 2 Squadron Foxtrot Troop. (DND photo)
Candidates on the Morse Code course experience a hybrid form of training, beginning with older Morse character memorization techniques such as flashcards to establish strict character recognition. From there students apply their new recognition skills against modern Morse training software, progressing on a word per minute scale until each student has attained a minimum copying speed of 22 words per minute. With the prospect of two course serials per year each with a load of 24 students, the Comm Rsch trade is ensuring that they will have the personnel to tackle any Morse code tasking in the future."

CFS Leitrim received a Unit Commendation in May 2011 for its support of operations in Afghanistan. Here, it provided crucial signals intelligence to deployed assets between 2003 and 2011. During this period, Canada fulfilled both an integral peacekeeping and combat role in order to secure Afghanistan. Op ATHENA has become one of the Canadian Forces’ longest running missions, and Leitrim  dedicated considerable resources to ensure the safety of our Canadian soldiers and those of other nations. The overall impact of the unit’s efforts was a reduction in the threats to deployed assets, improved security to Canada and coalition lives saved. The CDS emphasized that the members of CFS Leitrim “performed their duties with the utmost professionalism and dedication.”

1 October 2011 marked the official stand-up of the new Army Communication and Information Systems Specialist (ACISS) which is the new Signals Military Employment Structure which regroup the former Lineman (Lmn); Signal Operator (Sig Op); and Land Communications & Information Systems Technician (LCIS Tech) occupations.

This aerial view , altitude 3,000 feet, shows the main buildings, the radomes and in the upper center, the Pusher antenna. The Pusher system is designed for the interception, monitoring, direction-finding and analysis of radio signals in the HF band from 1.5 to 30 MHz. (Image  courtesy Google Maps).
To enhance security, Leitrim road, which passed directly in front of the station, was diverted roughly 200m to the south of the station in 2013. (Google Maps image) 
A copy of an 11 page report titled "Canadian SIGINT Contributions to the UKUSA Partnership" (02 Aug 2007) by Coridon Henshaw is available here.
Old Antennas
Current Antennas


[1] The Morse code requirement dropped from 30 to 16 WPM (according to the 2003 Comm Research Operator recruitment brochure), then  down to 10 wpm and finally dropped altogether. As of January 2011, Morse code training has resumed to a copying speed of 22 wpm.


1) Did Leitrim ever use the call sign VDC?
2) Does anyone have more information or photos about Leitrim's early history?

Please contact: jerry.proc@sympatico.ca


1) Bill Robinson's Leitrim page.  http://web.archive.org/web/20040408170306/watserv1.uwaterloo.ca/%7Ebrobinso/leitrim.html
2) History of Canadian Signals Intelligence by Lynn Wortman and George Fraser
3) Letrinm general information -janzl52 [janzl52@yahoo.co.uk]
4) Leitrim "units" information -    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CFS_Leitrim
5) Leitrim "location" info via Canex routing guide -   http://www.cfpsa.com/en/canex/downloads/rtgguide02.pdf
6) Military Routing Code -  DND Routing Indicators page. http://www.milspec.ca/others/cdnrtg.html
7) Pusher Information: http://virtualglobetrotting.com/map/19064/
8) " SRS Farewell -  All Ranks Mess Dinner Program May 7, 1998" provided by Terry Whalley <terry.whalley(at)sympatico.ca
9) Ed Sieb, VA3ES
10) Leitrim Badge submitted by Lynn Wortman  <lynn.wortman(at)rogers.com>
11) MOS REVIEW REPORT.  Annex G 1150-1 (MOS Rev) 25 March 1997. Provided by Bill Robinson
     < BillRobinsonCanada(at)yahoo.ca)
12) Robert Langille C.D., President EWCS (Electronic Warfare Consulting Services)  <ewcs(at)ewcs.ca>
13) Chris Collin <collin(at)mondenet.com>
14) Merek Steele <mereksteele(at)hotmail.com>
15) Terry Whalley <terry.whalley(at)sympatico.ca>
16) Jim Troyanek < intarsia(at)shaw.ca>
17)  Ray White <legerwhite(at)rogers.com>
18) George Fraser <caperfca(at)sympatico.ca>
19) http://virtualglobetrotting.com/category/buildings/military-communications/
20) Canadian SIGINT Contributions to the UKUSA Partnership   http://www.talisiorder.ca/essays/CanadaSIGINT.pdf
21)  New Courses http://www.commelec.forces.gc.ca/inf/new-bul/vol55/article-31-eng.asp
22) Eric Earl <eearle52(at)comcast.net>
23) Michael.Pierce  <Michael.Pierce2(at)forces.gc.ca>
24) Lietrim 1954 photo  janzl52 <janzl52(at)yahoo.co.uk>

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Sept 23/21