2 Canadian Air Division (RCAF Journal - SUMMER 2016 - Volume 5, Issue 3)

By Colonel Rick Witherden, OMM, MB, CD, with introduction by Brigadier-General Dave Cochrane, MSM, CD

As Commander 2 Canadian Air Division (Comd 2 Cdn Air Div), I am pleased to provide an introduction to the following article, written by Colonel (Col) Rick Witherden, on the division’s role and history. Col Witherden is uniquely qualified to write this article, as he was there when 2 Cdn Air Div was created and has served continuously within the division ever since (the majority of that time as our Chief of Staff, with a short stint as Director of Air Force Training). I am pleased and honoured to have been assigned my current responsibilities and am proud of the dedicated team of professionals working within my headquarters, wings and training establishments.

As much as 2 Cdn Air Div has reached a level of maturity through six years of evolution, the dynamic nature of Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) operations continues to keep us fully engaged in innovating and modernizing the education and training that we deliver in order to enable those operations. My priority is to contribute to the institutional excellence of the RCAF by accomplishing four main goals:

  • Deliver core training and education, in accordance with our mandate.
  • Develop and modernize training delivery across the full continuum of education and training.
  • Institutionalize professional development of our officers and non-commissioned members (NCMs) within the RCAF.
  • Support our personnel and their families.

These goals can only be achieved through the dedicated efforts of our personnel, working in concert with other organizations within the RCAF and beyond, and I firmly believe people work more effectively together when everyone’s role is clearly understood.

Whether you are reading for personal or professional interest, this article provides a solid foundation for anyone hoping to garner a better understanding of the crucial role 2 Cdn Air Div plays in the development of air power for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).


2 Cdn Air Div generates and develops personnel as Training Authority for the RCAF.


2 Cdn Air Div will deliver advanced aerospace knowledge and leading-edge training through a responsive, innovative and effect-based methodology to achieve maximum training effectiveness for the RCAF.

2 Cdn Air Div commenced stand-up work in January 2009 and declared full operational capability (FOC) in July 2010. Considerable structural evolution has taken place over the past six years, but the division maintains the core mandate of training and education for the RCAF. While it may be obvious to some, what does this mandate really mean? How did 2 Cdn Air Div get to its current structure in support of that mandate, and what changes may be in its future? This article introduces 2 Cdn Air Div, its structure, roles and history to date and answers the question of why this formation is of critical importance to the RCAF’s future.

2 Cdn Air Div provides the basic occupation training for all RCAF occupations and trades and is responsible for delivering the professional development needed for officers and NCMs. It is important to note, however, that these responsibilities extend beyond 2 Cdn Air Div, with training managers across the RCAF being responsive to Comd 2 Cdn Air Div. In fact, all of the RCAF’s 638 qualification standards (QSs),[1] regardless of the division or unit under which they are delivered, are approved by 2 Cdn Air Div. Furthermore, 2 Cdn Air Div dictates and monitors the systems approach to training, which is known as the Air Force Training and Education Management System (AFTEMS)[2] and is used at all training establishments, including operational training units (OTUs) and fleet schools. As such, 2 Cdn Air Div acts as the RCAF training and education nexus and is the foundation upon which RCAF personnel are developed.

2 Cdn Air Div is a Level 2 formation that reports directly to Comd RCAF (see Figure 1). Given its mandate, it should be no surprise that the formation is comprised of all RCAF ab initio[3] training establishments and the two education institutions: the Royal Canadian Air Force Academy and Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Studies (CFSAS)—the “schoolhouses” of the RCAF for NCMs and officers respectively.

Figure 1. 2 Cdn Air Div organization

Given its broad training management responsibilities, 2 Cdn Air Div Headquarters (HQ) is relatively small at 90 personnel, which includes elements of the former Central Flying School (CFS). The former Air Force Training Directorate of 1 Cdn Air Div HQ became the core of 2 Cdn Air Div HQ, bringing their mandate and related resources intact. This mandate included the training management, movement and funding of all personnel in the RCAF training system, including most out-service and outside-Canada training contract arrangements. To support the Comd 2 Cdn Air Div and provide the overhead management of the division and HQ (financial, administrative, etc.), 12 additional positions were sourced from mainly vacant establishment positions at 1 Cdn Air Div HQ. However, this “lean” construct must be taken in context. Apart from the standard constraint of “person year (PY) neutrality”[4] in its creation, 2 Cdn Air Div knew that it could not follow the tendency toward HQ growth that afflicted other command organizations of the day. Operational units and training establishments were already operating below optimum personnel numbers, and a part of 2 Cdn Air Div’s success depended on not becoming another “tooth to tail” problem. Additionally, the combined air operations centre capability was standing up within 1 Cdn Air Div HQ at the same time, and personnel resources were at a premium. As a result, 2 Cdn Air Div entered into a matrix support agreement, whereby services provided by 1 Cdn Air Div HQ give 2 Cdn Air Div HQ a virtual size that is not reflected on organizational charts. In return, 2 Cdn Air Div HQ provides routine and surge support to 1 Cdn Air Div HQ when and where it can. For this reason, the two HQs remain ideally located close to each other in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and achieve equally close synergies via an extensive service-level agreement.

A member of 2 CFFTS prepares for a flight in the Harvard II at 15 Wing Moose Jaw.

Why create a distinct training and education formation in the first place? Since the end of World War II, Canada’s Air Force has had Training Command, 14 Training Group, the Air Force Training Directorate of 1 Cdn Air Div HQ and now 2 Cdn Air Div—once again a separate formation. Clearly, there has been a recurring imperative to centralize expertise and management of training and education matters. Many current members of the RCAF would be surprised to learn that the concept of 2 Cdn Air Div predated its formation by many years. In fact, with the end of Air Command Headquarters in 1997, there might have been two divisions created from the outset. Command and control (C2) recommendations made as part of Project 2020 in 1995 could have seen a separate training formation continue, but the overall aerospace-combat-group concept did not receive sufficient support at the time. In 2004, revised C2 arrangements were considered again, this time with recommendations for an Air Force training and transformation division to be formed by separating the training functions out of 1 Cdn Air Div. Various permutations of the concept were studied over the following years, but no decision was made until Lieutenant-General Watt, then Chief of the Air Staff, directed the creation of 2 Cdn Air Div in late 2008.

A student in a Bell CH-139 Jet Ranger helicopter makes final preparations before a flight during the rotary-wing phase three course at 3 CFFTS in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.

The current structure of 2 Cdn Air Div, while somewhat similar, is not the way it looked at FOC in 2010. 15 and 16 Wings, already considered training wings and with the preponderance of RCAF basic occupation schools, were aligned with 2 Cdn Air Div from the outset. This included 2 and 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training Schools (CFFTS) and 419 Tactical Fighter Training Squadron (419 TAC F[T] Sqn), located at Moose Jaw, Portage La Prairie and Cold Lake, respectively, in support of 15 Wing’s pilot training role. 16 Wing was predominantly composed of the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering (CFSATE) and Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Control Operations (CFSACO), located in Borden and Cornwall, respectively. However, several training establishments, such as 1 CFFTS (formerly the Canadian Forces Air Navigator School), 402 Squadron, Canadian Forces School of Survival and Aeromedical Training (CFSSAT), Canadian Forces School of Search and Rescue (CFSSAR) and CFSAS, were not located on predominately training-oriented wings. With the majority of them located at 17 Wing Winnipeg, it appeared that those units might lead to a 17 Wing alignment with 2 Cdn Air Div (interestingly, such an alignment was first assumed as part of the 2004 C2 proposals). A final decision on alignment was deferred to a later date, and in the interim, a distinct Level 3 formation called the Air Force Training Centre (AFTC) was established, pooling these schools and the Canadian Forces Aircrew Selection Centre (CFASC, located in Trenton) under a double-hatted 17 Wing Commander. Finally, the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre (CFAWC) was assigned to Comd 2 Cdn Air Div, providing doctrinal and knowledge linkages to the education mandate of the new division.

The story of 2 Cdn Air Div has been one of constant evolution. Legacy structures, not necessarily tuned to a strictly training and education focus, as well as interim arrangements put in place for practical reasons of the day have been replaced by increasingly functional and streamlined organizations. 1 CFFTS amalgamated with 402 Squadron—given their shared mandate for air combat systems operator (ACSO) and airborne electronic sensor operator (AESOP) training—and realigned under 15 Wing as part of a larger aircrew-training-wing concept. Similarly, the availability of a colonel position for 16 Wing (downgraded to lieutenant-colonel in the mid-90s) allowed that formation to absorb the remaining AFTC units, thus seeing the dissolution of that interim construct. CFASC became a direct report to Comd 2 Cdn Air Div and added integrated personnel selection officer support, in recognition of the need for greater alignment between aircrew selection and the training standards being applied. CFS, being disbanded over the period of 2 Cdn Air Div’s creation, saw its Aircrew Standards and Evaluation Team (SET) assets assigned to 2 Cdn Air Div HQ under the Air Operations Training Section. CFAWC returned to reporting directly to Comd RCAF, as a more detailed study of its mandate revealed greater utility for that alignment at the present time.

Returning to the question of why 2 Cdn Air Div exists or is even necessary, it is important to look at the wider RCAF and CAF contexts in which it operates. The concept of “operations primacy” is a given—it is the raison d’être of military forces. Yet, for a relatively small air force and in an era of constraint and shrinking operating budgets, it is possible to “mortgage the future to pay for today” if training resources and dedicated expertise are reduced below sustainable levels. The former Air Force Training Directorate of 1 Cdn Air Div HQ had shrunk to a size less than half of its 14 Training Group predecessor, despite an expanded mandate. Efficiencies had been introduced over the years, but some core training management and oversight functions had been reduced or ceased altogether. CFS, once the guardian of all aircrew training standards, had significantly reduced its oversight of OTUs in the years preceding its disbandment. The creation of 2 Cdn Air Div again recognized the historical need to centralize the expertise and management of training and education matters. Operating separate from the current operations milieu (but with its own high tempo), 2 Cdn Air Div can remain focused on generating and developing tomorrow’s air personnel and combat leaders. Of course, 2 Cdn Air Div must still be mindful of ongoing operations, as it is those operations that shape the desired product for delivery to readiness and deployment authorities. As such, the close working relationship maintained with 1 Cdn Air Div, CFAWC and the Comd RCAF staff at National Defence Headquarters remains key.

2 Cdn Air Div is still evolving. Overall training modernization continues across all training establishments, with increased focus on simulation and virtual-learning schemes. The current NATO Flying Training in Canada pilot-training contract expires approximately 2021, and work on the next generation aircrew training requirements is well underway. Air Technician Training Renewal (ATTR) is still proceeding with numerous enhancements to training delivery and related aids. In terms of education and professional development, the RCAF Academy has significantly upgraded its course offerings in recent years. For officers, the Air Force Officer Development (AFOD) programme is now in full delivery, and research is underway to further improve the education for all officers, from junior to senior. With all RCAF qualifications returning to a state of 100 per cent currency, 2 Cdn Air Div HQ is now turning its attention to training validation, further ensuring that the operational communities are indeed receiving the high calibre personnel that they require. At the same time, the 2 Cdn Air Div HQ Training SET has begun to engage with OTUs to assist with training quality and performance—the role lost with the disbandment of CFS.

The RCAF is an organization constantly preparing for the next challenges. The training and education of our people is fundamental to that preparation. Working diligently and often in the background, 2 Cdn Air Div guarantees that core mandate is met.

Brigadier-General (BGen) D. B. Cochrane enrolled in the Canadian Forces in 1982. He received a baccalaureate degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, in 1986. Following receipt of his air navigator (air combat system operator) wings, BGen Cochrane spent his flying career with 426 Squadron and 436 Squadron, commanded 426 Squadron from 2006 to 2009 and subsequently deployed, for six months, as Commanding Officer Theatre Support Element at Camp Mirage in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. BGen Cochrane assumed command of 8 Wing / CFB Trenton in 2010. He is a graduate of the Canadian Forces Command and Staff College Course in Toronto and the Australian Defence College’s Defence and Strategic Studies Course. Promoted to BGen in 2015, he assumed the position of Commander 2 Cdn Air Div in Winnipeg and oversees individual training and education for RCAF officers and NCMs.

Col Rick Witherden joined the Canadian Forces in January 1979. During his Regular Force career, he served tours on all three maritime helicopter squadrons and also enjoyed an instructional tour with 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. Selected for Staff College, Col Witherden attended the Canadian Forces College in Toronto. He finished his Regular Force career as the Division Instrument Check Pilot at 1 Cdn Air Div. In July 2001, Col Witherden transferred from the Regular Force to the Reserves. He was subsequently appointed Commanding Officer of 402 “City of Winnipeg” Squadron in July 2006. In February 2009, he was promoted to his current rank and appointed Chief of Staff, 2 Cdn Air Div.

419 TAC F(T) Sqn―419 Tactical Fighter Training Squadron
AFTC―Air Force Training Centre
AFTEMS―Air Force Training and Education Management System
AVS―avionic systems
C2―command and control
CAF―Canadian Armed Forces
Cdn Air Div―Canadian Air Division
CFASC―Canadian Forces Aircrew Selection Centre
CFAWC―Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre
CFFTS―Canadian Forces Flying Training Schools
CFS―Central Flying School
CFSACO―Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Control Operations
CFSAS―Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Studies
CFSATE―Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering
CFSSAR―Canadian Forces School of Search and Rescue
CFSSAT―Canadian Forces School of Survival and Aeromedical Training
FOC―full operational capability
NCM―non-commissioned member
OTU―operational training unit
PY―person year
QS―qualification standard
RCAF―Royal Canadian Air Force
SET―standards and evaluation team

[1]. QSs are established for each distinct qualification and describe in detail the performance level to be achieved on any given course. The RCAF maintains a uniquely high number of QSs due to its complex qualification structure in support of numerous aircraft fleets. (return)

[2]. AFTEMS is based on the Canadian Forces Individual Training and Education System (CFITES). (return)

[3]. Ab initio or “from the beginning” generally refers to the first stage of training and is traditionally applied to RCAF flight training. (return)

[4]. PY neutrality refers to zero growth of the RCAF establishment, thus the creation of the new HQ depended on realigning existing resources. (return)

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