The Canadian Air Force (CAF) was established in 1920 as the successor to a short-lived two-squadron air force formed during the First World War in Europe, also named the Canadian Air Force. The new air force, managed by the Air Board, was largely focused on civilian operations such as forestry, surveying and anti-smuggling patrols. In 1923, the Air Board was amalgamated into the Department of National Defence, and one year later, the CAF was granted the royal title, becoming the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). In the late 1920s, the air force evolved into more of a military organization. The RCAF suffered budget cuts in early 1930s, but began to rebuild throughout the latter part of the decade. However, by the end of the 1930s the RCAF was not considered a major military force. With the implementation of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan during the Second World War, the RCAF was significantly expanded to become the fourth largest allied air force. During the war the RCAF was involved in operations in Great Britain, northwest Europe, the north Atlantic, Egypt, Italy, Sicily, Malta, Ceylon, India, Burma, and with home defence.
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 an air division 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 in support of the Korean War; however, it did not take part in combat. 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 Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD). Coastal defence and peacekeeping also became priorities during the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1968, under the Liberal government of Lester B. Pearson, the Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadian Army were amalgamated to form what is today the Canadian Forces, a single command structure under the Department of National Defence, at the time overseen by Defence Minister Paul Hellyer. The controversial merger saw the Royal Canadian Air Force assets split into several commands : the Air Defence Command, operating the fighter jets and the radar stations, the Air Transport Command responsible for strategic airlift, the Maritime Command with the newly formed Maritime Air Group, and Training Command. In 1975, the different commands, and the scattered aviation assets, were consolidated under Air Command (AIRCOM).
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.
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. The change was made to better reflect Canada's military heritage and align Canada with other key Commonwealth countries whose militaries use the royal designation.
Shown below are some aircraft used by the RCAF during the WWII and post war era. We are not showing every aircraft that has been in service but select ones that we think are of interest to our readers
Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter
With a speed of 330 mph, air intercept radar and a one-two punch of cannons and machine guns (or torpedos or rocket projectiles when engaged in anti-surface duties), the Beaufighter was one of the Second World War's formidable night fighters, as well as being the backbone of Coastal Command's anti-shipping war.
Consolidated PBY Canso
One of the most successful Canadian Aircraft built under license, the Canso patrolled Canada's coastline in an anti-submarine role during the Second World War and was often successful against German U-Boats. F/L David Hornell received the Victoria Cross for his actions after engaging a German U-Boat in the North Sea with one of these Aircraft.
Just one of the giant four-engined Halifaxes of Tiger Squadron that played a powerful role in war against the Nazi. “Hellzapoppin” did her share by flying over enemy skies 64 times bearing the weight of sea-mines and bombs.
The Avro Lancaster, which ran on four Merlin engines, proved to be a classic. The Aircraft typically carried a 14,000 pound bombload (about two and one half tons MORE than the American B-17G Flying Fortess bomber). Later versions of the Lancaster could lift the massive 12,000 pound "Tall Boy" and the 22,000 pound "Grand Slam" bombs!
North American P-51 Mustang
The Mustang Mk 4 entered Canadian service in 1947 and number CB*569 belonged to Central Air Command Composite Flight located at RCAF Station Trenton. The Mustang Mk 4 was the RCAF's first modern post-war fighter and equipped mainly auxiliary squadrons until the late 1950s.
In addition to the hundreds of Canadian fighter pilots who served with RAF Spitfire squadrons, pilots of fourteen RCAF Squadrons also flew this famous aircraft in a variety of operations during the Second World War. An example of this type of aircraft may be seen today at the Canada Aviation Museum in Ottawa.
de Havilland DH-100 Vampire
The RCAF's introduction to the jet age came in the form of the de Havilland Vampire. To seasoned Spitfire and Hurricane pilots, the Aircraft took some getting used to; after all, it didn't have a propeller!
McDonnell CF-101 Voodoo
This remarkable shot of a CF-101 Voodoo doing an afterburner take-off was taken from a second Aircraft by Capt W. "Turbo" Tarling. One of the Voodoo's primary roles was as an interceptor in the Northern NORAD Region. During an alert scramble the prescribed time limit to get airborne was 5 minutes; in July 1962 a record was set at CFB Bagotville, Quebec at 1 minute, 30 seconds though the target turned out to be a friendly B-52. This record was broken at Chatham in August 1963 with a time of 57 seconds!
Canadair (Lockheed) CF-104 Starfighter
Taken from the air on the occassion of the first Exercise Maple Flag (modelled after the USAF's Red Flag to provide realistic training for CF and visiting fighter pilots) from 24 April to 20 May, 1978, this photo displays the tarmac in front of CFB Cold Lake's control tower with a multi-national Aircraft exhibit. From left to right are a USAF C-130 Hercules Aircraft, a CF-104 Starfighter, a CF-5 Freedom Fighter, a CF-101 Voodoo, a USAF S-61R Sea King , a USAF F-15 Eagle, a USAF A-7 Corsair, a USN A-4 Skyhawk, a USAF HH-53 "Jolly Green Giant", and a CF-5 Freedom Fighter in Aggressor Squadron markings.
Canadair CF-5 Freedom Fighter
A view of the back seat of a CF-5B in formation with another CF-5B near Cold Lake, Alberta. The helmet worn here is no longer in service, having been replaced by a lighter version.
Canadair CP-107 Argus
The Argus had a reputation as a workhorse and had tremendous endurance. With a flight crew of five, and an additional six sensor operators, the Aircraft flew missions in excess of twenty hours frequently. An Argus flown by 407 Maritime Patrol Squadron held the record for the longest flight by an unrefuelled Aircraft, slightly over 31 hours. This record stood for almost twenty years until broken by a Rutan experimental Aircraft which circled the globe unrefuelled. The Aircraft served from the 50's to the 80's until it was replaced by the current CP-140 Aurora Aircraft.
de Havilland CC-132 Dash 7
Only two Dash 7s were ever carried on strength with the Canadian Forces for use in Europe from 1979 until they were struck off strength on 9 August, 1985 (132002) and 8 April, 1987 (132001), both having been sold back to de Havilland. '001 had a "Low Density Seating Installation" while '002 had a passenger/cargo configuration and both were flown by 412 Transport Squadron Detachment Lahr where this Aircraft has been photographed overflying the base area.
de Havilland Comet
The RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) was the world's first air force to utilize jet transport. Two Comets entered service in the spring of 1953. Top speed of this Aircraft was 510 mph.
Boeing 707 (CC-137)
Acquired in 1970, the Boeing CC-137 served the Canadian Forces as a strategic airlifter and air-to-air refueller for fighter Aircraft. The 137 fleet was retired in the summer of 1997.
Lockheed CP-127 (P2V-7) Neptune
A Lockheed Neptune on patrol over the picturesque coastline of British Columbia, Canada. First flown in 1944, the Neptune was eventually equipped with both piston and jet engines--one of the only Aircraft types ever to receive such a modification. The smaller jet engines are visible on this Neptune, just outboard of the props.
Canadair North Star
The Canadair North Star (a re-engined C-54/DC-4) served Air Transport Command from 1947 into the 1960s. The North Star was the first Aircraft to fly non-stop across Canada, from Vancouver to Halifax, on January 15, 1949, a distance of 2785 miles.
Canadair CC-106 Yukon
The Yukon or Canadair CL-44D used the same wing, tail surface, and undercarriage as the Bristol Britannia and CL-28 but with local strengthening to cater for increased weight. Direct operating costs were approximately 4 cents per ton-mile, a relatively small price to pay for a considerable payload. To illustrate, it could carry 2 CF-104 Starfighters, complete with engines, and fly them to Canadian bases in Germany non-stop.
de Havilland DHC-3 CC-123 Otter
The Otter entered service in 1953 and replaced the Noorduyn Norseman in the light utility transport role. The Otter flew with several squadrons until 1982 and also served overseas on a few UN peacekeeping missions. The Otter pictured here flew with 418 Squadron until 1982.
If you want all the RCAF historical information it can be found here:
All photos are from the: Canadian Department of National Defence
Sun, Jan 15 2012 4:11 PM
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