Retirements leave RCAF young and inexperienced
Canada’s air force is largely young and lacking in experience, a situation that will lead to quick promotions in the future for those who remain, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News.
The Royal Canadian Air Force outlined its situation in its 2014-15 business plan, noting that almost 49 per cent of its regular force has less than 10 years of service.
“We have recently seen the retirement of an aging but very experienced cohort and now remain a force made up of a larger population of young, relatively inexperienced personnel,” stated the business plan, signed off by RCAF commander Lt.-Gen. Yvan Blondin.
RCAF personnel who remain “will experience rapid growth and rapid promotion rates,” the document noted.
It also warned that during the next three to five years the RCAF will face the challenge of providing staff to fill an additional 300 to 500 positions.
Those positions would staff a newly created air expeditionary unit, the Chinook helicopter unit at Petawawa, Ont., and a new squadron expected to be created to operate unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones.
RCAF officers have previously suggested such personnel would be transferred from other units in the air force.
Some positions for the expeditionary unit, designed to be quickly deployed on international missions, could be filled by staff from the army and navy, according to the business plan.
To find staff to operate the drones, “the RCAF will be required to carefully and cautiously look to current capabilities to fill the gaps,” it added.
Attrition rates for the RCAF are at 4.4 per cent, below the Canadian Forces average of 4.9 per cent, the plan noted.
But the RCAF is also having problems filling jobs, including those of pilots.
“The risk of the RCAF being unable to fill established positions at each rank for each RCAF occupation is assessed as high,” the business plan stated.
Department of National Defence spokesman Dan LeBouthillier said the Canadian Forces is one of the most highly trained and respected militaries in the world.
“With the current Royal Canadian Air Force personnel, the organization remains ready and able to surmount the challenges of the future,” he wrote in an email.
Postmedia News recently reported that the Canadian Forces is short hundreds of full-time members and thousands of reservists, due in part to an unexpected spike in the number of personnel hanging up their uniforms and to difficulties attracting and training new recruits.
The shortfall is expected to last years thanks to recent cuts to military recruitment and training brought in by the Conservative government.
That shortfall, outlined in a Department of National Defence report recently tabled in the House of Commons, reached nearly 900 regular force members and 4,500 part-time reservists at the end of March 2014.
The report doesn’t provide any explanation for why military personnel were leaving at an unexpected rate. It does note that “given recruiting and training capacity, it will take some years to recover” from the current shortfall. It adds that the military will try to “limit voluntary attrition” and address the shortfall “as soon as practical.”
“Maintaining the personnel capabilities of a large organization such as the Canadian Armed Forces requires a constant balance of recruiting new members and retaining trained personnel,” DND spokesman Zoltan Csepregi said.
“The CAF experiences changes in the rate of attrition, or departures, from one year to the next,” he added. “CAF strength will be closely monitored to ensure that the CAF meets its domestic and international defence commitments as assigned by the government of Canada.”