One of the major commands of the Canadian forces is the Royal Canadian Air Force which was formerly known as the Canadian Forces Air Command. The main objective op operation of the Royal Canadian Air Force is to provide security to life and property of people of Canada as well as to enforce the security of the air space in Canada and is responsible in providing all the aircraft operations of the Canadian Forces. They are responsible for providing all the aircraft support needed for the operations carried out by the Royal Canadian Navy and Army. The Royal Canadian Air Force has joined hands with the United States Air Force to protect the continental airspace that comes under North American Aerospace Defense Command. The Canadian Air Force was formed as early as 1920 and was incorporated into Department of National Defense in 1923.
The Royal Canadian Air Force was merged with Royal Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Navy to form the unification of the Canadian forces in 1968. The Canadian Air Command was renamed as Royal Canadian Air Force in August 2011. Some of the important historic events in with the royal Canadian Air force has served include the Second World War, Gulf War, Korean War and NATO operations.
History of Royal Canadian Air Force
The aviation history in Canada started on 23rd February 1909 when Silver Dart of Alexander Graham bell flew from Bras d’ Or Lake. The flight was made to impress the militia and defense into using aircraft for their aviation. But the crash of the second flight Baddeck No 1 severely dented the chances of the militia department showing interest in using the aircraft for aviation purposes.
It was only after the start of the First World War that Canadian’s Minister of Militia and defense showed interest in using airplanes for military purposes after seeing various European nations use them effectively for their military purposes. The Burgess Dunne was the first military aircraft of Canada that was not pressed into the military service. The Canadian Aviation Corps was formed in 16th September 1914 and Burgess Dune biplane was purchased from Burgess Company but despite its shipping to England, the aircraft did not take part in the war. The Royal Flying Corps opened air fields in Canada to train and recruit Canadian airmen. The Canadian Government proposed to press eight squadrons into the Canadian corps in France in 1918. The British Air Ministry formed two Canadian squadrons instead of the proposed eight that included a bomber and a fighter. The Canadian Air force was formed in 1918 to take control of these newly formed squadrons. The funding to the squadrons was cut by the British Government in 1919 after the First World War and this resulted in the Canadian Air Force in Europe to be disbanded in 1920.
It was under the interest of Britain that Canada took part in the International Peace Convention for Air navigation and this resulted in Canada forming an Air Board with the main task of regulating the air forces and was also needed to control the civil aviation and maintaining the air defense. The first major responsibility given to Canada’s air board was to take care of the 100 surplus aircrafts given to Canada by Britain to increase its air defense fleet. The aircrafts were operated in support of the civil operations like anti smuggling patrols, photographic surveying and forestry by the air board. The air defense program of the air board was used to provide refreshing training to old wartime pilots through the Canadian Air Force at Camp Borden. The proposal by the Canadian government to start a permanent military air service was not received well by the general public during the inter war years. The Air Board was brought under the ambit of the Department of National Defense on January 1923 after the Canadian Air force was considered to be effective from July 1, 1922. All the flying operations including the civil aviation in Canada came under the control of Canada Air force.
The Canadian Air force was reorganized on April 1, 1924 and a prefix “Royal” was attached to its name. The Royal Canadian Air Force was pressed for civilian operations from 1925 to 1932 and to fulfill operational requirements of various government agencies and departments. The air force was freed of its civilian operations in 1933 when the first service squadrons namely No 4 and No 5 Flying Boat Squadrons at Vancouver and Dartmouth respectively followed by No 7 and No 8 General Purpose squadrons at Ottawa and Winnipeg respectively. A total of 8 military squadrons were formed before the Second World War.
A total of 23 squadrons of the RCAF were called into action as soon as the Second World War broke out. But only about 15 squadrons could participate in the war during the first month. A total of about 230 aircrafts were used during the Second World War of which more than 50% were either transport flights or training aircrafts. The frontline aircraft that were used during the World War II were Fairey battle light bombers and Hurricanes. During the war, the RCAF comprised of three man parts namely the British Commonwealth Air training Plan, Home war Establishment and Overseas War establishment. The British Commonwealth Air training Plan was joined effort of Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and Canada to train aircrew for wartime service and this plan was commanded by the RCAF and wad under the direct administration of the Canadian Government. The RCAF expanded its personal and equipment after the World War II and reached a total of about 215,200 personnel and about 78 squadrons in service thereby becoming the fourth largest allied air force in the world as on January 1st 1944. The Royal Canadian Air force played a vital role in the Battle of Britain, supporting allies during Battle of Normandy, bombing campaigns against German industries and in the antisubmarine warfare during the Battle of Atlantic.
The RCAF strength was reduced to 164,846 personnel on 1st April 1945 after the termination of British Commonwealth Air training Plan and also a reduction in the personnel serving the home war establishment. The RCAF were finally reduced to five squadrons and 12,000 personnel by the end of 1947 and the peace time activities like aerial photography, aerial surveillance, search and rescue, transportation and mercy missions were once again started. The cold war broke out by the fag end of 1948 and Soviet Union was considered to be a major threat to the security of Europe. The Canadian Government started to increase the number of RCAF establishments and were preparing eagerly to face a war. Canada joined the NATO in August 1949 and trained aircrew from other NATO nations under the NATO Training Plan.
In 1950, RCAF took part in the Korean War by transporting supplies and personnel and did not get directly involved in any combat. The United States Air Force and the RCAF joined hands in order to build the Pinetree Line network for early warning radio stations across Canada owning to the threat posed by the Soviet Union’s ever increasing bomber fleet. The Soviet Union incursions into North American airspace resulted in the formation of North American Air Defense Command in 1957 through the partnership of USAF and RCAF. The number of personnel in the RCAF again 54,000 and about 41 squadrons in 1955 due to the outbreak of Cold war and the Korean War.
The Canadian Government deiced to unify or merge all the three forces namely the RCAF, Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Army as unified Canadian force in 1964 in order to reduce costs and to increase the efficiency of operation. The aircraft and the bases of the RCAF were reorganized into several commands after the unification of forces. The Air Defense Command comprised of surveillance and control radars, Voodoo fighter and interceptor aircrafts, Pinetree Line early warning stations and Mid Canada line. The Force Mobile Command was formed in a bid to maintain tactical air and land forces that are always combat ready for situations ranging from NATO service in Europe to peacekeeping operations as well as services to United Nations. The tactical air group was provided with heavy and light weight helicopters, Buffalo transport aircraft and CF-5 tactical ground support. All the training requirements of the Air Command were taken care by the training command which also included flying as well as trades training. The necessary materials and supplies as well as maintenance support were under the Material Command. All the sea and maritime air forces that guarded the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans came under the ambit of Maritime Command. The airlifting of the troops and any other airlifting help would be done under the surveillance of Air Transport Command. The different commands and the various aviation assests of Canada were brought into one force called the Air Command in 1975. There were lots of changes that took place in the 70’s and the 80’s with many fighter planes, maritime patrol aircraft, utility helicopters of the Air Command biting the dust and some new planes being introduced.
The Present Royal Canadian Air Force
The Chief of the Air Staff who is located at the National Defense Headquarters in Ottawa is one who is responsible for commanding and providing strategic direction to the Canadian Air Force. The Commander of 1 Canadian Air Division is responsible for all the activities and operations of Air Force all over Canada and the world. The training establishments of the Canadian Air Force come under the purview of 2 Canadian Air Division. The Royal Canadian Air Force has a total of about 390 aircrafts in its fleet and is considered to the third largest American Air force country after United States and Brazilian Air Force.
The multi role fighter aircraft that the Royal Canadian Air force possesses are the American McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet and a total of 72 CF-188A fighter planes and 31 CF-188B fighter and a lead in trainer are in the stable of the Canadian Air force. The US born CT-156 Harvard II is the trainer flight that has been added to the aircraft armory in 2000 and a total of 25 such aircrafts are at the various bases of Canadian Air Force. The UK model 20 No of BAe CT-155 Hawk lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) was added to the RCAF in year 2000 and is commonly known as CT-155. The aerial navigation and tactics trainer aircraft de Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash 8, an in house aircraft is operated by 402 “City of Winnipeg” Squadron and is located at 17 Wing, Winnipeg. There are a total of about 4 CT-142 aerial navigation aircraft with the RCAF. Canadair CL-41 Tutor made in Canada is a jet demonstration aircraft that was pressed into service in 1962 as CT-114 and currently there are 25 numbers of CT-114 that are used almost exclusively by 431 Air Demonstration Squadron.
The Airbus A310 from France is a Strategic Transport Tanker that came into Canada in 1992–1993 and there are about 3 CC-150 transport tanker and 2 CC-150 MRTT transport aircraft with the RCAF. C-17 Globemaster III, a strategic airlifter, de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, a utility transport or a fixed wing search and rescue aircraft, Bombardier Challenger 600, a utility transport and VIP transport aircraft are all lined up in various bases of the Canadian Air Force. The Lockheed Hercules CC-130E, H, H-30 and T are the aircrafts that are used for tactical transport as well as for search and rescue operations. Lockheed CP-140 Aurora is the maritime patrol and anti submarine aircraft that is in the possession of the RCAF that is stationed at 14 Wing Greenwood and 19 Wing Comox. The maritime reconnaissance, Arctic patrol and search and rescue and fisheries are carried out by the only Arctuturus aircraft that is remaining with the RCAF, the Lockheed CP-140A Arcturus. Maveric UAS and Boeing Scan Eagle are the two miniature type unmanned aerial vehicles that are added to the armory of the Canadian Air force in 2010 and 2008 respectively. IAI Heron an unmanned aerial reconnaissance aircraft has been grafted into RCAF for operations in Afghanistan. The current helicopters that are lined up at the various bases of the Canadian Air Force are: Agusta Westland AW101, a medium SAR helicopter, CH-47 Chinook, a cargo helicopter, Bell 412, a mutli- purpose utility helicopter, the trainer Bell 206, SH-3 Sea King and Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone are the utility helicopters.
The weapons systems like laser guided bombs, air to surface missile, ground attack rocket, low drag general purpose bombs, short range air to air missile, electrically fired gatling style cannon are some of the common armory used by the RCAF in CF-188 Hornet. The Canadian Government announced the change of name of the Air Command to the earlier official and historical name “Royal Canadian Air Force’ on 16th August 2011. This change was mainly done keeping in mind that various Commonwealth countries used the royal tag for its militaries. The RCAF is currently engaged in various operations and exercises in North America, Canada, Afghanistan and Africa.
Future of Royal Canadian Air Force
The aerospace power of Canada has a bright future ahead of them and the Royal Canadian Air Force is intend on developing a strategic perspective to look beyond the horizon in the coming years. They are very much committed to carry out the various NATO operations and would also be looking to carry forward the tag of one among the peacekeeping nations in the world. The exploits by the Royal Canadian Air Force and the advocates of Effects based Operation are anything to go buy, the future of RCAF is at the edge of a new glory. The service of the airpower and air forces of Canada has done remarkably well in the 20th century and Canada is hoping to carry it along into the 21st Century also.
The future aircrafts that will be available in the bases of the royal Canadian forces include Combat Search and rescue helicopter CH-147 Chinook that will be operational by 2013, multi-role F-35 Lightning II fighter planes that will be ready for operation by 2016 and the CC-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft that will be delivered by 2012. There are also other different types of purpose oriented airplanes that will be ordered by the Royal Canadian Air Force to strengthen their ever expanding artillery of aircrafts for various operations like fixed wing search and rescue aircrafts, unmanned aerial vehicle and target acquisition system, tactical control systems and aircraft loaders.
The Royal Canadian Air Force is ever ready to respond immediately to any conflicts or emergencies by providing air lifting of cargos, personnel, warfare equipments etc whenever the need arises. The main role of protecting the sovereignty and the security of the public and the motherland against evil forces of terrorism through air surveillance will be prime most on their agenda in the future as well. They are also committed in other government departments in adverse times of emergencies or disaster and will also contribute to the North America’s collective defense through NORAD.