Training for Tomorrow: RCAF Training Modernization Strategy and the integrated Future Air Force Training System

May 15, 2024 - Royal Canadian Air Force

Author: 2 Canadian Air Division Public Affairs


While the RCAF Training Modernization Strategy is aspirational and guiding in nature, there is clearly an appetite for its principles across the Air Force.
Credit: Barker College, 2024.

As the Royal Canadian Air Force modernizes fleets, capabilities, and tactics to address current and future threats and mission sets, the plan for how it trains its personnel for future operations is also being updated through the RCAF Training Modernization Strategy and integrated Future Air Force Training System (FAFTS).

“One of our goals is to make training integral with the RCAF’s Force Development, Force Generation, and Force Employment systems, while linking it with the RCAF Strategy and Campaign Plan,’ said Rick Witherden, who led the initial phases for the Training Modernization Strategy development at 2 Canadian Air Division Headquarters. “Just as modern aerospace sensors and aircraft are increasingly integrated into comprehensive information systems; it just makes sense that we take a similar holistic approach with how we develop mutually supporting training models.”

Training Modernization is being developed alongside the Royal Canadian Air Force Aerospace Warfare Centre’s Collective Training Modernization Efforts and not only outlines how the Air Force will train, but also provides an architecture into which future contractors providing training services to the RCAF will be expected to integrate.  The strategy also has built-in lessons learned and analytics for self-improvement.

A major part of the plan calls for a “Just-in-Time” versus the “Just-in-Case” training delivery model that the Air Force has traditionally used.  “We are trying to be more efficient with our training time and resources,” said LCol Matiowsky.  "If we can provide training to students as they need it, versus ‘in case they need it’, it improves efficiency and knowledge retention, benefiting everyone.”

Until recently, technological limitations forced a large portion of military training and education to be delivered in a linear, episodic fashion – usually in a school or dedicated operational training unit with numerous personnel needed to deliver and support it. Training Modernization will mean that Technology Enabled Learning (TEL) is increasingly considered to deliver training when and where it is needed.


The RCAF’s goal is to see training as a capability in its own right, with an ‘RCAF Campus’ model that provides coordination across the organization that is supported by a Learning Support Centre similar to many Canadian universities.
Credit: Barker College, 2024.

“Making best use of technology and building on relationships with industry and academia is key to this strategy’s success,” said Witherden. “Through TEL, we are ensuring benefits for investment in the long-term using four principles inherent in the digital learning environment: Distributed Learning, Multi-purpose Reconfigurable Trainers, Ubiquitous Learning, and Networked Training.”

At 16 Wing’s Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Control Operations (CFSACO) in Cornwall, changes to training, in line with modernization, are being readied for trial.

“We looked at data to suggest that failure rates, impact to instructional staff, and outputs were not sustainable at CFSACO” said LCol Neil Ryan, Commandant of CFSACO. “We know we need to fundamentally change how we deliver training and how students learn, if we are to help put our Aerospace Control and Operator trades back on a healthy footing.".”

Under the trial, students will now arrive at CFSACO directly off basic training, without waiting for course serials to be formed and will immediately begin instruction as a “course cohort of one”.  This trial will also see staff at the school act more as learning facilitators than traditional instructors.

“We recognize that students proceed at different paces and this approach will allow staff to really focus on those who struggle with some course material, while standards staff conduct all progress checks,” said LCol Ryan. “This kind of thinking is what leads to modernization of training that will increase our output of trained, professional aerospace control personnel and be a model for other schools.”

A positive secondary effect of the changes away from the course serial approach will be that instructor efforts are re-distributed, with stronger students serving as tutors, thereby reducing both the demand for remedial training and instructor burnout.


“The RCAF faces a shortage of trained personnel to both teach and conduct operations. To overcome this, a new model of training is needed to increase the output of qualified personnel, while also reducing impact on members needed to sustain operations,” said LCol Len Matiowsky, Director RCAF Training Support and Innovation.
Credit: Barker College, 2024.

“The self-sustaining and self-improving nature is fundamental to the overall Training Modernization Strategy,” said Witherden. “It also increases the opportunity for learners themselves to hone and improve their developing skills, something more in line with how today’s students desire to be lifelong learners.”

“The RCAF will seek to apply Artificial Intelligence (AI) including Generative AI to augment its training system that will provide learners with an AI learning companion that accompanies the RCAF member from the time they enter the RCAF to the time they retire”, says Matiowsky. “Creating additional capacity in the FAFTS that better prepares learners without increasing human resource interventions will ensure our graduates are well prepared for operations.”

As the Training Modernization Strategy is further implemented, it is expected that Air Force training establishments and operational training units will be introducing their own new instructional techniques and strategies as well with considerable consultation from current and future training staff. Upskilling opportunities will be provided to our instructors, Training Development Officers, and training support personnel to enable the innovation process.

“A key aim of the Strategy is to empower our members to put forward new ideas to transform and create a more agile and efficient Air Force,” said LCol Matiowsky. “I think this concept is at the heart of the RCAF’s 100 years as a learning organization.”

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