AIR COMMAND (1975-2011)

Although the Navy was the service most opposed to unification, the Air Force received the shortest end of the stick and lacked even a command structure. The Air Force was spread out amongst five commands: Maritime (Navy), Mobile (Army), Air Defence, Air Transport and Training. No. 1 Canadian Air Division, which had been downgraded to 1 Canadian Air Group, became part of Canadian Forces Europe.

LGen Bill Carr, left, receives the scroll establishing Air Command from Gen Jacques

But the division of air assets along functional lines just wasn’t working. Air doctrine wasn’t being taught or upgraded. There was no central oversight of flight safety. And Maritime and Mobile Commands weren’t really “joint” but had become Navy or Army with Air Force assets attached to them. Perhaps most seriously, there was no voice for the Air Force, especially when air assets were identified to take heavy hits during the 1973 budget cuts.

Lieutenant-General Bill Carr, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, was in a position to do something about it. “Unification, when first announced, was — I felt — a good idea,” he said in a 2005 interview. “Within a few years it became apparent that the amalgamation of all the services had particularly impacted the aviation arm in a harmful manner… Morale [also] suffered considerably, and one of the main reasons was a lack of organizational identity.

“[W]e really needed to create a consolidated organization to properly administer all military aviation in Canada.

“Two other key players were Major-Generals Dave Adamson [Chief of Air Operations at National Defence Headquarters] and Norm Magnusson [commander of Air Defence Command]. We had to move carefully and produce well-reasoned arguments that would be acceptable to both the Chief of the Defence Staff [General Jacques Dextraze], who had an Army background, and the Defence Minister [James Richardson] who, coincidentally, had served in the RCAF during World War Two.”

On September 2, 1975, the efforts paid off and Air Command was created. With its headquarters in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Carr as its first commander, Air Command controlled all air assets within the Canadian Armed Forces.

FOCUS ON… THE CF-101 VOODOO

CF-101 VOODOO

It was Canada’s fighter jet after the fall of the Arrow and it fought the Cold War armed with nuclear weapons (although that was never officially confirmed at the time).

The 58 McDonnell CF-101 Voodoos, located at Air Force bases from Comox, British Columbia, to Chatham, New Brunswick, were the main strike fighter against any incoming Soviet attack.

The Voodoo initially carried the Falcon missile and then the Genie nuclear missile. Flying at Mach 1.72 (almost twice the speed of sound) at 10,500 metres (35,000 feet), the Voodoo kept the peace.

Under Operation Peace Wings, Canada’s 56 surviving Voodoos were exchanged for 66 upgraded USAF Voodoos; the cost difference was borne by using Pinetree Radar Line cost sharing credits.