An Air Force for the 21st century: RCAF refines its expeditionary capabilities

News Article / April 25, 2014

By Major Sonia Dumouchel-Connock

Canada needs an Air Force that is expeditionary and able to rapidly respond to different types of emergencies, natural disasters, or operations across the spectrum of conflict, at home and abroad.

Recognizing this, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) has transformed itself into an effective, capable force that is mobile and can operate any where in Canada and across the globe.

“With its new expeditionary capability, the RCAF has the versatility, flexibility and responsiveness needed to better meet the security challenges of the 21st century,” says Lieutenant-General Yvan Blondin, commander of the RCAF. 

“The Air Force has reorganized its assets in such a way that it can activate, operate and support two deployed operating bases – in Canada or abroad, and in austere conditions – in order to carry out a multitude of mission types.”

Recent deployments, including the NATO operation to help the people of Libya and the recent humanitarian operation to help the people of the Philippines recover from Typhoon Haiyan, demonstrated the value of this new air expeditionary capability. 

“An air expeditionary wing (AEW) may be deployed as an independent air operation or as part of a joint, combined or coalition force, as required by the Government of Canada,” says Colonel Erick Simoneau, the commander of 2 Expeditionary Wing in Bagotville, Quebec. “Each deployed AEW is scaled and tailored to its assigned task, and its primary strength is its ability to offer a commander a comprehensive force that is customized to the mission.”

The air expeditionary wings deployed to the Afghanistan and Libya theatres of operation provided the Air Force with many lessons learned and led to the refinement of the RCAF air expeditionary concept and the creation of 2 Wing, he says.

“Residing inside 2 Wing, we have an operational support element, we have a mission support element, and we have a command element. When these elements are deployed in response to an operation, they form an air expeditionary wing,” explains Colonel Simoneau. “Air detachments drawn from the various wings across Canada that will give the commander the tools needed to accomplish the mission are also attached to the deployed AEW.”

An RCAF AEW can quickly deploy anywhere in the world as a self-contained unit. It is self-sufficient for 30 days and extendable to 60 days with one resupply, and can operate from a well-found base with highly developed infrastructure or from an austere base with limited infrastructure.

The establishment and manning of 2 Wing and the continued refinement of Canada’s air expeditionary capability marks a new era for the RCAF, and signals its commitment to maintaining and improving its ability to deploy forces whenever and wherever necessary.

“Having an expeditionary mindset means understanding that there is a need for flexibility and scalability when deploying a force,” says Lieutenant-General Blondin. “We need to ensure that we deliver what is required, at the right place, at the right time, and that it is useful. The need for an air expeditionary force is real and must be optimized for the 21st century.”

Watch a short video about the RCAF's expeditionary capabilities.

Royal Canadian Air Force video gallery


Date modified: