Shearwater History

12 Wing Shearwater(1993-Present )


Shearwater 1995

Gulf War Chemical Warfare Suit
The protective clothing above was worn by Sea King aircrew due to the danger of flying into a chemically- or biologically-contaminated environment. It included a unique and innovative Canadian-designed body cooling system, a gas mask, and a bulletproof Kevlar vest.

British Airways Boeing 747 Radar liberated from Kuwait during Gulf War
The radar antenna seen above is from a British Airways Boeing 747 passenger jumbo jet that was parked on the runways of Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion in the Gulf War. It was brought back by a Sea King crew from HS 423 Squadron that was taking part in Canada's contribution to the Gulf War, Operation Friction. Canada's major involvement in the Gulf War was ship interdiction by the Sea King crews.

With the demise of the cold war in the early 1990's, the number of personnel and budgets were dramatically reduced in the Department of National Defence. To preserve the air force's core capabilities, Air Command established the "Wing" concept to identify the minimum level of resources required to perform the roles and missions the government had assigned. The Wing is the air force's basic fighting unit capable of independent, sustained operations. A Wing consists of one or more air squadrons, supported by operations, maintenance, administration and logistics squadrons. A Wing is capable of deploying to a remote unprepared base and have sufficient resources to upgrade the site infrastructure (buildings, electricity, plumbing, communications, runways) and establish a mechanism for the replenishment of consumables such as food and fuel in order to conduct sustained operations. In 1993, the core capabilities residing at the former CFB Shearwater were designated 12 Wing Shearwater, drawing on the former RCAF Station Dartmouth's historical link with 12 Group of Eastern Air Command in Halifax during WW II.

With demise of the cold war, Shearwater's Sea King squadrons were becoming more involved in support to other government departments and peacekeeping operations and specializing less in anti-submarine warfare. Therefore, the squadron prefix HS indicating Helicopter Anti-submarine was changed to the MH, Maritime Helicopter, designation to better reflect the Sea Kings general-purpose maritime reconnaissance role. Consequently, HS 432 and HS 443 became MH 423 and MH 443 respectively in 1994.

In 1996, as a Department of National Defence cost reduction measure 12 Wing Shearwater ceased to exist as an independent entity and became a lodger unit of CFB Halifax. As such, Air Command (Ottawa) through 1 Canadian Air Division (Winnipeg) exercises command and control of 12 Wing Shearwater, but all administrative and logistic support is provided by CFB Halifax.

Post Cold War Operations:

Since 1963 Shearwater has supported Canadian Sea King operations around the world. Until the demise of the Cold War, the Sea King helicopter was primarily used to extend the anti-submarine capabilities of the ships on which they were embarked. However, during the first Persian Gulf War in 1990-91, the Sea King also proved to be very capable in a myriad of peacekeeping/peacemaking roles. Because of the Sea Kings' flexibility and capability to operate from ships, Shearwater has played the leading role in supporting Sea King participation in almost all of Canada's humanitarian, peacekeeping and peacemaking operations since 1991. These operations include:

OP FRICTION 1990-91: Persian Gulf; maritime interdiction and mine countermeasures;

OP FLAG 1991: Red Sea; maritime interdiction;

OP DELIVERANCE 1992-93: Somalia; delivery of food, water, medical supplies, fuel and troops as well conducting tactical reconnaissance;

OP FORWARD ACTION 1993-94: Haiti; maritime interdiction in support of U.N. fuel and arms embargo;

OP SHARP GUARD 1993-97: Adriatic Sea; maritime interdiction to support U.N. fuel and arms embargo against former states of Yugoslavia;

OP ASSISSTANCE 1997: Manitoba; search and rescue, medical evacuation and aerial reconnaissance for the Red River flood;

OP DETERMINATION 1998: Arabian Sea; shipping interdiction;

OP PERSISTENCE 1998: Nova Scotia; search, transportation and recovery in support of Swissair Flight 111 crash;

OP TOUCAN 1999-2000: East Timor; transportation and aerial reconnaissance;

OP APOLLO 2001- 2003: Arabian Sea; battle group escort, surface surveillance and maritime interdiction in support of war on terrorism.

OPPERATION ALTAIR - 2004-?: Persian Gulf; battle group escort, surface surveillance and maritime interdiction in support of war on terrorism.