Chapter 1: Introduction to Doctrine (B-GA-400-000/FP-000, Canadian Forces Aerospace Doctrine)


In the absence of sound doctrine that you have developed yourself, someone else will decide how your forces will be deployed and employed.[1]

- Major-General J. J. C. Bouchard

Doctrine Defined

Military doctrine is the foundation upon which every aspect of military activity is based. A sound doctrinal framework provides commanders guidance and permits individuals to think and act more clearly while engaged in conflict. The missions and tasks executed by military forces are derived from doctrine. Doctrine is also instrumental in establishing priorities for procurement and acts as a critical sounding board for testing and evaluating new concepts and policies. For these reasons, doctrine is essential to the effective functioning and evolution of military forces.

But what is doctrine? In the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), doctrine is defined as the “[f]undamental principles by which military forces guide their actions in support of objectives.”[2] Doctrine represents knowledge gained from experience, and although it is authoritative, it requires judgment in application. As such, doctrine is not rigid and is not intended to curtail a commander’s freedom of action.[3] To a degree, doctrine reflects what is being done, and how forces act. As new experience is gained, for example, with technology or against threats, commanders develop new methods of conducting and supporting operations. The Canadian Forces (CF) Doctrine Development Manual explains that any departure from the guidance provided by doctrine “should be undertaken only after the doctrine has been considered in light of the particular circumstances of an operation and the doctrine is found to be wanting in some respect.”[4] Departures from doctrine may indicate that the doctrine itself requires amendment. Doctrine is, therefore, not static; to remain relevant it needs to remain in concert with how forces evolve in response to experience, new technologies, and a multitude of other factors. In this way, doctrine must be continuously revalidated and never be considered as dogma.[5]

Military Doctrine

CF doctrine is divided into three levels: strategic, operational, and tactical, as depicted in Figure 1-1. Strategic doctrine sets out the fundamental and enduring principles that guide military forces in conflict. Operational doctrine uses these principles to establish distinct objectives and force capabilities, and to describe the operational environment. 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. Although relatively simple to explain, the boundaries between these levels are not always distinct and can sometimes overlap, depending on circumstance.

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Figure 1-1 shows the three levels of doctrine (from highest to lowest) are: (1) strategic—the guiding principles; (2) operational—objectives and force capabilities; and (3) tactical—the use of weapons. End Figure 1-1.

Figure 1-1. Three Levels of Doctrine[6]


Military Doctrine is also categorized into three distinct types:[7]

Environment-specific[8] Doctrine – doctrine that reflects the environments in which military operations take place. Sea power, land power, and aerospace[9] power have distinct characteristics and varying applications that provide complementary contributions to national and multinational military endeavours.

Joint Doctrine – doctrine that provides the fundamental principles that guide the employment of forces of two or more environments in coordinated action toward a common objective.

Combined Doctrine – doctrine that describes the best way to integrate and deploy national forces of more than one nation in coalition or alliance warfare, such as NATO doctrine. The relationships between the categories of doctrine are illustrated in Figure 1-2. The CF doctrine hierarchy originates with the capstone manual, Canadian Military Doctrine. Each environment has its own capstone manual and this document is the capstone for aerospace doctrine. Doctrine publications immediately below the capstone level are referred to as keystone manuals. These operational-level manuals are further amplified through appropriate tactical doctrine publications, such as tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) manuals. To facilitate interoperability, CF military doctrine must be as consistent as possible with the doctrine of the United States (US) and other NATO members. It should also take into account ongoing doctrinal development within the armed forces of the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.[10]

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Figure 1-1 shows the three levels of doctrine (from highest to lowest) are: (1) strategic—the guiding principles; (2) operational—objectives and force capabilities; and (3) tactical—the use of weapons. End Figure 1-1.

Figure 1-2. Hierarchy of CF Doctrine


Aerospace Doctrine

Strategic aerospace doctrine in the CF expresses fundamental and enduring principles that describe and guide the proper application of aerospace power. Because of its fundamental and enduring nature, strategic doctrine provides broad and continuing guidance on how aerospace forces are best organized and employed. CF strategic aerospace doctrine, as promulgated in this capstone document, is the foundation for all other levels of aerospace doctrine and establishes the framework for the effective use of aerospace forces.

Operational aerospace doctrine applies the principles of strategic doctrine to aerospace operations to describe the organization of aerospace forces and guide their employment in the context of broad functional areas, distinct objectives, force capabilities, and operational environments.  Operational aerospace doctrine is the focus for developing the missions and tasks that must be executed through aerospace operations.

Tactical aerospace doctrine applies the principles of operational doctrine when employing specific weapon systems, either individually or in concert with other weapon systems, to accomplish specific tasks. Tactical doctrine considers particular tactical objectives and tactical conditions (such as threats, weather, and terrain), and describes how specific weapon systems are employed to achieve operational effects.

Canadian Forces Aerospace Doctrine Authority

CF aerospace doctrine is developed and promulgated on the authority of the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS). The Commander 2 Canadian Air Division / Air Force Doctrine and Training Division (Comd 2 Cdn Air Div / AFDT Div) is the designated Aerospace Doctrine Authority (ADA) and thus has authority over all aspects of aerospace doctrine. The ADA is also the designated coordinating authority for CF joint and combined doctrine that encompasses Air Force functions. The ADA is assisted in meeting aerospace doctrine responsibilities with the help of the Aerospace Doctrine Committee (ADC) and the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre (CFAWC). The ADC is the designated Air Force body responsible for overseeing aerospace doctrine, while CFAWC is responsible for the development, production, and dissemination of all strategic and operational aerospace doctrine, as well as the coordination, production, and dissemination of all tactical aerospace doctrine.[11]

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1. Lieutenant-General J. J. C. Bouchard, then Major-General, interview with Lieutenant-Colonel J. P. Blais, Winnipeg, December 2006.  (return)

2. North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO Standardization Agency, AAP-6 (2009) NATO Glossary of Terms and Definitions (Brussels: NATO Standardization Agency, 2009), 2-D-9. (return)

3. I. B. Holley Jr., “A Modest Proposal: Making Doctrine More Memorable,” Airpower Journal 9, no. 4 (Winter 1995), 14–20. (return)

4. Canada, Department of National Defence, A-GJ-025-0A1/FP-001, CFJP A1 Doctrine Development Manual (Ottawa: Department of National Defence, 2009), 1-1. (return)

5. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (11th ed.) defines dogma as a set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertible. (return)

6. Canada, Department of National Defence, B-GJ-005-000/FP-001, CFJP 01 Canadian Military Doctrine (Ottawa: Department of National Defence, 2009), 1-3.

7. Canada, Department of National Defence, B-GJ-005-000/FP-001, CFJP 01 Canadian Military Doctrine (Ottawa: Department of National Defence, 2009), 1-3. (return)

8. The maritime, land, and air elements of the Canadian Forces are formally referred to as “environments.” (return)

9. Aerospace, meaning the air and space environments, is used throughout this document to underscore that the Air Force operates, uses, exploits, and is concerned with both environments. (return)

10. Doctrine Development Manual, 1-4. (return)

11. For a more comprehensive discussion, refer to Air Command Order 8000-0 Aerospace Doctrine (Ottawa, Department of National Defence, 2002). (return)

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