Royal Canadian Air Force

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Royal Canadian Air Force
Aviation royale canadienne
Active 1 April 1924 – present
(98 years, 2 months)
Country  Canada
Type Air force
Role "To generate and maintain combat capable, multi-purpose, air forces to meet Canada's defence objectives."
Size Regular Force personnel: 14,500
Reserve Force: 2,600
Civilians: 2,500[1]
Part of Canadian Armed Forces
Headquarters National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa, Ontario
Motto Sic itur ad astra
"Such is the pathway to the stars"[2] Per ardua ad astra
"Through adversity to the stars" – (1924 to 1968)
March "RCAF March Past"
Anniversaries Armed Forces Day (first Sunday of June)
Commander-in-chief Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, represented by Governor General, David Johnston
Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force Lieutenant-General Michael Hood
Ensign Royal Canadian Air Force ensign.svg
Roundels RCAF-Roundel.svg RCAF-LowVis-Roundel.svg
Fin flashes Fin flash Low visibility fin flash
Aircraft flown
Fighter CF-18 Hornet
Helicopter CH-124 Sea King, CH-139 JetRanger, CH-146 Griffon, CH-147 Chinook, CH-148 Cyclone, CH-149 Cormorant
Patrol CP-140 Aurora, CP-140A Arcturus
Reconnaissance CU-170 Heron,
Trainer CT-114 Tutor, CT-142 Dash-8, CT-155 Hawk, CT-156 Harvard II
Transport CC-115 Buffalo, CC-130 Hercules, CC-130J Super Hercules, CC-138 Twin Otter, CC-144 Challenger, CC-150 Polaris, CC-177 Globemaster III

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) (French: Aviation royale canadienne, ARC) is the air force of Canada. The RCAF is one of three environmental commands within the unified Canadian Armed Forces. As of 2013, operating 258 manned aircraft and 9 unmanned aerial vehicles, the Royal Canadian Air Force consists of 14,500 Regular Force and 2,600 Primary Reserve personnel, supported by 2,500 civilians.[1][3] Lieutenant-General Michael J. Hood, CMM CD, is the current Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force and Chief of the Air Force Staff.

The Royal Canadian Air Force is responsible for all aircraft operations of the Canadian Forces, enforcing the security of Canada's airspace and providing aircraft to support the missions of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Army. The RCAF is a partner with the United States Air Force in protecting continental airspace under the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The RCAF also provides all primary air resources to and is responsible for the National Search and Rescue Program.

The RCAF traces its history to the Canadian Air Force which was formed in 1920. The Canadian Air Force was incorporated in 1923 and granted royal sanction in 1924 by King George V.

In 1968 the RCAF was amalgamated with the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Canadian Army, as part of the unification of the Canadian Forces. Air units were split between several different commands: Air Defence Command (interceptors), Air Transport Command (airlift, search and rescue), Mobile Command (tactical fighters, helicopters), Maritime Command (anti-submarine warfare, maritime patrol), as well as Training Command.

In 1975 some commands were dissolved (ADC, ATC, TC), and all air units were placed under a new environmental command called simply Air Command (AIRCOM). Air Command reverted to its historic name the "Royal Canadian Air Force" in August 2011.[4] The Royal Canadian Air Force has served in the Second World War, the Korean War, the Persian Gulf War, as well as several United Nations peacekeeping missions and NATO operations. As a NATO member, the force maintained a presence in Europe during the second half of the 20th century.



The Canadian Air Force (CAF) was established in 1920 as the successor to a short-lived two-squadron Canadian Air Force formed during the First World War in Europe. The new Canadian Air Force was a branch of the Air Board and was chiefly a training militia that provided refresher training to veteran pilots.[5][6] Many CAF members also worked with the Air Board's Civil Operations Branch on operations that included forestry, surveying and anti-smuggling patrols.[7] In 1923, the CAF became responsible for all flying operations in Canada, including civil aviation. In 1924, the Canadian Air Force, was granted the royal title, becoming the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Most of its work was civil in nature; however, in the late 1920s the RCAF evolved into more of a military organization. After budget cuts in the early 1930s, the air force began to rebuild. During the Second World War the RCAF was a major contributor to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and was involved in operations in Great Britain, Europe, the north Atlantic, north Africa, southern Asia, and with home defence. By the end of the war, the RCAF had become the fourth largest allied air force.[8]

After the war, the RCAF reduced its strength. Because of the rising Soviet threat to the security of Europe, Canada joined NATO in 1949, and the RCAF established No. 1 Air Division RCAF consisting of four wings with three fighter squadrons each, based in France and West Germany. In 1950, the RCAF became involved with the transport of troops and supplies to the Korean War; however, it did not provide RCAF combat units. Members of the RCAF served in USAF units as exchange officers and several flew in combat. Both auxiliary and regular air defence squadrons were run by Air Defence Command. At the same time, the Pinetree Line, the Mid-Canada Line and the DEW Line radar stations, largely operated by the RCAF, were built across Canada because of the growing Soviet nuclear threat. In 1957, Canada and the United States created the joint North American Air Defense Command (NORAD). Coastal defence and peacekeeping also became priorities during the 1950s and 1960s.


File:Badge of the Royal Canadian Air Force.jpg
Badge of Air Command, replaced by new RCAF badge in 2013

In 1968 the Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadian Army were amalgamated to form the unified Canadian Forces. This initiative was overseen by then Liberal Defence Minister, Paul Hellyer. The controversial merger maintained several existing organizations and created some new ones: In Europe, No. 1 Air Division, operated Canadair CF-104 Starfighter nuclear strike/attack and reconnaissance under NATO's 4 ATAF; Air Defence Command: operated McDonnell CF-101 Voodoo interceptors, CIM-10 Bomarc missiles and the SAGE radar system within NORAD; Air Transport Command: provided strategic airlift for the NATO and UN Peacekeeping missions; and Training Command. Aviation assets of the Royal Canadian Navy were combined with the RCAF Canadair CP-107 Argus long-range patrol aircraft under Maritime Command. In 1975, the different commands, and the scattered aviation assets, were consolidated under Air Command (AIRCOM).

In the early 1990s, Canada provided a detachment of CF-18 Hornets for the air defence mission in Operation Desert Shield. The force performed combat air patrols over operations in Kuwait and Iraq, undertook a number of air-to-ground bombing missions, and, on one occasion, attacked an Iraqi patrol boat in the Persian Gulf.

In the late 1990s, Air Command's CF-188 Hornets took part in the Operation Allied Force in Yugoslavia, and in the 2000s, AIRCOM was heavily involved in the Afghanistan War, transporting troops and assets to Kandahar. Later in the decade-long war, AIRCOM set up a purpose-specific air wing, Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing, equipped with several CH-146 Griffon and CH-147 Chinook helicopters, CC-130 Hercules and leased CU-170 Heron UAVs in support of the Canadian Forces and ISAF mission. The wing stood down on 18 August 2011.

From 18 March to 1 November 2011 the RCAF was engaged in Operation Mobile, Canada's contribution to Operation Unified Protector in Libya. Seven CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft and several other aircraft served under Task Force Libeccio as part of the military intervention.

On 16 August 2011, the Government of Canada announced that the name "Air Command" was being changed to the air force's original historic name: Royal Canadian Air Force (along with the change of name of Maritime Command to Royal Canadian Navy and Land Force Command to Canadian Army). The change was made to better reflect Canada's military heritage and align Canada with other key Commonwealth countries whose military units use the royal designation.[9] The new RCAF adopted a new badge in 2013, which is similar to the pre-unification RCAF badge (although placed in the modern frame used for command badges). The Latin motto of Air Command – Sic itur ad astra – which was the motto of the Canadian Air Force when first formed after the First World War (before it became the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1924) was retained. There has been no restoration of the traditional uniforms or rank structure of the historical service.[10]

On 17 April 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada was despatching six CF-18s and military personnel to assist NATO in operations in Eastern Europe.[11]


The Royal Canadian Air Force has approximately 391 aircraft in service, which is the sixth largest air force in the Americas, after the United States Air Force, United States Navy, United States Army, United States Marine Corps and Brazilian Air Force.


Airbus CC-150 Polaris
Second-hand Airbus A310 transports purchased in 1992 for use as a strategic transports and air-to-air tankers to replace the Boeing CC-137. Two have been converted to tankers and are designated the CC-150T. One is permanently configured for VIP transport; five aircraft operated by 437 Squadron based at 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario.
BAe CT-155 Hawk
Single-engined lead-in fighter trainer leased in 2000. 16 aircraft in service, based at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, SK and 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta.
Beechcraft King Air C-90B
Multi-engine training aircraft. Leased to RCAF by Allied Wings, 7 aircraft are based at Portage la Prairie, MB.
Boeing CC-177 Globemaster III
Five strategic airlifters operated by 429 (T) Squadron based at 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario. Four were delivered from 2007 to 2008, a fifth was delivered in 2015.[12]
Bombardier CC-144 Challenger
Utility and VIP transport aircraft first delivered in 1982. Early Challenger 600 and 601 models were supplemented by 604 models in 2002. Six operated by 412(T) Sqn and based in Ottawa, but belong to 8 Wing Trenton.
Canadair CT-114 Tutor
Entered service in 1962 as a basic and advanced jet trainer with 190 originally ordered, replaced by the CT-156 Harvard II and CT-155 Hawk in 2000. A total of 24 remain in service used by 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, "The Snowbirds".
DHC CC-115 Buffalo
A Twin-engined utility/cargo transport now used for search and rescue. Six used by 442 Transport and Rescue Sqn. at 19 Wing Comox, BC.
A CF-18 Hornet fires an AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missile at a MQM-107E Streaker aerial target drone during a "Combat Archer" mission
DHC CC-138 Twin Otter
A twin-engined utility transport operated since the 1970s, Four remain based at Yellowknife, NT.
DHC CT-142 Dash 8
Twin-engined converted regional airliner entered service in 1987 as an aerial navigation and tactics trainer, Four are operated by 402 "City of Winnipeg" Sqn and stationed at 17 Wing, Winnipeg, MB
Grob 120A
Single engine primary trainer used to train pilot candidates before they move onto the Harvard II. Leased to RCAF by Allied Wings, 11 aircraft are based at Portage la Prairie, MB.
CC-130H Hercules on approach to Winnipeg Airport
Lockheed CC-130E/H Hercules
Four-engined tactical transport. Several versions have been operated since 1960. Remaining CC-130Hs used for search and rescue and air-to-air refuelling. 23 aircraft remain in service, five of which have been converted to air-to-air tankers. Based at 14 Wing Greenwood, NS, 8 Wing Trenton, ON and 17 Wing, Winnipeg, MB.
Lockheed CP-140 Aurora
Four-engined maritime patrol aircraft based on the American Lockheed P-3 Orion; entered service in 1980 and now based at 19 Wing Comox, BC and 14 Wing Greenwood, NS
Lockheed Martin CC-130J Super Hercules
Four-engined tactical airlifter replacing earlier Hercules variants in that role.[13] A total of 17 are in service operated by 436 (T) Squadron based at 8 Wing Trenton.[14]
McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet
Fighter entered service in 1982 when 98 single-seat CF-18As and 40 two-seat CF-18Bs were ordered. Seventeen have been lost since 1984.[15] Stationed at 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec and 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta; 77 CF-18s remain in active service.[16]
Raytheon CT-156 Harvard II
Single-engined trainer leased from 2000 to replace the Canadair CT-114 Tutor. 25 aircraft based at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, SK

Rotary wing

Bell CH-139 JetRanger
Single-engined utility and training helicopter. Ordered for 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School at CFB Portage la Prairie, MB; used by Regular Forces in CFB Lahr in Germany and in Canada during the 1980s; replaced by CH-146 Griffons. 12 aircraft remain, leased from Allied Wings, used for flight training in Portage la Prairie, MB.
Bell CH-146 Griffon
A utility transport tactical helicopter (UTTH) that entered service between 1995 and 1997. Original purchase of 100 aircraft to replace the CH-136 Kiowa (Bell 206), CH-135 Twin Huey (Bell 212), CH-118 Iroquois (Bell 205), and Boeing C-Model Chinooks CH-47C. Based at Bagotville, Quebec (439 Squadron), St. Hubert, Quebec (438 Squadron), Cold Lake, Alberta (417 Squadron), Gagetown, New Brunswick (403 Squadron), Valcartier, Quebec (430 Squadron), Goose Bay, Newfoundland (444 Squadron), Edmonton, Alberta (408 Squadron), Petawawa, Ontario (427 Squadron) and Borden, Ontario (400 Squadron); also perform search and rescue duties at 8 Wing Trenton (424 Squadron). Deployed to Afghanistan to provide escorts for the Chinooks, armed with a combination of 7.62mm C-6 machine gun, 7.62mm Dillon Aero M134D Gatling gun, and GAU-21 .50 caliber machine gun on one or both doors.[17][18][19] 9 ex-RCAF Griffons, designated CT-146, are leased from Allied Wings for pilot training at Portage la Prairie, MB.
CH-124 Sea King
A Soviet Tupolev Tu-95 Bear-H bomber being escorted by a CF-18A Hornet in 1987
Sikorsky CH-124 Sea King
A ship-based transport/anti-submarine helicopter that entered service between 1963 and 1969. Based at 12 Wing Shearwater (406 & 423 Squadrons), NS and Patricia Bay (443 Squadron), BC and due to be replaced by the Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone.
AgustaWestland CH-149 Cormorant
Triple-engined search and rescue helicopter that replaced the CH-113 Labrador. Fourteen delivered between 2000 and 2002. Based at (103 Squadron) 9 Wing Gander, Newfoundland, (413 Squadron) 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia and (442 Squadron) 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia. One aircraft has been lost in a training accident.
Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone
Ship-based transport/anti-submarine helicopter based on the Sikorsky H-92 Superhawk. Twenty-eight ordered to replace the Sea King from 2009. Delays pushed the delivery date to 2015 when six were delivered. They are expected to enter service in 2016.
Boeing CH-147F Chinook
The CH-147F Chinook is an advanced, multi-mission, medium to heavy-lift helicopter. Its primary mission is the tactical transport of equipment and personnel during domestic or deployed operations. 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, under the command of 1 Wing Kingston, Ont., and based in CFB Petawawa, Ont., was re-established as the home of Canadaʼs fleet of 15 CH-147F Chinooks. The first two airframes underwent intensive operational test and evaluation in the United States for several months before Canada received the first airframe 147303 at an official acceptance ceremony at the Ottawa International Airport on 27 June 2013.[20][21][22]

Leased and contractor aircraft

The Canadian Forces have leased aircraft from vendors to help transport troops and equipment from Canada and other locations in the past decade. Transport aircraft have been leased as required.

Beechcraft B200 Super King Air
  • Two aircraft leased from Aero Support Canada Inc.. Used by the Multi-Engine Utility Flight (MEUF) out of CFB Trenton. Flown by RCAF pilots, they are used for light transport of personnel and equipment within North America.
Dornier Alpha Jet Type A
Hawker Hunter F.58
  • Twelve civil aircraft are operated by Lortie Aviation, formerly Northern Lights International Airlines Ltd.. Based out of CFB Cold Lake;[23] ex-Swiss Air Force jets

Weapons and other equipment

Weapons systems are used by the CF-18 Hornet, CP-140 Aurora, CH-146 Griffon and the CH-124 Sea King helicopters (the latter to be replaced by CH-148 Cyclone).

Manufacturer Origin Weapon Type In Service Notes
Lockheed Martin US GBU-10 Paveway II (12, 16 and 24) laser-guided bomb 1980s used by CF-18
General Dynamics US Mark 82 bomb low drag general-purpose bomb (500 lb) 1970s used by CF-18
General Dynamics US Mark 83 bomb low drag general-purpose bomb (1,000 lb) 1980s used by CF-18
General Dynamics US Mark 84 bomb low drag general-purpose bomb (2,000 lb) 1980s used by CF-18
Boeing US Joint Direct Attack Munition[24] a kit to convert a regular bomb into precision-guided munition 2011 used by CF-18
Raytheon/Hughes US AGM-65G Maverick Missile air-to-surface missile 1990s used by CF-18
Bristol Canada CRV 7 Rocket folding-fin ground attack rocket 1970s used by CF-18
Douglas US AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range semi-active radar homing air-to-air missile 1980s used by CF-18
Raytheon/Hughes US AIM-120 AMRAAM Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missile 2000s used by CF-18
Loral Corp.
US AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking, short-range, air-to-air missile 1980s used by CF-18
General Dynamics/
General Electric
US M61 20mm Vulcan cannon air-cooled gatling-style cannon 1980s used by CF-18
Alliant US Mark 46 torpedo air and ship-launched lightweight torpedo 1970s used by CP-140 Aurora and CH-124 Sea King (but not by CP-140A Arcturus)
FN Herstal Belgium FN MAG C6 7.62 mm self-defence machine gun 1980s used by CH-124 Sea King, CH-146 Griffon and CH-147 Chinook; likely to be used by Cyclones
Manufacturer Origin Name Type In Service Notes
Systems & Electronics, Inc. US 60K Tunner material handling equipment 2008 used with CC-177 transport
JBT AeroTech US Halvorsen 44K Loaders Truck Aircraft Side Load Unload (TASLU) Loader 2008 4 for use with CC-177; licensed from Static Engineering of Australia
Mobile Arrestor Gear
FMC Corp. US B-1200 aircraft towing tractor 2008 used to tow CC-177 and CC-130

Retired weapons

Weapon Country of manufacture Type In service #
CIM-10 Bomarc-B USA supersonic missile equipped with a 10 kt W40 (nuclear warhead) 1962 to 1972 N/A
AIR-2 Genie USA air-to-air rocket with a 1.5 kt W25 (nuclear warhead). 1965 to 1984 N/A
MK-20 "Rockeye" USA cluster bomb 1980s to 1997[25] ~1000

Current structure

The commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, located at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa, commands and provides strategic direction to the Air Force. The commander of 1 Canadian Air Division and Canadian NORAD Region, based in Winnipeg, is responsible for the operational command and control of Air Force activities throughout Canada and worldwide. 2 Canadian Air Division, established in June 2009, consists of training establishments.

There are 13 wings across Canada, 11 operational and 2 used for training. Wings represent the grouping of various squadrons, both operational and support, under a single tactical commander reporting to the operational commander. Ten wings also include a Canadian Forces base along with other operational and support units.

The rank of general is held when an air officer is serving as Chief of the Defence Staff. The Chief of the Air Force Staff holds the rank of lieutenant-general. Divisions are commanded by major-generals. Brigadier-generals are typically second-in-command of a division. Wings are commanded by colonels. Squadrons are commanded by lieutenant-colonels. Majors are typically second-in-command of squadrons, or flight commanders. Captains, lieutenants and second lieutenants are the junior level leaders in RCAF squadrons and headquarters.

1 Canadian Air Division

1 Wing Kingston
Headquartered at CFB Kingston, 1 Wing provides airlift support of troops and equipment anywhere in the world. Its tactical helicopter squadrons are spread out across Canada; six operate the CH-146 Griffon helicopter and one operates the CH-147F Chinook helicopter.
3 Wing Bagotville
Located in Quebec's Saguenay region, 3 Wing provides general purpose, multi-role, combat-capable forces in support of domestic and international roles of Canada's air force. It also provides search and rescue missions.
4 Wing Cold Lake
The busiest fighter base in Canada, 4 Wing provides general purpose, multi-role, combat-capable forces in support of domestic and international roles of Canada's air force. Home of fighter pilot training for the Canadian Forces, 4 Wing attracts top gun crews from all over the world to its annual air combat exercise, Maple Flag. Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR), north of the base, is the only tactical bombing range in western Canada. The one million hectare (11,600 square km) range includes the Primrose Lake Evaluation Range, 4 Wing's primary test range.[26]
5 Wing Goose Bay
5 Wing Goose Bay
The site of NATO tactical ultra-low-level flight training in Canada, 5 Wing, located in Labrador, hosts temporary detachments from several NATO nations. Goose Bay Weapons Range is the only tactical bombing range in eastern Canada. The thirteen million hectare (130,000 square km) range includes ultra-low-level flying training to 100 feet above ground level, supersonic flight areas, and an inert conventional and precision guided (laser) munitions bombing range. 5 Wing is the home of 444 Combat Support Squadron and serves as a NORAD CF-18 Hornet deployed operating base and airfield supporting a mix of aviation activities, military and civilian, in eastern Canada.[27]
8 Wing Trenton
8 Wing is the heart of Canada's air mobility forces, from delivering supplies to the high Arctic (CFS Alert) to airlifting troops and equipment worldwide. It is also responsible for search and rescue in central Canada and home to the Skyhawks Parachute Team with the Canadian Army Advanced Warfare Centre.
9 Wing Gander
Providing search and rescue (SAR) services to eastern Canada and the western Atlantic Ocean. SAR crews at 9 Wing Gander fly the AgustaWestland CH-149 Cormorant helicopter and are responsible for a huge area, covering the lower Arctic, Labrador, Newfoundland, the Maritimes and the North Atlantic from the shores of Newfoundland to 30° west.
12 Wing Shearwater
The centre of naval aviation in Canada, 12 Wing operates CH-124 Sea King helicopters, and supports the Royal Canadian Navy with helicopter air detachments for surface warships in the Atlantic and Pacific fleets.
14 Wing Greenwood
Located in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley, 14 Wing's CP-140 Aurora crews conduct sovereignty and surveillance missions over the Atlantic Ocean routinely, while SAR capabilities for the Maritimes, eastern Quebec and the eastern Arctic are provided by CH-149 Cormorant helicopters and CC-130 Hercules fixed-wing aircraft.
17 Wing Winnipeg
Comprising three squadrons and six schools, 17 Wing also provides support to the Central Flying School, as well as headquarters and administration support for NORAD operations.
19 Wing Comox
Located on Vancouver Island, its Aurora crews provide surveillance of the Pacific Ocean and western and Arctic regions. The Buffalo and Cormorant crews are responsible for search and rescue in British Columbia, Yukon and the North Pacific Ocean. The base is also used for training fighter pilots in tactical procedures on nearby ranges.
22 Wing North Bay
22 Wing represents one of Canada's major contributions to the North American Aerospace Defence (NORAD) agreement. Personnel watch over Canada's airspace 24 hours a day, using state-of-the-art sensors, computer and communications equipment.

2 Canadian Air Division

2 Canadian Air Division is commanded by Brigadier-General Bruce Ploughman.[28] From 2011 to 2013 the commanding officer was Brigadier-General Martin Galvin.[29] The initial announcement of the Division, published after it was created on June 25, 2009, said:[30]

Brigadier-General Rick Pitre assumed command of the Canadian Force’s most recent formation, the newly established 2 Canadian Air Division/Air Force Doctrine and Training Division in a formal ceremony at 17 Wing, Winnipeg on Thursday, June 25. The Air Force has embarked on what Brig. Gen. Pitre calls “a new and exciting chapter in our rich air force history.” Commander 2 Canadian Air Division is now responsible for all Air Force doctrine, individual training and education. In addition to the Canadian Aerospace Warfare Centre located at 8 Wing Trenton, Brigadier General Pitre will oversee the conduct and management of training establishments at:15 Wing Moose Jaw, 16 Wing Borden, and a new Air Force Training Centre comprising several Air Force schools and training institutions In addition, he will have oversight of training conducted by the Prairie Cadet Region.

15 Wing Moose Jaw
The site of the NATO Flying Training Program in Canada which is supported by 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School (2CFFTS), 15 Wing is also home to the Snowbirds, the air force's aerobatic team.
16 Wing Borden
This base is the location of the largest training facility in the Canadian Forces. 16 Wing's schools provide air force technical training and professional development and is the historic birthplace of the RCAF. 400 Tactical Helicopter Squadron is a lodger unit based at Borden's airfield.

Other units

Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering
The Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering (CFSATE), located in Borden, Ontario, delivers Aerospace Engineering Officers and conducts apprentice level training for various trades, including Avionics, Aviation, Aircraft Structures and Imagery technicians. The role of CFSATE is to provide the Air Force with qualified personnel to ensure Aircraft serviceability. CFSATE develops and carries out individual aerospace engineering training in accordance with approved doctrine and standards.[31]

Former units

  • 2 Wing Toronto – closed 1996; part of the base is now 4th Canadian Division HQ
  • 7 Wing Ottawa – closed 1995
  • 18 Wing Edmonton: Located in Edmonton, Alberta, it was the base for 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, 418 "City of Edmonton" Air Reserve Squadron, 435 Transport Squadron, 440 Transport and Rescue Squadron and 447 Transport Helicopter Squadron. It closed in 1994 and transferred to Land Force Command as army base CFB Edmonton, where 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron is the sole remaining air unit.[32]

Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing

  • Air Wing Kandahar, Afghanistan (stood up 6 December 2008, flew first mission 6 January 2009). The organization was composed of four units:
    • Canadian Helicopter Force (Afghanistan):
      • Six – CH-147D Chinook heavy-lift helicopters
      • Eight – CH-146 Griffon tactical support helicopters – armed
      • (Six – Mi-8 medium-lift helicopters – see below)
    • Theatre Support Element
      • CC-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft;
    • Canadian Heron UAV Detachment
      • Heron unmanned aerial vehicle
    • Canadian TUAV Squadron
      • CU-161 Sperwer unmanned aerial vehicle

As the tasking authority responsible for the Canadian Contracted Air Transport Unit, the wing commander provided advice, co-ordination and supervision over its six leased Mi-8 medium lift helicopters. The air wing had about 450 personnel, serving with the Theatre Support Element in the Persian Gulf region and the Tactical UAV Flight at Kandahar Airfield. The wing officially stood down on 18 August 2011.

Canadian Forces pilot adjusts a CH-147 helicopter

Rank structure


Canada Commander-in-chief
Insignia Commander-in-Chief Canada air force insignia.png
Title Commander-in-chief
Abbreviation C-in-C


NATO code Student officer OF-1 OF-1 OF-2 OF-3 OF-4 OF-5 OF-6 OF-7 OF-8 OF-9 OF-10
Insignia CDN-Air Force-OCdt-2015.svg CDN-Air Force-2nd Lieutenant (OF1B)-2015.svg CDN-Air Force-Lieutenant (OF1A)-2015.svg CDN-Air Force-Captain (OF2)-2015.svg CDN-Air Force-Major (OF3)-2015.svg CDN-Air Force-Lieutenant Colonel (OF4)-2015.svg CDN-Air Force-Colonel (OF5)-2015.svg CDN-Air Force-BGen-2015-Shoulder.svg

CDN-Air Force-Brigadier General (OF6)-2015.svg

CDN-Air Force-MGen-2015-Shoulder.svg

CDN-Air Force-Major General (OF7)-2015.svg

CDN-Air Force-LGen-2015-Shoulder.svg

CDN-Air Force-Lieutenant General (OF8)-2015.svg

CDN-Air Force-Gen-2015-Shoulder.svg

CDN-Air Force-General (OF9)-2015.svg

No equivalent
Title Officer
Lieutenant Captain Major Lieutenant-Colonel Colonel Brigadier-General Major-General Lieutenant-General General
Abbreviation OCdt 2Lt Lt Capt Maj LCol Col BGen MGen LGen Gen

Non-commissioned members

NATO Code OR-1 OR-2 OR-3 OR-4 OR-5 OR-6 OR-7 OR-8 OR-9
Insignia CDN-Air Force-Pte (Basic).svg CDN-Air Force-Pte (Basic).svg Cdn-Air Force-Avt(OR-3)-2015.svg Cdn-Air Force-Cpl(OR-4)-2015.svg Cdn-Air Force-MCpl(OR-5)-2015.svg Cdn-Air Force-Sgtl(OR-6)-2015.svg CDN-Air Force-WO.svg Cdn-Air Force-MWO(OR-8)-2015.svg Cdn-Air Force-CWO(OR-9).svg
Title Aviator
Corporal Master Corporal Sergeant Warrant Officer Master Warrant Officer Chief Warrant Officer
Abbreviation Avr(R) Avr(B) Avr(T) Cpl MCpl Sgt WO MWO CWO

On 1 April 2015, the rank structure and insignia changed.[33] The rank of private was replaced with that of aviator. The previously used term "leading aircraftman" was considered not to be gender neutral.[34] Insignia was also changed from golden yellow to a pearl-grey colour similar to that worn before unification of Canada's Armed Forces in 1968.[34] A revival of the former rank titles of the RCAF will not occur, however, as the former rank titles are considered "too confusing".[33] Instead, the current rank titles will be retained (with the exception of Aviator). The Royal Flying Corps, considered to be a predecessor of the RCAF, used rank titles similar to the existing rank titles of the RCAF.[34]


On 9 November 1984, Canada Post issued "Air Force" as part of the Canadian Forces series. The stamps were designed by Ralph Tibbles, based on an illustration by William Southern. The 32¢ stamps are perforated 12 x 12.5 and were printed by Ashton-Potter Limited.[35]

Roundels of the Royal Canadian Air Force

Roundels used from 1920 until 1945 were usually the same as Royal Air Force roundels although not all variations were used and colours were matched to locally available paints.

Canadian Centennial
1967 variant 

Badge of the Royal Canadian Air Force

The Badge of the Royal Canadian Air Force consists of:

  • St. Edward's Crown
  • Maple leaf Compartment
  • Eagle superimposed on a circlet
  • Motto Sic Itur Ad Astra (Such is the Pathway to the Stars)

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 "Purpose – General Information." National Defence, 23 April 2008. Retrieved: 2 September 2009.
  2. "Sic Itur ad Astra – Traditions Motto/Words." National Defence, 23 April 2009, Retrieved: 1 April 2013.
  3. Berthiaume, Lee. "Air force's new name got lost in translation, documents show." Postmedia News, 29 November 2011.
  4. "Canadian Forces name." CBC. Retrieved: 26 September 2011.
  5. Roberts, Leslie. There Shall Be Wings. Toronto: Clark, Irwin and Co. Ltd., 1959. No ISBN. p. 33
  6. Milberry, Larry, ed. Sixty Years—The RCAF and CF Air Command 1924–1984. Toronto: Canav Books, 1984. ISBN 0-9690703-4-9. p. 17
  7. A History of Air Services in Canada Retrieved: 21 May 2014
  8. Milberry, Larry, ed. Sixty Years—The RCAF and CF Air Command 1924–1984. Toronto: Canav Books, 1984. ISBN 0-9690703-4-9. p. 97
  9. Galloway, Gloria. "Conservatives to restore ‘royal’ monikers for navy, air force." The Globe and Mail, 15 August 2011. Retrieved: 26 September 2011.
  10. Fitzpatrick, Meagan. "Peter MacKay hails 'royal' renaming of military." CBC News, 16 August 2011. Retrieved: 26 September 2011.
  11. "Canada sending frigate to join NATO in eastern Europe|." The Globe and Mail, 1 May 2014.
  13. Warwick, Graham. "Canada signs $1.4bn contract for 17 Lockheed Martin C-130Js." Flight International, 16 January 2008. Retrieved: 17 January 2008.
  14. "Canadian Forces CC-130 Hercules." . Retrieved: 20 March 2011.
  15. "CF-18 Hornet in Canadian Service." Retrieved: 26 September 2011.
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  • Douglas, W. A. B. The Creation of a National Air Force: Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force, v. 2. Toronto: University of Toronto Press (in co-operation with the Department of National Defence), 1986. ISBN 0-8020-2584-6.
  • Milberry, Larry, ed. Sixty Years: The RCAF and CF Air Command 1924–1984. Toronto: Canav Books, 1984. ISBN 0-9690703-4-9.
  • Piggott, Peter. Flying Canucks: Famous Canadian Aviators. Toronto: Hounslow Press, 1996. ISBN 0-88882-175-1.
  • Piggott, Peter. Flying Canucks II: Pioneers of Canadian Aviation. Toronto: Hounslow Press, 1997. ISBN 0-88882-193-X.

External links