12 Wing Shearwater History

Shearwater’s history reflects the evolution of flying in Canada and indeed the growth of Canada’s Air Force. 12 Wing Shearwater is one of the oldest military airfields in Canada, second only to Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Borden.

Shearwater was originally created as a sea base in August 1918, when the small promontory in Halifax Harbour’s Eastern Passage, known as Baker’s Point, became United States Naval Air Station Halifax. It subsequently became an air station for the Canadian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).

With the integration of the Armed Forces in 1968, Shearwater became a CFB and finally, an Air Command Wing and lodger unit supported by CFB Halifax.

Shearwater has been a home for Canada’s air squadrons for the past 80 years, providing continuous service longer than any other Canadian military air base. By virtue of its coastal location, Shearwater has been inextricably linked to the air and sea approaches to Atlantic Canada. In fact, it was the threat by sea that the original raison d'être for the base that continues today.

Through the perseverance and urging of the British Admiralty and the willing cooperation of the U.S. Navy, the Air Station at Dartmouth became  the birthplace of Maritime patrol aviation in Canada.

After activation as a Canadian Air Force Station and later, RCAF Station Dartmouth, the seaplane base became home for a number of early flying boats, which played an essential role in Canada’s evolution from a very dependent British Dominion to a self-sufficient nation.

RCAF Station Dartmouth was home to many bomber reconnaissance squadrons that played a major role in the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II. Dartmouth was one the very few air bases on Canadian soil from which the enemy was confronted face to face in World War II.

HMCS Shearwater was also the birthplace of Canadian naval aviation and from 1948-1968 was home to Canada’s naval air squadrons when not embarked on aircraft carriers. Particularly noteworthy was the RCN pioneering the concept of flying helicopters from destroyer-size ships, a concept other navies of the world have adopted.

Since 1963, the CH-124 Sea King participated in the vanguard of peacekeeping operations, having distinguished themselves in the United Nations duties in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, Somalia, Haiti and the Adriatic Sea.

Despite being older than many of the aircrew and maintenance personnel who kept it flying, the Sea King was the forefront of most of Canada’s operations at sea. Similar to the very early flying boats and float planes that pioneered Canadian maritime aviation, the Sea King supported other government departments. The Canadian Armed Forces retired the Sea King at the end of 2018.Today, 12 Wing operates the CH-148 Cyclone out of Shearwater, Nova Scotia, and Patricia Bay, British Columbia, continuing the wing’s original role of safeguarding the sovereignty of our coastal waters and helping to project Canadian interests abroad.