Canadian Forces Station Masset

CFS Masset, located on the north coast of Graham Island in British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands, is the "most westerly" Canadian Forces station in Canada.[1]

Operated briefly as an RCN radio intercept site during the Second World War (1944-1945), Masset was reopened in 1949 as an RCN HF-DF station, with a complement of about 35 military personnel.[2]

In 1970, the station was substantially enlarged and upgraded, and, in 1971, SIGINT operations at the former RCCS station at Ladner, B.C. were transferred to Masset. As a result of this upgrade, the station's complement was increased to about 240 military personnel and 60 civilians in support services. It remains about the same size today.[3]

As of 1978, approximately 137 of the personnel at the station were members of the Communicator Research trade. In addition, a USN Naval Security Group (NSG) detachment of about ten personnel is permanently posted at Masset as part of the CF/USN Personnel Exchange Program.[4]

In February 1994, it was announced that Masset will be converted to remote operations by 1997-98. The station will remain in service, but the number of personnel at the site will be reduced by about 90%.[5]

Equipment and capabilities

Officially, Masset's SIGINT role is described as follows: "a/ Participation in the Canada/United States HF DF search and rescue net; b/ Provision of support in the collection of data for research into basic problems of ship/shore and shore/ship communications; c/ Provision of HF DF assistance to search and rescue operations".[6]

In fact, Masset is a part of the NSG's worldwide CLASSIC BULLSEYE HF-DF network. In addition, the station is "believed to listen to the Soviet naval base at Petropavlovsk and to the Vladivostok headquarters of the giant Soviet Pacific ship and submarine fleet. It also has special antennae to listen to Russian fishing and spy trawlers..."[7] In 1971, Masset replaced Ladner, a former RCCS intercept station located south of Vancouver.[8] Ladner's SIGINT missions probably included the interception of trans-Pacific diplomatic, military, or commercial radio traffic; Masset may have taken on some of these missions as well.[9]

AN/FRD-10 Antenna Array

Like most stations in the BULLSEYE net, Masset operates the giant AN/FRD-10 circularly-disposed antenna array, with a "nominal range" of 3200 nautical miles.[10] (One other Canadian unit, the 770 Communications Research Squadron at CFB Gander, Newfoundland operates an FRD-10.) In the centre of the array is a two-storey operations building, about 40 metres square, where the station's intercept operators work. Surrounding this building are two rings of HF antennae, one for shorter HF wavelengths and one for longer HF wavelengths, each containing 120 monopoles. The shorter wavelength ring is about 260 metres in diameter and the longer wavelength ring is about 230 metres in diameter. Inside each ring is a large wire screen, supported by 80 towers, designed to prevent HF signals from crossing the array and interfering with its operations. The inner screen, corresponding to the longer HF wavelengths, is roughly 36 metres high. A horizontal ground screen about 390 metres in diameter surrounds the entire site.[11] Overall, these enormous arrays look something like giant cages; for this reason, they have sometimes been dubbed "elephant cages."

The operations building and FRD-10 array at Masset were constructed in 1970, at a cost of $11 million, as part of the station's upgrade following the creation of the SRS. A $920,000 contract for the modernization of the operations building was awarded in 1991-92.[12]


[1] "Information about your posting," CFS Masset introductory booklet, National Defence, ca. 1988, released under Access to Information Act.

[2] "Canadian Forces Station Masset," National Defence, no date, pp. 1-2, Canadian Forces Communications and Electronics Museum collection.

[3] Maj K.G. Roberts, "CFS Masset: an old installation takes on new stature," Sentinel, January 1970, p. 14; "Information about your posting," p. 1; "Canadian Forces Station Masset, B.C.," Backgrounder, National Defence, February 1994.

[4] "Communicator Research (291)," INTERCOM: Training and Information Magazine for the Canadian Forces Communication Command, Vol. 14, Issue 2, Special Edition, April 1978, p. 22; Letter from Colonel J.G. Boulet, Director Information Services, National Defence, to S. McCann, 12 January 1978.

[5] "Canadian Forces Station Masset, B.C.," February 1994.

[6] Letter from Colonel J.G. Boulet to S. McCann, 12 January 1978.

[7] Bob Gilmour, "Our electronic spying hides behind cover stories," Edmonton Journal, 26 October 1982, p. A2.

[8] Report of the Auditor General to the House of Commons for the Fiscal Year Ended 31 March 1971, 1971, p. 82.

[9] During the Second World War, the RCCS' west coast stations monitored Tokyo-South East Asia traffic, Tokyo-South America traffic, etc.

[10] Jeffrey Richelson, The U.S. Intelligence Community (second edition), Ballinger, 1989, p. 204. This range corresponds to one or two "hops" by an HF signal. It is also possible to monitor multi-hop signals, but the accuracy of direction-finding is likely to be lower. When propagation conditions are good, HF signals can be monitored all around the world. The nominal range, however, may provide a rough indication of the area that Masset is assigned to monitor.

[11] The number of monopoles is confirmed in the description of an identical antenna array at CFB Gander in Sgt R.R. Lebeau, "Search and Rescue - HFDF," Communications and Electronics Newsletter, 1975, p. 18; dimensions estimated from air photos of Gander AN/FRD-10 array (A26701-118 and A26527-114), National Air Photo Library.

[12] Report of the Auditor General to the House of Commons for the Fiscal Year Ended 31 March 1971, p. 82; Defence Construction (1951) Limited Annual Report 1991- 1992, 1992, p. 22.

Advanced TSCM Signals Detection and Analysis
TSCM - Sweeping the Spectrum for Eavesdropping Devices

| Home | What is TSCM | Types of Bugs | Warning Signs You're Bugged |
| How To Behave if Bugged | TSCM Threat Levels | How To Engage a TSCM Firm |
| Qualifications | TSCM Protocol | Bug Frequencies | Phone Taps and Bugging |
| Signal Analysis | TDR Analysis | TDR Tutorial | Wiretapping | Training | Tools |
| Equipment | OSC-5000 | Kaiser | Riser Bond | Avcom | Search Rcvrs |
| Outside Links | Recommended TSCM Books | TSCM Reference Library |
| Recommended U.S. TSCM Firms | TSCM-L Mailing List |


Copyright ©2002, Granite Island Group