Royal Canadian Air Force Doctrine

Doctrine is defined as the “fundamental principles by which military forces guide their actions in support of objectives.”[1] In line with this definition then, military doctrine is the foundation for every aspect of military activity.

Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) doctrine is divided into three levels: strategic (capstone), operational (keystone) and tactical. Strategic doctrine sets out the fundamental and enduring principles that guide military forces across the continuum of operations, while operational doctrine applies these principles to describe the use of armed force in the context of distinct objectives, force capabilities, mission types and operating environments.[2] Tactical doctrine is guided by the higher levels of doctrine in detailing the proper use of specific weapon systems and other resources in order to execute tasks to achieve a specific aim. The boundaries between these levels are not always distinct and can sometimes overlap. In line with the CAF model, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF’s) capstone and keystone air doctrine provide the guidance for the proper application of air power.

The RCAF has been using the functions Command, Sense, Act (Shape and Move), Shield, Sustain and Generate as the basis for its capstone and keystone doctrine. Currently, the RCAF is in the midst of a doctrinal transition away from these functions towards capability-based (core and enabling) doctrine. This change is largely due to how the RCAF looks at its capabilities and roles in order to execute missions. This new way of thinking seeks to break down capability stovepipes and presents a more integrated, less platform-specific view of air power operations. Furthermore, the restructure of air doctrine brings it in sync with Air Force Vectors and the Royal Canadian Air Force Campaign Plan.

The new suite of capability-based doctrine is presented in a way that is more intuitive, easier to understand and can be converted more easily into practice at the tactical level. Refocusing RCAF doctrine sets the conditions that ensure continued mission success. It is important to note that the six RCAF functions are still applicable and should still be considered as factors when planning air power operations. The functions are still discussed in our doctrine, but at the capstone level only. The highlights of the doctrinal transition are:

  • four keystone core capabilities (control of the air; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [ISR]; air attack; and air mobility);
  • initial keystone enabling capabilities (command and control, force protection, force sustainment, electronic warfare, expeditionary air operations, force generation and force development) will be introduced and expanded in keystone-level doctrine; and
  • the six RCAF functions will be described in capstone doctrine but will not be expanded at the keystone level.

The transition to capability-based doctrine is already well under way, with new capstone (B-GA-400-000/FP-001, Royal Canadian Air Force Doctrine), keystone (B-GA-401-002/FP-001, Royal Canadian Air Force Doctrine: Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and B-GA-402-003/FP-001, Royal Canadian Air Force Doctrine: Force Sustainment) and other new manuals to be uploaded as they are translated and published.

In accordance with the Official Languages Act, publications awaiting translation may not be uploaded to the Internet. For further information and to ensure access to the most recent approved publications, please contact the Doctrine Development Branch of the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre:


1. Defence Terminology Bank record 1761. [return]

2. B-GJ-005-000/FP-001, Canadian Forces Joint Publication 01, Canadian Military Doctrine, 1-2–1-3.[return]

Capstone (Strategic)

Cover of B-GA-400-000/FP-001,Royal Canadian Air Force Doctrine

B-GA-400-000/FP-001, Royal Canadian Air Force Doctrine,
3rd Edition, November 2016

Download: Accessbile (PDF, 675KB)  |  Full PDF Version (5.7MB)

Keystone Core Capabilities (Operational)

B-GA-402-000/FP-001, CF Aerospace Sense Doctrine,
1st Edition, August 2012

B-GA-403-000/FP-001, CF Aerospace Shape Doctrine,
1st Edition, March 2014

B-GA-404-000/FP-001, CF Aerospace Move Doctrine,
1st Edition, November 2011 

Keystone Enabling Capabilities (Operational)

B-GA-401-000/FP-001, CF Aerospace Command Doctrine,
1st Edition, March 2012

B-GA-403-002/FP-001, Aerospace Electronic Warfare,
1st Edition, March 2011

B-GA-405-000/FP-001, CF Aerospace Shield  Doctrine,
1st Edition, February 2012

ARCHIVED - B-GA-405-001/FP-001, Aerospace Force Protection Doctrine,
1st Edition, 8 August 2008

B-GA-406-000/FP-001, CF Aerospace Sustain Doctrine,
1st Edition, February 2011

##MCECOPY##B-GA-405-001/FP-001, Aerospace Force Protection Doctrine

Subordinate Operational Publications

ARCHIVED - B-GA-407-001/FP-001, Air Force Personnel Doctrine,
1st Edition, 29 April 2010

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