By Second Lieutenant Nick Effenberger
450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (THS), based at Garrison Petawawa, Ontario, is proudly celebrating its 50th anniversary today – March 29, 2018.
The squadron is the sole Royal Canadian Air Force operator of the F-model CH-147F Chinook that, in conjunction with the CH-146 Griffon, provides tactical helicopter support to the Canadian Army and Special Operations Forces.
The numerical designation of 450 was originally allocated to a squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force, which operated from 1941 until the end of the Second World War in 1945. Although Canada had been assigned squadron numbers 400 through 449 during the war, an administrative error resulted in Canada allocated the 450 number to the Canadian 450 Heavy Transport Squadron on March 29, 1968. The new squadron signaled Canada’s venture into the comparatively new role of logistic air support using Canadian CH-113A Voyageur helicopters.
In 1968, the squadron flew the Voyageur and was based at Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Station Saint Hubert, Quebec, until their relocation to Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Ottawa (Uplands), Ontario in May 1970. On May 20, 1970, the squadron received Royal Assent for the designation 450 Transport Helicopter Squadron.
At the time of the move, the squadron began to operate the CH-135 Twin Huey in conjunction with the Voyageur at Uplands from 1970 until 1975. At that time, the RCAF replaced the Voyageur with the C-model CH-147 Chinooks and the squadron’s Twin Huey utility flight was disbanded. The Twin Huey returned to the squadron in November 1990, and the squadron was again renamed, becoming 450 Composite Helicopter Squadron. The Twin Huey served an important role for the RCAF as a versatile utility helicopter.
In autumn 1991, Canada’s C-models were withdrawn from service and sold to the Netherlands. After the Chinook’s retirement, the squadron was renamed 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron and continued to fly the Twin Huey in support of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Joint Task Force 2. In August 1994, the squadron returned to Saint Hubert. Then, after nearly three decades of tactical aviation (helicopter) service to the Canadian Armed Forces, 450 THS was deactivated in 1996 and formally disbanded two years later, on January 1, 1998.
In 2009, Canada purchased six D-model CH-147 Chinooks from the United States. Canadian crews flew the CH-147D Chinook in support of tactical and transport missions as part of Canada’s contribution to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan
On May 2, 2012, the squadron was reactivated as 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron to fly the CH-147F Chinook. A number of the Afghanistan Chinook crews, who had come from various RCAF squadrons, eventually brought their experience to the reborn 450 THS as core members of the squadron.
450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron is the home of Canada’s fifteen F-model Chinooks. The first helicopter was delivered on June 27, 2013, and the final on July 3, 2014. The F-model is an advanced, multi-mission, medium- to heavy-lift helicopter. Although based at Garrison Petawawa, the squadron reports to 1 Wing Kingston, the home of Canada’s tactical aviation capability.
Since reactivation, 450 THS has participated in numerous exercises at home and abroad, notably Exercise Maple Resolve and Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC). They have also deployed on domestic operations within Canada’s Arctic (Operations Nanook and Nevus) and lent support to disaster relief efforts throughout Canada in 2017 (Operation Lentus). As announced by the Government of Canada on March 19, 2018, the CH-147F Chinook, with crews from 450 THS, will be operationally deployed overseas for the first time on the United Nations peace support operation in Mali, Africa, later in 2018.
Although Canada has had tactical aviation capabilities for more than half a century, 450 THS and the CH-147F Chinook are at the forefront of Canadian Armed Forces operations. In the words of their motto: “By Air to Battle!”