THE GOLDEN YEARS (1950-1964)
Can you imagine an Air Force that was almost as large as the entire Canadian Armed Forces today? That was the 1950s. In the Cold War era of Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, defence budgets were big and expansion was rapid. In 1949, following post-war demobilization, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) numbered 18,970. By the end of 1952, the RCAF had grown to almost 50,000 personnel; it was larger than the Canadian Army and remained larger until unification.
MISSLES OR JETS?
The great aviation debate in the late 1950s concerned the relative merits of guided missiles and jet aircraft in protecting the North American continent from Soviet attack. The piloted aircraft was deemed obsolete by some; the future was seen in unmanned missile defence. The arguments for missiles were so strong that the Canadian government bought and deployed the Bomarc Missile on September 23, 1958.
Fifty-six missiles, first conventionally armed and later fitted with nuclear warheads, were situated in North Bay, Ontario, and La Macaza, Quebec, from 1961 to 1972. The warheads arrived in 1963.
The two Bomarc squadrons were disbanded in 1972 and today the only missiles left are disarmed and on display in museums and aviation parks.