The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF; French: Aviation royale canadienne, ARC) is the air and space force of Canada. Its role is to "provide the Canadian Forces with relevant, responsive and effective airpower". The RCAF is one of three environmental commands within the unified Canadian Armed Forces. As of 2020, the Royal Canadian Air Force consists of 12,074 Regular Force and 1,969 Primary Reserve personnel, supported by 1,518 civilians, and operates 258 manned aircraft and nine unmanned aerial vehicles. Lieutenant-General Eric Kenny is the current commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force and chief of the Air Force Staff.
|Royal Canadian Air Force|
|Aviation royale canadienne|
|Part of||Canadian Armed Forces|
|Headquarters||National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada|
|March||RCAF March Past|
|Anniversaries||Armed Forces Day (first Sunday of June)|
|Commander-in-Chief||Charles III, King of Canada|
represented by Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada
|Minister of National Defence||Anita Anand|
|Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force||Lieutenant-General Eric Kenny|
|Deputy Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force||Major-General Colin Keiver|
|Chief Warrant Officer of the Air Force||Chief Warrant Officer W.J. Hall|
|Helicopter||CH-139 JetRanger, CH-146 Griffon, CH-147 Chinook, CH-148 Cyclone, CH-149 Cormorant|
|Trainer||CT-114 Tutor, CT-142 Dash-8, CT-155 Hawk, CT-156 Harvard II|
|Transport||CC-130H Hercules, CC-130J Super Hercules, CC-138 Twin Otter, CC-144 Challenger, CC-150 Polaris, CC-177 Globemaster III, CC-295 Kingfisher|
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 granted royal sanction in 1924 by King George V to form the Royal Canadian Air Force. 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 (ADC; interceptors), Air Transport Command (ATC; airlift, search and rescue), Mobile Command (tactical fighters, helicopters), Maritime Command (anti-submarine warfare, maritime patrol), as well as Training Command (TC).
In 1975, some commands (ADC, ATC, TC) were dissolved, and all air units were placed under a new environmental command called simply Air Command (AIRCOM; French: Commandement aérien). Air Command reverted to its historic name of "Royal Canadian Air Force" in August 2011.
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 that was formed during the First World War in Europe. Wing Commander John Scott Williams was tasked in 1921 with organizing the CAF, handing command over later the same year to Air Marshal Lindsay Gordon. 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. Many CAF members also worked with the Air Board's Civil Operations Branch on operations that included forestry, surveying and anti-smuggling patrols. 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. During WWII the Royal Canadian Air Force was headquartered in 20-23 Lincolns Inn Fields, London. A commemorative plaque can be found on the outside of the building.
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.
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 Canadian Air Group, 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-18 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, CU-161 Sperwer 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. The 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. Though traditional insignia for the RCAF was restored in 2015, there has been no restoration of the traditional uniforms or rank structure of the historical service (apart from a rank of "Aviator", which replaced that of "Private" in 2015).
|CF-18 Hornet||United States / Canada||Multirole||CF-18A/B Hornet||80||98 CF-18A and 40 F/A-18B have been delivered for a total of 138. 72 CF-18As and 31 CF-18Bs in inventory, 80 in operational use.|
|F/A-18 Hornet||United States||Multirole||F/A-18A/B Hornet||18||ex-RAAF jets; 12 F/A-18A and 6 F/A-18B have been delivered. Up to seven additional Hornets are also being supplied.|
|CP-140 Aurora||United States||ASW/Patrol||Lockheed CP-140M||15|
|CC-130 Hercules||United States||Tanker/SAR||Lockheed CC-130E/HR(T)||12||4 tankers and 8 SAR.|
|CC-130J Hercules||United States||Tactical airlifter||Lockheed Martin C-130J-30||17|
|CC-138 Twin Otter||Canada||SAR||3|
|CC-144 Challenger||Canada||Transport||Bombardier Challenger 600||4|
|CC-150 Polaris||France||Transport/Tanker||Airbus CC-150, Airbus CC-150T||5||2 transport, 2 tanker and 1 VIP.|
|CC-177 Globemaster III||United States||Strategic airlifter||Boeing C-17A ER||5|
|CC-295 Kingfisher||Spain||SAR||EADS CASA C-295||0||All 16 aircraft were expected to be delivered by the end of 2022. However, initial operating capability is not anticipated until 2025/26.|
|CH-139 JetRanger||United States||Trainer||Bell 206B-3||13|
|CH-146 Griffon||Canada||Transport/SAR||85||85 tactical helicopters and 15 SAR. Eight armed in 2009 to escort CH-147 Chinooks in Afghanistan.|
|CH-147 Chinook||United States||Transport||Boeing CH-47F||15|
|CH-148 Cyclone||United States||ASW||23||23 helicopters in service as of May 2021.One airframe lost to crash on operations.|
|CH-149 Cormorant||United Kingdom / Italy||SAR||14|
|CT-114 Tutor||Canada||Air Demonstration||Canadair CL-41A||24||Used by "The Snowbirds".|
|CT-155 Hawk||United Kingdom||Jet Trainer||BAE Systems Hawk 115||17||22 delivered to 419 sqn and 2 CFFTS.|
|CT-156 Harvard II||United States||Trainer||22||24 leased in 2000, 2 added in 2002. Two lost in crashes.|
|Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet||France||Jet Trainer||Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet Type A||16||Based in Montreal and operated by Canadian Air Combat and Electronic Warfare Support Services as well as 414 Squadron.|
|Grob G 120||Germany||Trainer||14|
|Hawker Hunter||United Kingdom||Jet Trainer||Hawker Hunter F.58||12||12 owned by Lortie Aviation, used for training RCAF pilots, stored at CFB Cold Lake, and are ex-swiss aircraft.|
|IAI Heron||Israel||ISR||2||2 in service, formerly operated 3.|
|RQ-21 Blackjack||United States||ISR||10||5 aircraft ordered in 2016. A second system with 5 aircraft ordered in 2019 for delivery in summer 2022.|
|UMS Skeldar V-200||Sweden||ISR||CU-176 Gargoyle||6||Known as CU-176 Gargoyle in Canadian Service.|
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. Despite RCAF marking all aircraft have civilian registration numbers.
The Canadian CF-35 is a proposed variant that would differ from the F-35A through the addition of a drogue parachute and may include an F-35B/C-style refueling probe. In 2012, it was revealed that the CF-35 would employ the same boom refueling system as the F-35A. Following the 2015 Federal Election the Liberal Party, whose campaign had included a pledge to cancel the F-35 procurement, formed a new government and commenced an open competition to replace the existing CF-18 Hornet. On 28 March 2022, the Government of Canada announced that the competition had placed the F-35A first and planned to buy 88 of them. Under procurement rules, the government will now enter into negotiations with Lockheed Martin.
General Atomics has offered the MQ-20 Avenger stealth unmanned combat air vehicle to Canada as a contender for its Joint Unmanned Surveillance and Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS) armed UAV project. In 2016, the JUSTAS project was prioritized by the Royal Canadian Air Force. The Royal Canadian Air Force has requested that the drones be armed, therefore making the General Atomics Avenger the only suitable contender as Northrop Grumman's RQ-4 'Global Hawk' is unarmed. Following a formal 'Invitation to Qualify' issued by the Government of Canada, only General Atomics and L3 Technologies MAS were selected as being qualified suppliers allowed to submit a bid. Canada will begin to refine the preliminary requirements with General Atomics and L3 Technologies until a formal request for proposals and contract is awarded.
In 2022, two ex-Kuwait Airways Airbus A330-200 were selected to be converted as Airbus A330 MRTT to replace the CC-150 Polaris. The two aircraft will arrive in winter 2023 and converted by Airbus Defence and Space (mainly in Spain and repainted in France).
Weapons systems are used by the CF-18 Hornet, CP-140 Aurora, CH-146 Griffon and the CH-148 Cyclone.
|Lockheed Martin||United States||GBU-10 Paveway II (12, 16 and 24)||Laser-guided bomb||1980s||Used by CF-18|
|General Dynamics||United States||Mark 82 bomb||Low drag general-purpose bomb (500 lb (230 kg))||1970s||Used by CF-18|
|General Dynamics||United States||Mark 83 bomb||Low drag general-purpose bomb (1,000 lb (450 kg))||1980s||Used by CF-18|
|General Dynamics||United States||Mark 84 bomb||Low drag general-purpose bomb (2,000 lb (910 kg))||1980s||Used by CF-18|
|Boeing||United States||Joint Direct Attack Munition||A kit to convert a regular bomb into precision-guided munition||2011||Used by CF-18|
|Raytheon/Hughes||United States||AGM-65G Maverick Missile||Air-to-surface missile||1999||Used by CF-18. First leased in 1999 from the United States for Kosovo Force,|
then purchased in 2002 for the War in Afghanistan (2001-2021)
|Bristol||Canada||CRV 7 Rocket||Folding-fin ground attack rocket||1970s||Used by CF-18|
|Douglas||United States||AIM-7 Sparrow||Medium-range semi-active radar homing air-to-air missile||1980s||Used by CF-18|
|Raytheon/Hughes||United States||AIM-120 AMRAAM||Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missile||2000s||Used by CF-18|
|United States||AIM-9 Sidewinder||Heat-seeking, short-range, air-to-air missile||1980s||Used by CF-18|
|United States||M61 20mm Vulcan cannon||Air-cooled gatling-style cannon||1980s||Used by CF-18|
|Alliant||United States||Mark 46 torpedo||Air and ship-launched lightweight torpedo||1970s||Used by CP-140 Aurora and CH-148 Cyclone (but not by CP-140A Arcturus)|
|FN Herstal||Belgium||FN MAG C6||7.62 mm self-defence machine gun||1980s||Used by CH-146 Griffon, CH-147F Chinook and CH-148 Cyclone|
|Dillon Aero||United States||M134||7.62 mm self-defence machine gun||2011||Used by CH-146 Griffon|
|Browning Arms Company||United States||M3M||0.50 cal (12.7 mm) machine gun||2013||Used by CH-146 Griffon|
|Systems & Electronics, Inc.||United States||60K Tunner||Material handling equipment||2008||Used with CC-177 transport|
|JBT AeroTech||United States||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.||United States||B-1200||Aircraft towing tractor||2008||Used to tow CC-177 and CC-130|
|Weapon||Country of manufacture||Type||In service||#|
|CIM-10 Bomarc-B||United States||Supersonic missile equipped with a 10 kt W40 (nuclear warhead)||1962 to 1972||N/A|
|AIR-2 Genie||United States||Air-to-air rocket with a 1.5 kt W25 (nuclear warhead)||1965 to 1984||N/A|
|MK-20 "Rockeye"||United States||Cluster bomb||1980s to 1997||≈1000|
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 Royal Canadian Air Force activities throughout Canada and worldwide. The RCAF's other Air Division, 2 Canadian Air Division, was established in June 2009, and 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 commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force 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.
|NATO code||OF-10||OF-9||OF-8||OF-7||OF-6||OF-5||OF-4||OF-3||OF-2||OF-1||OF(D)||Student officer|
| Royal Canadian Air Force
|General||Lieutenant-general||Major-general||Brigadier-general||Colonel||Lieutenant-colonel||Major||Captain||Lieutenant||Second lieutenant||Officer cadet|
| Royal Canadian Air Force
chief warrant officer
chief warrant officer
chief warrant officer
|Chief warrant officer||Master warrant officer||Warrant officer||Sergeant||Master corporal||Corporal||Aviator (trained)||Aviator (basic)|
des Forces canadiennes
|Adjudant-chef||Adjudant-maître||Adjudant||Sergent||Caporal-chef||Caporal||Aviateur (formé)||Aviateur (confirmé)|
On 1 April 2015, the rank structure and insignia changed. The rank of private was replaced with that of aviator, represented with a propeller for the rank insignia. The previously used term "leading aircraftman" was considered not to be gender neutral. The rank insignia were also changed: enlisted ranks were changed from gold to pearl-grey (silver) and officers rank braid was changed from gold to pearl-grey on black, similar to the pattern used before unification of Canada's armed forces in 1968. A revival of the former rank titles of the RCAF did not occur, however, as such an extensive change was considered "too complicated and confusing". Instead, the current rank titles were 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.
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.
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.