12 Air Maintenance Squadron
The day-to-day maintenance for the two remaining flying units of 12 Wing - 406 Helicopter Training Squadron and the Helicopter Test and Evaluation Facility (HOTEF) is the responsibility of 12 AMS. As the spares depot for the Sea King fleet, 12 AMS also holds virtually all of the helicopter's unique spares.
12 Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (12 AMS) at 12 Wing Shearwater, provides Aircraft maintenance and engineering support to the operational, and training squadrons assigned to the Wing, whether operating from Shearwater or deployed.
The normal tour of duty at 12 Wing is four to six years. 12 AMS has an establishment of 411 personnel, including 12 Officers and 13 civilians. To provide this support, the Squadron is organized under a centralized maintenance concept with a Commanding Officer directing five sections.
The Maintenance Program is designed to ensure that the Aircraft are safe and airworthy. Every unserviceability and subsequent maintenance activity is entered into a database. The current planned maintenance cycles for the Sea King include:
- Every 25 hours (33 hrs per month ashore - could be 2 days at sea) - at flight line;
- Every 600 hours (approx. 1.5 years) - at 12 AMS/PMO; and,
- Every 2400 hours (approx. 7 years) - at civilian contractor (overhaul).
The maintenance organizations (12 AMS and the SAMEOs for 423 and 443 Squadron) are linked due to the fact that 12 AMS trains technicians for operational squadrons, and technicians subsequently return from the operational squadrons to 12 AMS for their off-cycle postings. The training standard is unique and high in response to the need to operate at sea in deployed, constantly mobile, compartmentalized and isolated sub-units.
It was August 1st 1963 when the first Sea King helicopters landed at Shearwater. Decked out in the traditional Royal Canadian Navy colors, with their bright orange noses and vintage roundels Aircraft 401, 402 and 403 began what is now over 35 years of support to maritime aviation operations.
To commemorate this auspicious occasion, Aircraft 440 has been painted in the colors of that era and is currently being towed out of C hangar. Special thanks to the dedication and hard work of the 12 Air Maintenance Squadron volunteer Aircraft Structures crew for making it possible to take this nostalgic trip back in time.
Maritime Air Command
When Eastern Air Command disbanded in March 1947, the few remaining stations and squadrons were reorganized as 10 Group reporting to the RCAF's Central Command in Trenton. No. 10 Group was re-designated Maritime Group in April 1949 and elevated to Maritime Air Command in June 1953.
In response to the growing submarine threat from the Soviet Union, many squadrons, disbanded after the Second World War, were brought back into service. Nos. 405 and 404 Squadrons were reactivated at Greenwood, NS in March 1950 and April 1951 respectively, flying Lancasters modified for maritime reconnaissance. In 1955 both squadrons converted to the Lockheed Neptune, designed from the outset for anti-submarine operations.
In 1956, all Maritime Air Command squadrons received their current NATO Maritime Patrol designation indicating their specialization in maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare in particular.
No. 405 Squadron was the first to convert from the Neptune to the Canadair Argus, a Canadian designed and built antisubmarine Aircraft derived from the Bristol Britannia, in 1958. No. 404 Squadron converted to the Argus the following year. With its exceptional range, endurance and state of the art electronics, the Argus was the envy of Canada's NATO allies.
In May 1961, 415 Squadron was reactivated at Summerside, PEI end began flying the Argus on North Atlantic anti-submarine patrols.
Maritime Air Group
In 1966, in preparation for integration of Canada's three armed forces, all Maritime Air Command squadrons were transferred to the Navy, known as Maritime Command in the new integrated structure. The rationale was that all maritime air and sea forces should be under the same command. However, this separated the maritime airmen from the collective air power expertise of the larger Air Force. Therefore, all of Canada's air resources, regardless of their previous army, navy or air force affiliation, were organized under a single Air Command in 1975.
The squadrons with specific maritime roles from the former Maritime Air Command and Naval Air Arm formed Maritime Air Group (MAG). The pre-integration RCAF squadrons kept their 400 series numbers while the ex-Navy squadrons retained their naval designations until their Aircraft changed roles or retired. The exception being that the Navy's massive Sea King infrastructure, including HS 50, was divided into a training squadron and two operational squadrons that were assigned ex-RCAF 400 series numbers: 406 (ex-night fighter), 423 (ex-coastal) and 443 (ex-tactical fighter). The Sea King squadrons have added to their proud RCAF heritage with exceptional service in UN sponsored peacekeeping operations in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Somalia, Haiti and the Adriatic Sea.
In 1980 Maritime Air Group's four maritime patrol squadrons (404, 405, 407 and 415) were re equipped with the CP-140 Aurora, a unique Canadian derivative of the Lockheed P-3C Orion.
The Aurora inherited its long range and endurance from the P-3C and its modem anti-submarine sensor suite from Lockheed's S3A Viking. Like its Argus predecessor, the Aurora was the envy of Canada's allies and proved its outstanding capabilities in winning the coveted Fincastle Trophy, emblematic of anti-submarine warfare supreme among Commonwealth air forces, during its first year of service. The Aurora has since distinguished itself on Arctic surveillance, Canada's third ocean frontier and on UN peacekeeping operations in the Adriatic Sea.
With the demise of the Cold War and reduced submarine threat to Canada, Auroras and Sea Kings spend less time on anti-submarine duties. However, in addition to their increased peacekeeping activities, these Aircraft, like their earlier HS-2L and Fairchild 71 predecessors, support other government departments in civilian tasks such as flying anti-drug patrols for the RCMP and fisheries patrols for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
With the reorganization of Air Command in 1997, Maritime Air Group ceased to exist. As with all Air Command squadrons, maritime squadrons are now under the command of No. 1 Air Division in Winnipeg. Two subordinate Maritime Air Component Commanders (Atlantic) and (Pacific) coordinate all maritime air operations with the respective naval commands in Halifax and Esquimalt.
Maritime aviation has played a prominent role in Canada's history, ranging from opening undeveloped frontiers, to protecting our waters in both peace and war and contributing to world stability by participating in the maritime dimension of peacekeeping.
[Editor's note: this is abridged article taken from a larger detailed historical work by the author. Much thanks goes to Col Cable for sharing his work with the Warrior in honour of the 80th Anniversary celebrations.]