Royal Canadian Air Force: Remembering Airpower in Education & Professional Development

Research Paper Title

Professional Airpower Mastery and the Royal Canadian Air Force: Rethinking Airpower Education and Professional Development.


Directly related to the moral and physical components, the aim of the conceptual component is to provide the intellectual basis for armed forces, theoretically justifying the provision and employment of armed forces as well as to preserve and take forward corporate memory, experience, and knowledge. The conceptual component is relevant from the tactical through to strategic levels.

Today’s operating environment is as challenging as it has ever been. At the strategic level, the foreseeable future will involve the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) competing for capital investment, operating funds, and human resources; those Air Force personnel involved in supporting related decisions will need to be masters of their business. On operations, continued focus on joint and multinational actions will require Air Force leaders to have a deep understanding of airpower in general as well as Canadian air power’s particular strengths and limitations.

Through natural evolution rather than design, the RCAF is an air force that predominantly generates and employs tactical-level air power. This has long been the case and is the reason why the RCAF invariably delivers high-calibre tactical output. Such mission-execution focus, however, may have led to disinvestment in the development of knowledge, skills, and competencies required at the operational and strategic levels.

Earlier in the RCAF’s history, the need to nurture the conceptual component was deliberately addressed. Following World War II, the RCAF developed a programme of professional development and military education that concentrated on core airpower requirements. However, these programnes were not to endure. In the years following the unification of Canada’s separate military services in 1968, the overall control that the RCAF had exercised over the professional development of its personnel underwent considerable change. In the pursuit of a more joint approach, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) adopted a broad military-education model at the expense of specialist airpower expertise.

To redress the educational deficit, action is required to promote a deeper understanding of airpower within joint, multinational, and corporate contexts and to develop the individual skills needed to capitalize on such understanding.

This study reviews the historical context, current situation, and possible options for action to make significant strides in the professional development of the RCAF primarily with respect to education. The basic tenet upon which the paper is built is: in order to succeed in the future, the RCAF must do more to leverage the intellectual capital of its people, invest in the conceptual component, and strive for mastery of its domain.


Gladman, B., Goetter, R., Mayne, R., Elder, S., Truss, K., Barnes, P. & March, B. (2016) Professional Airpower Mastery and the Royal Canadian Air Force: Rethinking Airpower Education and Professional Development. Royal Canadian Air Force Journal. Winter 2016. 5(1).

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