Written by Major (Ret'd) Marc George on 02 November 2012.

Canadian Army Aviation

auster colour 300By Major (Ret'd) Marc George, Director, RCA Museum

During the First World War, the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) 1912–1918 is a British Army Corps in which Canadian troops operate independently. The RFC has a firm Army support focus - air photos, liaison, operating air observation posts (AOP) and close air support of troops on the ground. The first direction of artillery by an air observer occurs on 13 September 1914.

On 8 December 1915, Capt H.C.T. Dowding, Royal Artillery (later ACM Lord Dowding, the commander of Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain), was assigned to improve aerial observation as the commander of 9 Squadron RFC.

After these tentative beginnings, between the wars, the Canadian Air Force (CAF) 1918–1920, has one fighter and one day bombing squadron, and is reorganized as the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) 1924–1932, predominantly focused on civil aviation tasks, such as forestry patrols and mapping. Although No.3 (Service) Squadron B Flight is dedicated to Army Cooperation, from 1932 onwards, most RCAF Army Cooperation squadrons are disbanded or converted to other roles.

In the Second World War, No.122 Sqn RCAF has Coast Artillery Cooperation Flight (1942–1945) while AOP support to Canadian Army units becomes essential for most of the conflict, with 664 (RCAF) Air OP Squadron Operational March 1945, 665 (RCAF) Air OP Squadron Operational April 1945 and

666 (RCAF) Air OP Squadron, formed but not operational. The Auster series aircraft were in use throughout the war.

army 1

The main AOP missions included:

  • Recce
  • Wire Laying
  • Photography
  • Liaison
  • Radio Relay
  • Traffic Control
  • Message Drop and Pickup
  • Search and Rescue
  • Air Delivery
  • And Shooting!

auster bw


In postwar operations, the following units were formed, with the Cessna L-19 "Bird Dog" becoming the primary aircraft in service:

  • 444 Air OP Squadron RCAF 1947–1949
    DHC-1 Chipmunk and Auster VI
  • CJATC RIVERS 1949–1971
    Auster VI / VII / L-19
  • 1 & 2 Air OP Flights, RCA 1953–1961
    CO, IR Pilot & 6 Pilots - 6 Auster VI / VII / L19s
  • 5 x Regimental Air OP Troops 1960–1972
    OC & 3 Pilots – 3 L19s

In Korea, four Canadians serve with No.1903 Ind AOP Flight RAF. Captain Peter Tees won the DFC in the war.

After 1972, the Canadian army operations were taken over by units of Air Command, now renamed the Royal Canadian Air Force.