PIPELINE FOR THE AIR DIVISION

 

 

(from 'THE ROUNDEL' June 1961)

 

“LEAPFROG" - "Random" - "Bechers Brook" -"Nimble Bat" and "Jump Moat" are operational names familiar to those concerned with ferrying Canadian-built Sabre, T-33 and CF-100 aircraft to Europe. Not only has Air Defence Command had to build itself during the

past ten years, but it has been the spawning ground for the RCAF's NATO Air Division. Beginning in 1952 with No. 439 Fighter Squadron based at Uplands, the move of over 1000 jets across the hazardous North Atlantic was a continuing success story.

Meantime, crews were being trained in Canada for the Air Division - on Sabres at No. 1 OTU, RCAF Station Chatham, and on CF-100s at No. 3 OTU, RCAF Station Cold Lake. In 1949, as a result of Canada's commitment to NATO, RCAF Station Chatham had been reopened. It became the home of No.1 (F) OTU and No. 421 Red Indian Squadron, both units being equipped with Vampires. No. 421 Squadron became Canada's first contri bution to NATO when it was transferred to England in 1951. Late in 1951 Chatham received its first T-33 aircraft and early in 1952 it began re-equippina with Sabre aircraft. To date more than 1,200 fighter pilots have gone through the school. To handle the requirement for trained section and squadron leaders the first Day Fighter Leaders' Qualification Course began in September 1957. The DFLQ course trains senior pilots in all phases of advanced fighter tactics.

On 3 November 1952 an all-weather fighter school was started with the formation of No. 3 OTU at North Bay. With the buildup of all-weather squadrons in Air Defence Command the OTU was crowded out of its original home and moved to Cold Lake on 16 May 1955. The primary role of No. 3 AW (F) OTU is the training of all-weather fighter crews to meet the requirements of the CF-100 squadrons in Air Defence Command and in No. I Air Division in Europe. In addition, however, No. 3 OTU provides instructors' courses in allweather operations and familiarization courses for AFS instructors.

While 439 pioneered the route for the RCAF using bases at Goose Bay in Labrador, Bluie West I in Greenland, Keflavik in Iceland and Prestwick or Kinloss in Scotland, they were not the first Canadian squadron to serve overseas in peacetime. No. 421 Vampire Squadron and Nos. 410 and 441 Sabre Squadrons had previously gone by surface vessel. As the Air Division squadrons formed, trained and settled down into fighting units at Canadian bases and as the French and German airfields were made ready, the Sabre squadrons followed the North Atlantic air trail.

When the Air Division complement was complete and all 12 Sabre squadrons had arrived in Europe by 1 August 1953 a need for a ferrying unit to supply spare aircraft or newer models was soon apparent. This unit, called the Overseas Ferry Unit was to make many Atlantic crossings during its relatively short history (it disbanded June 1957). In operations called "Randoms", since they were unscheduled and took place as new Sabres and T-33s rolled off the Canadair production lines, they ferried over 800jet aircraft to Europe, Many of the Sabres were destined for Greece and Turkey under mutual aid program. As newer Sabre models were developed (through the Mark 11 to Mark VI) these were delivered to the squadrons. In addition the OFU made several reverse flights bringing back Mark V Sabres which were released to RCAF Auxiliary Squadrons.

 

In the short period between the Leapfrog operations and the Randoms the RAF set up a " Beachers Brook" operation from St. Hubert which flew more than 370 sabres to the United Kingdom. The name, of course, came from the famous water jump of the Grand National Steeple Chase.

When the decision was made to equip the Air Division with four CF-100 squadrons in 1956, an operation called "Nimble Bat" was organized in Air Defence Command. The four squadrons were to be placed at NATO's disposal as a result of a specific request for additional all-weather fighter support over Europe. Mark IV CF-100s, with tip tanks and camouflage paint, therefore began appearing in Canadian skies.

As the first all-weather squadron arrived in Europe one Sabre squadron was disbanded and reformed at Ottawa in a new all-weather role. This policy followed for Nimble Bat 1, 11, and 111, moving No. 445 Squadron from Uplands to Marville, No.423 from St. Hubert to Grostenquin, No. 440 from Bagotville to Zweibrucken and No. 419 from North Bay to Baden-Soellingen. The entire Nimble Operation took place between November 1956 to August 1957.

When the Belgian government purchased CF-100 Mark IV jets the task of moving these to Europe also fell upon Air Defence Command. In operations called "Jump Moat" and

following the North Atlantic freeway ADC crews moved the Belgian contingent safely overseas .

The success of all North Atlantic ferry flights was due in no small measure to the co-operation and assistance of USAF personnel at Bluie West I and at Keflavik. American weather forecasters and USAF search and rescue personnel did much to smooth the way.