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Royal Canadian Air Force

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Royal Canadian Air Force
Aviation royale canadienne
  • 1 April 1924
  • (100 years, 3 months)
  • (as Royal Canadian Air Force)

TypeAir and space force
  • 356 operational aircraft
  • Personnel:
  •  • Regular Force: 12,074 Regular force members[1]
  •  • Reserve Force: 1,969 Reserve force members[1]
  •  • Civilian members: 1,518 civilian members[1]
Part ofCanadian Armed Forces
HeadquartersNational Defence Headquarters, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
MarchRCAF March Past
AnniversariesArmed Forces Day (first Sunday of June)
Websitewww.canada.ca/en/air-force.html Edit this at Wikidata
Commander-in-ChiefCharles III, King of Canada
Commander of the Royal Canadian Air ForceLieutenant-General Eric Kenny
Deputy Commander of the Royal Canadian Air ForceMajor-General Jamie Speiser-Blanchet
Royal Canadian Air Force Command Chief Warrant OfficerChief Warrant Officer W.J. Hall
Fin flash
Aircraft flown
FighterCF-18 Hornet, F/A-18 Hornet
HelicopterCH-139 JetRanger, CH-146 Griffon, CH-147 Chinook, CH-148 Cyclone, CH-149 Cormorant
PatrolCP-140 Aurora
ReconnaissanceCU-170 Heron, CE-145C Vigilance
TrainerCT-114 Tutor, CT-142 Dash-8, CT-156 Harvard II
TransportCC-130H Hercules, CC-130J Super Hercules, CC-138 Twin Otter, CC-144 Challenger, CC-150 Polaris, CC-177 Globemaster III, CC-295 Kingfisher, Airbus CC-330 Husky

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF; French: Aviation royale canadienne, ARC) is the air and space force of Canada.[3] Its role is to "provide the Canadian Forces with relevant, responsive and effective airpower".[4] 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.[1][5] Lieutenant-General Eric Kenny is the current Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force and Chief of the Air Force Staff.[6]

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.[7]

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.



1920–1945: Pre-unification


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.[8] 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.[9][10] Many CAF members also worked with the Air Board's Civil Operations Branch on operations that included forestry, surveying and anti-smuggling patrols.[11] 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, with forest patrols of the northwest a major part of its operations;[12] however, in the late 1920s other agencies took up most civil tasks, with the notable exception of aerial photography surveys, and the RCAF evolved into more of a military organization.[13] After budget cuts in the early 1930s, the air force began to rebuild.[14]: 47 

Two armourers of No 440 Squadron RCAF re-arming a Hawker Typhoon in the Netherlands, 1944

Second World War


During the Second World War, the RCAF was a major contributor to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and was involved in operations in the United Kingdom, Europe, the north Atlantic, North Africa, southern Asia, and with home defence. Eight thousand, eight hundred and sixty-four Americans came north to volunteer for the RCAF and over 850 died in action.[15] By the end of the war, the RCAF had become the fourth largest Allied air force.[16] During World War II the RCAF was headquartered at a six-storey office building at 20-23 Lincoln's Inn Fields (built 1937), London.[17] A commemorative plaque can be found on the outside of the building.[18]



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.[14]: 245, 377 

1968–present: Unification

An RCAF CIM-10 Bomarc missile on a launch erecter in North Bay. Viewed as an alternative to the scrapped Avro Arrow, the Bomarc's adoption was controversial given its nuclear payload.

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 the 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 Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force; Air Defence Command: operated McDonnell CF-101 Voodoo interceptors, CIM-10 Bomarc missiles and the SAGE radar stations 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).

An RCAF CF-18 Hornet during Operation Impact, 2015. CF-18s have been used by the RCAF since 1983.

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.[19]

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.[20] 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).[21]

On 17 April 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada was dispatching six CF-18s and military personnel to assist NATO in operations in Eastern Europe.[22]





The Royal Canadian Air Force has about 430 aircraft in service, making it the third-largest air force in the Americas, after the United States Armed Forces, and the Brazilian Air Force.

Current inventory

Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
CF-18 Hornet (CF-188) United States Multirole CF-18A/B Hornet 85 98 CF-18A and 40 CF-18B have been delivered for a total of 138. 72 CF-18As and 31 CF-18Bs in inventory, 85 in operational use.[23][24]
FA-18A/B Hornet United States Multirole FA-18A/B Hornet 7 12 F/A-18A and 6 F/A-18B have been delivered from Australia for a total of 18. 7 in operational use.[24]
F-35A Lightning II United States Multirole F-35A 88 F-35As ordered in January 2023. First 4 to arrive in 2026, with all 88 to be delivered by 2032.[25][26]
Maritime patrol
CP-140 Aurora United States ASW/Patrol Lockheed CP-140M 15[27] Will be replaced by Boeing P-8A
Boeing P-8A United States ASW/Patrol Boeing P-8A 16 on order with delivery starting in 2026.[28]
CE-145C Vigilance United States surveillance/reconnaissance Beechcraft King Air 350ER 3[29]
Transport aircraft
CC-130 Hercules United States Tanker/SAR Lockheed CC-130E/HR(T) 12[27] 4 tankers and 8 SAR.[30]
CC-130J Super Hercules United States Tactical airlifter/SAR Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 17[27] As of 15 May 2023, CC-130J model Hercules aircraft began performing SAR operations based out of CFB Trenton so CC-130 (non-J model) airframes could be relocated to other squadrons.[31]
CC-138 Twin Otter Canada SAR 3[27]
CC-144 Challenger Canada Transport Bombardier Challenger 600 4[27]
CC-150 Polaris Multinational Transport/Tanker Airbus CC-150, Airbus CC-150T 5[27] 2 transport, 2 tanker and 1 VIP
CC-330 Husky Multinational Transport/Tanker A330-200 2 9 new and used aircraft to be converted to MRTT role. Initial units to enter service in fall 2023.[32][33][34] First aircraft arrived in Canada on 31 August 2023.[35] Aircraft still has civilian registration 9K-APC and RCAF numbering 30002.
CC-177 Globemaster III United States Strategic airlifter Boeing C-17A ER 5[27]
CC-295 Kingfisher Spain SAR EADS CASA C-295 All 16 aircraft were expected to be delivered by the end of 2022.[36][37][38] However, initial operating capability is not anticipated until 2025/26.[39] Additional trainer aircraft for maintenance personnel arrived in 2020 without SAR equipment and not part of the operational fleet.
CH-139 JetRanger United States Trainer Bell 206B-3 13[27]
CH-146 Griffon United States / Canada Transport/SAR 85[27] 85 tactical helicopters and 15 SAR. Eight armed in 2009 to escort CH-147 Chinooks in Afghanistan.[40]
CH-147 Chinook United States Transport Boeing CH-47F 14[27] One aircraft crashed July 2023[41]
CH-148 Cyclone United States ASW 25 26 helicopters delivered as of end of 2022.[42][43] One airframe lost to crash on operations.[44]
CH-149 Cormorant United Kingdom / Italy SAR 13[27] 13 aircraft to be upgraded plus additional 3 new-build helicopters ordered[45]
Trainer Aircraft
CT-114 Tutor Canada Air Demonstration, proficiency flying Canadair CL-41A 24[27] Used by 431 Air Demonstration Squadron (The Snowbirds).

Used by Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE), CFB Cold Lake for test support and pilot proficiency.[46][47]

CT-142 Dash-8 Canada Trainer 4[27] 3 Ordered[48]
CT-156 Harvard II United States Trainer 22[27] 24 leased in 2000, 2 added in 2002.[49] Two lost in crashes.[50][51]
Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet France / Germany Jet Trainer Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet Type A 16[52] Based in Montreal and operated by Canadian Air Combat and Electronic Warfare Support Services as well as 414 Squadron.[52]
Grob G 120 Germany Trainer 14[27] 23 Ordered[53]
Pilatus PC-21 Switzerland Trainer 19 Ordered[54]
Beechcraft Super King Air 260 United States Trainer 7 Ordered[55]
Eurocopter EC135 France Trainer 19 Ordered[56]
MQ-9B SkyGuardian United States ISR 11 on order with delivery from 2028.[57]
IAI Heron Israel ISR 2 2 in service, formerly operated 3.[58]
UMS Skeldar V-200 Sweden ISR CU-176 Gargoyle 6 Known as CU-176 Gargoyle in Canadian Service.[59]
RQ-21 Blackjack United States ISR 10


Airbus CC-150 Polaris
An RCAF CC-150 Polaris refuelling two CF-18 Hornets near CFB Borden
Airbus A310 transports purchased in 1992 for use as 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; all five aircraft are operated by 437 Squadron based at 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario.
Airbus CC-295 Kingfisher[60]
Twin-turboprop tactical search and rescue aircraft as replacement for the CC-115 Buffalo and older-model C-130H Hercules search and rescue aircraft
BAE Systems CT-155 Hawk
Single-engined lead-in fighter trainer leased in 2000. 17 aircraft in service beginning of 2024, based at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, SK and 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, announced 'taken out of service as per April 2024
Beechcraft CT-156 Harvard II
Single-engined trainer leased from CAE Inc. to replace the Canadair CT-114 Tutor. 24 aircraft based at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Beechcraft King Air C-90B
Multi-engine training aircraft. Leased to RCAF by Allied Wings, 7 aircraft are based at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.
Boeing CC-177 Globemaster III
An RCAF C-17 Globemaster III at Calgary International Airport
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.[61]
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. Four aircraft are 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 26 aircraft remain in service, 24 of which are used by 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, "The Snowbirds". Five are used by Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE) for test support and pilot proficiency flying.[46][47]
DHC CC-138 Twin Otter
A twin-engined utility transport operated since the 1970s, four remain based at Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, operated by 440 Transport Squadron.
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, Manitoba.
Grob G 120A
Single engine primary trainer used to train pilot candidates before they move onto the Harvard II. Leased to RCAF by KF Defence Programs, 14 aircraft are based at 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.[24]
Lockheed CC-130H Hercules
An RCAF CC-130H Hercules on approach to Winnipeg James Richardson International Airport
Four-engined tactical transport. Several versions have been operated since 1960. Remaining CC-130Hs used for search and rescue and air-to-air refuelling. 12 aircraft remain in service,[24] 4 of which have been converted to air-to-air tankers. Based at 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia, 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario, and 17 Wing, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Lockheed CP-140 Aurora
Four-engined maritime patrol aircraft based on the American Lockheed P-3 Orion; entered service in 1980, 18 aircraft now based at 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia, and 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia.[24]
Lockheed Martin CC-130J Super Hercules
Four-engined tactical airlifter replacing earlier Hercules variants in that role.[62] A total of 17 are in service operated by 436 (T) Squadron based at 8 Wing Trenton.[63]
McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet
An RCAF CF-18 Hornet during the Bagotville Air Show
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.[64] Stationed at 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec and 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta; 60 CF-18As and 25 CF-18Bs remain in active service.[24][65]
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet (Ex-RAAF)
18 (12 F/A-18A and 6 F/A-18B) have been delivered. Up to seven additional Hornets are also being supplied to be used for spares.[66]

Rotary wing

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.
Bell CH-139 JetRanger (Model C or III)
Single-engined utility and training helicopter. Ordered for 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School at CFB Portage la Prairie, MB; an older variant (CH-136 - Jetranger A model), was used by Regular Forces in CFB Lahr in Germany and in Canada from 1972 - 1995 which were replaced by CH-146 Griffons. 12 aircraft remain, leased from Allied Wings, used for flight training in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.
Bell CH-146 Griffon
An RCAF CH-146 Griffon providing close air support for units of the Afghan Armed Forces, and ISAF
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), 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.[67][68][69] 9 ex-RCAF Griffons, designated CT-146, are leased from Allied Wings for pilot training at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. CT-146 Griffons are painted all black and have RCAF roundel, RCAF wordmark, Canada wordmark and civilian registration numbers.[importance?]
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, Ontario, and based in CFB Petawawa, Ontario, 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.[70][71][72] Fifteen aircraft were initially acquired, but one crashed in 2023.[41][24] Full operational capability by June 2018.[73] The Auditor General criticized National Defence for "underestimated and understated" the complexity of the purchases of the Chinook, "[t]he way the advance contract notification instrument was applied in the directed procurement of the Chinook helicopters did not comply with the letter or intent of the applicable regulations and policies".[74]
Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone
A CH-148 Cyclone in flight
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 first delivery to 2015.[24] One aircraft was lost in an accident in April 2020.[75]

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. Despite RCAF marking all aircraft have civilian registration numbers.

Beechcraft B300 Super King Air
  • Two aircraft leased from Transwest Air Limited. Used by the Multi-Engine Utility Flight (MEUF) in CFB Trenton. Flown by RCAF pilots, they are used for light transport of personnel and equipment within North America.
Dornier Alpha Jet Type A
  • 16 aircraft are operated by Top Aces for CATS (Contracted Airborne Training Services) and are based at CFB Cold Lake and CFB Bagotville.[52]

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)



SAGEM Sperwer
Designated CU-161; entered service in 2003, retired[76]
IAI Heron
3 leased in 2009 for use in Afghanistan; turned over to the Royal Australian Air Force in 2011[77]

Canadian Army/RCN UAS

BAE Systems Silver Fox
Acquired in 2004 by the Canadian Forces Experimentation Centre[78]
Boeing Insitu ScanEagle
Designated CU-165; operated by the Canadian Army 2008–2014[76]
Elbit Skylark
Designated CU-168; operated by the Canadian Army[79]
AeroVironment RQ-11 Raven
Operated by the Canadian Army
AeroVironment RQ-20 Puma
Acquired in 2018; operated by the Royal Canadian Navy[80]
Prioria Robotics Maveric
Operated by the Canadian Army[81]
Saab Skeldar
Acquired in 2019; operated by the Royal Canadian Navy and CANSOFCOM[82]
Boeing Insitu RQ-21 Blackjack
Designated CU-172; 5 acquired in 2016, operated by the Canadian Army[76][83]

Future procurement


Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II


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 refuelling probe.[30][84] In 2012, it was revealed that the CF-35 would employ the same boom refuelling system as the F-35A.[85] Following the 2015 Federal Election the Liberal Party, whose campaign had included a pledge to cancel the F-35 procurement,[86] formed a new government and commenced an open competition to replace the existing CF-18 Hornet.[87] 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 entered into negotiations with Lockheed Martin.[88] On 9 January 2023, the government of Canada officially ordered 88 F-35As.[25][26]

General Atomics MQ-9B SkyGuardian


As of 25 September 2023, Royal Canadian Air Force was looking at purchasing the MQ-9 along with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, in a CA$5 billion contract. The drones were reportedly to be stationed at CFB Greenwood and CFB Comox, with personnel in Ottawa and Yellowknife to support the program. A contract was announced on 19 December 2023 for 11 MQ-9B drones, 219 Hellfire missiles, and 12 Mk82 500-pound bombs.[89]

Boeing P-8A Poseidon


November 30, 2023 - Canada finalized a government-to-government agreement with the US government for the acquisition of up to 16 P-8A Poseidon aircraft for the RCAF. Fourteen multi-mission aircraft will be procured, with options for up to two additional.[90]

Airbus CC-330 Husky (A330-200) MRTT


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).[91] June 19,2023 - Contract awarded for acquisition of nine CC-330 Husky aircraft (mix of 4 new and 5 used A330-200) , associated equipment, integrated logistic support elements, training simulator(s), and sustainment.[92]

Weapons and other equipment


Weapons systems are used by the CF-18 Hornet, CP-140 Aurora, CH-146 Griffon and the CH-148 Cyclone.

Manufacturer Origin Weapon Type Entered service Notes
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[93] 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)[94][95]
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
Loral Corp.
 United States AIM-9 Sidewinder Heat-seeking, short-range, air-to-air missile 1980s Used by CF-18
General Dynamics/
General Electric
 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
Manufacturer Origin Name Type In Service Notes
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

Retired weapons

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[96] ≈1000



The commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, 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. 2 Canadian Air Division was established in June 2009, and consists of training establishments. The other division, 3 Canadian Space Division, was established in 2022.[97]

As of 2024, there are 15 wings across Canada, 13 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 Chief of the Defence Staff. The last air force officer who served as Chief of the Defence Staff was General Thomas J. Lawson, who was appointed to the position in 2012. 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.




Canada Commander-in-chief
Title Commander-in-chief
Abbreviation C-in-C


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[98][99]
General Lieutenant-general Major-general Brigadier-general Colonel Lieutenant-colonel Major Captain Lieutenant Second lieutenant Officer cadet
Général(e) Lieutenant(e)-général(e) Major(e)-général(e) Brigadier(ère)-général(e) Colonel(le) Lieutenant(e)-colonel(le) Major(e) Capitaine Lieutenant(e) Sous-lieutenant(e) Élève-officier(ère)

Non-commissioned members

NATO code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
 Royal Canadian Air Force[98][99]
Chief warrant officer Master warrant officer Warrant officer Sergeant Master corporal Corporal Aviator (trained) Aviator (basic)
Adjudant(e)-chef Adjudant(e)-maître Adjudant(e) Sergent(e) Caporal(e)-chef Caporal(e) Aviateur (formé)/
Aviatrice (formée)
Aviateur (confirmé)/
Aviatrice (confirmée)

On 1 April 2015, the rank structure and insignia changed.[100] 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.[101] 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.[101] 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".[100] 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.[101]




(Women's Division with Tudor crown)
Past versions of the badge used by the Royal Canadian Air Force, with the years they were in use listed above

The badge of the Royal Canadian Air Force consists of:[102]



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 5 July 1940, the RCAF was authorized to introduce the maple leaf into the roundel in place of the red centre. However, a large amount of RCAF planes still continued to use the RAF roundel until 1945 since their aircraft, including those built in Canada all came through RAF channels.[103][104]



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.[105]

See also



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Further reading

  • 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.
  • Green, William & Swanborough, Gordon (February–May 1979). "A Grumman by Any Other Name...". Air Enthusiast (9): 26–39. ISSN 0143-5450.
  • 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.