15 Wing, Moose Jaw

15 Wing, Saskatchewan’s only military base, is located 6 km south of the city of Moose Jaw. The base and its operations provide approximately 1,000 jobs and a $30-million payroll to the area. With its clear prairie skies and almost perfect flying conditions, it has proven to be an ideal training site for the thousands of pilots who have earned their wings at the base over the years. Military aviation in Moose Jaw began in the 1920s with the creation of a local flying club. During the early days of World War II, the Moose Jaw Flying Club was contracted to train student pilots for wartime service with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Within months, this program was replaced by the greatest aircrew training program of all time, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, which was implemented in 1940. This necessitated the expansion of the facilities at Moose Jaw into a massive airbase. During the period 1940 to 1945, over 130,000 Commonwealth and Allied aircrew were trained in Canada. Late in 1940, No. 32 Service Flying Training School (32 SFTS) of Britain’s Royal Air Force took up residence at the new airbase following its transfer from England. For the next four years, until it was disbanded in 1944, 32 SFTS graduated 1,207 pilots for the Air Forces of Canada, New Zealand and Britain. Although it served for a short time as an aircraft maintenance depot for the RCAF, the airbase was deactivated in 1946 and its facilities turned over to the city of Moose Jaw for use as a civilian airport.

From 1950 to 1959, in reaction to the mounting pressures of the Cold War, Canada hosted the NATO Air Training Plan through which about 4,000 pilots and navigators from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Turkey and the United Kingdom were trained. Under the program, RCAF Station Moose Jaw was reactivated in 1952, becoming the new home of 2 Flying Training School (2 FTS) RCAF, which had been transferred from the airbase at Gimli, Manitoba. On May 4, 1953, 2 FTS began flight operations using North American Harvard single-engine trainers and Canadian-built CT-133 Silver Star advanced jet-training aircraft. Both of these types of aircraft became a familiar sight in the skies over Moose Jaw throughout the 1950s. The NATO Air Training Plan evolved into four bilateral training agreements in the late 1950s. February 1968 saw the unification of the Air Force, Army, and Navy into the Canadian Forces. This caused the renaming of RCAF Station Moose Jaw to Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Moose Jaw. On April 1, 1993, the Canadian air force adopted the Wing concept and CFB Moose Jaw officially became 15 Wing. 15 Wing underwent a major change in 2000 when the first wave of allied military pilots started training under the NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC) program. The base is also home to 15 Air Traffic Control Squadron and to Canada’s goodwill ambassadors, 431 (AD) Squadron, better known as the Canadian Forces Snowbirds.

Jeff Noel