This review, my latest of a recent Vanwell Publishing Limited release, is for T.F.J. Leversedge's Canadian Combat and Support Aircraft: A Military Compendium (Vanwell, 2007). There's no point in pulling any punches here, I think this has to be considered the reference tool for anyone interested in knowing what aircraft Canadian military personnel have flown over the past century. Nearly 300 aircraft are covered in this compendium - fighters, transport aircraft, bombers, trainers, helicopters, gliders, floatplanes, unmanned vehicles, etc., etc. These aircraft are broken down into four main categories of use in the Canadian context: aircraft on strength of the Canadian Forces or its predecessors; Canadian Forces' aircraft ordered, but not yet in service; non-Canadian Forces aircraft flown by Canadians during training, testing, or other military missions; and, non-Canadian aircraft flown by Canadians in operations or combat missions with foreign air forces.
Leversedge begins the book with a brief, yet interesting, history of "the military air services of Canada". This introduces the reader to the beginnings of military aviation in Canada in 1909, the comic existence of the Canadian Aviation Corps in 1914-15, before turning to the work of the Royal Flying Corps in Canada in 1917-18. The late-war creation of the Royal Canadian Naval Air Service and the first Canadian Air Force (1918-20) round out the early coverage of the subject. The author then turns to the creation of the second Canadian Air Force (1920-23) and its transformation and operations as the Royal Canadian Air Force (1924-68). As part of the latter subject, Leversedge covers the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, the Home War Establishment, the air force overseas, and "Tiger Force" in the Pacific. The rise of the functional commands in the 1950s and No. 1 Air Division in Europe are also discussed, as is aviation in the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Army. Finally, he writes about the air force as it has existed since Unification in 1968, up to and including Canada's recent air activities in Afghanistan.
The first reference section - on aircraft on strength with the Canadian Forces - is, by far, the largest and covers and incredibly wide array of aircraft. Some of these were "one-offs", single aircraft purchased for one reason or another, while others were employed in the thousands. In the 1920s and 1930s the Royal Canadian Air Force flew a dozen Armstrong Whitworth Siskins, a state of the art fighter design at the time of their purchase. The Avro Anson, a two-engined trainer, was integral to Second World War training, and the air force flew more than 4,400 of them - the largest number of a single aircraft type ever operated by the Canadian military. Some aircraft in this category - such as the Avro Lancaster, the North American Mitchell, and the North American Mustang - represent post-Second World War usage of aircraft on the strength of the Royal Canadian Air Force often only thought of being used overseas during the war. Others, like the mail-carrying version of the Boeing Flying Fortress flown by No. 168 Squadron, fulfilled roles unfamiliar to many of us. The Canadair Silver Star stands out as the aircraft with the longest flying record in the Canadian military - fifty-two years between 1953 and 2005 when the last aircraft was retired. Perhaps in a few years this record may be surpassed by the Lockheed Hercules (1960-) or the Sikorsky Sea King (1961-). Many of these aircraft - particularly the floatplanes and trainers - are quite unfamiliar and to have images and text on these is very informative.
The next category are those aircraft ordered by Canadian Forces, but not yet in service. First on this list is the Boeing C-17 Globemaster, the first of which has just arrived in Canada for work-up training. Other aircraft in this category are updated versions of existing (Lockheed Martin Hercules) or previously-employed (Boeing Chinook) aircraft in use by the Canadian Forces.
This third category are non-Canadian Forces aircraft flown by Canadians during training, testing, or other military missions. This includes a wide range of circumstances, from the Avro Arrow tested by the Canadian military, to numerous fixed-wing and rotary-wing trainers, to the experimental Silver Dart which began it all in 1909.
The final category Leversedge discusses are non-Canadian Forces' aircraft flown by Canadians in operations or combat missions with foreign air forces. This covers familiar aircraft not on the strength of the Royal Canadian Air Force or Canadian Forces (for example, NATO's Boeing E-3 Sentry) as well as several aircraft flown by Canadians while on exchange with the United States Air Force or Royal Air Force, for example the British Aerospace Tornado, Grumman Hellcat, and the Vought Corsair.
Leversedge finishes the book with entries on a couple of airships flown in Canada as well as a section on missiles and remotely piloted vehicles, including the well-known Boeing Bomarc and the not-so-well-known SAGEM Sperwer unmanned aerial vehicle recently used in operations over Afghanistan.
Overall, this is an excellent reference tool, a book that will stay front and centre on my bookshelf for use many years into the future.