Canadian Forces Bases | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Canadian Forces Bases

Canadian Forces Bases (CFBs) are the homes of the operational units of the Canadian Armed Forces. Bases also provide housing and support services to Armed Forces members and their families. Canadian Forces Stations (CFSs) are smaller than bases and usually have minor operational units, but little or no support function.

Helicopter Hovering

Military Life

Bases are the centre of military life in Canada – for the Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force. Bases are sometimes located overseas, depending on Canada's global military commitments, but are usually within Canada. Although a base may be called an army "garrison," an air force "wing" or an "area support unit," it can still be defined as a base, but is not always.

Bases house administrative and planning offices, regimental headquarters and military equipment (weapons, trucks, armoured vehicles, warships, aircraft etc.). They provide training grounds and facilities for Armed Forces units. And they provide housing and a wide range of support services – from health and food services, to family resource centres, to recreational facilities – for military families.


Army bases are grouped into "divisional" commands. These include the 1st Canadian Division, headquartered in Kingston, Ontario, the 2nd Canadian Division located in various parts of Québec, the 3rd Canadian Division in western Canada, the 4th Canadian Division in Ontario and the 5th Canadian Division in Atlantic Canada. The major Army bases include (from west to east):

3rd Canadian Division

  • Support Base Edmonton, AB (Edmonton Garrison)
  • CFB Suffield, AB
  • Wainwright Garrison, AB
  • CFB Shilo, MB

4th Canadian Division

2nd Canadian Division

  • Support Base Valcartier, QC
  • CFB/Area Support Unit Montréal, QC
  • Area Support Unit Saint-Jean, QC

5th Canadian Division


The Royal Canadian Navy is divided into four formations, including the Pacific and Atlantic Maritime Forces, the Naval Reserve, headquartered in Québec City and the Maritime Warfare Centre (responsible for naval tactics and doctrine) in Halifax. In addition, there is a Naval Staff Headquarters based in Ottawa.

There are two bases for Canadian warships and their crews, on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts:

Esquimalt Naval Base
Test firing an inert (non-explosive carrying) Harpoon missile from HMCS Regina, one of Canada's new Canadian Patrol Frigates based at Esquimalt, BC.
HMCS Fredericton
HMCS Fredericton returns from a deployment to the Arabian Sea, arriving Halifax on the Navy Centennial, 4 May 2010 (DND, HS2010-0194-001).

Air Force

The operational side of the Royal Canadian Air Force is made up of 14 Wings,each with its own tasks and units, from search and rescue, to transport, to fighter combat. Twelve are spread among the following major air bases:

  • CFB Comox, BC (19 Wing Comox – long-range patrol aircraft, search and rescue aircraft and helicopters)
  • CFB Cold Lake, AB (4 Wing Cold Lake – fighter aircraft)
  • CFB Winnipeg, MB (17 Wing Winnipeg – training and command, search and rescue)
  • CFB Borden, ON (16 Wing Borden – training and professional development)
  • CFB Trenton, ON (8 Wing Trenton – transport aircraft, helicopters, search and rescue)
  • CFB Kingston, ON (1 Wing Kingston – helicopters)
  • CFB Bagotville, QC (2 Wing Bagotville – command and control, and 3 Wing Bagotville – fighter aircraft and search and rescue helicopters)
  • CFB Greenwood, NS (14 Wing Greenwood – long-range patrol aircraft, search and rescue helicopters)
  • CFB Shearwater, NS (12 Wing Shearwater – naval helicopters)
  • CFB Goose Bay, NL (5 Wing Goose Bay – NORAD air defence services, helicopters)
  • CFB Gander, NL (9 Wing Gander – search and rescue helicopters)
  • In addition, two other air force Wings operate outside traditional air bases. These are 15 Wing Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (flying training and Snowbirds demonstration team), and 22 Wing North Bay, Ontario (aerospace defence).
Helicopter in rescue exercises
Rescue specialists from 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron practise rescue techniques using a CH-113 Labrador helicopter (courtesy National Defence Headquarters).

Other Locations

Along with the major bases, the Armed Forces has a wide variety of smaller installations across Canada, such as Canadian Forces Stations (for example, CFS Alert, Nunavut – signals intelligence), firing ranges (Connaught Range and Primary Training Centre, in Ontario), and numerous cadet facilities, including the Royal Canadian Air Cadets Region Gliding School in Gimli, Manitoba. There are also Armed Forces reserve units located and housed outside traditional military bases, in cities and towns throughout the country.

The military maintains Forward Operating Locations (FOLs) – unmanned airstrips in Canada's North, which house reserves of aviation fuel for emergency use, and provide facilities to extend the range of military aircraft. It also operates a series of 47, unstaffed, North Warning System (NWS) radar sites along Canada's Arctic Ocean coastline. The NWS was built in the 1980s and 1990s, replacing the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line sites built in the 1950s.

DEW Line Site
The former DEW radar station at Hall Beach, NWT (photo by Sergeant Jim Smith/courtesy Canadian Forces).

Canada also has two degree-granting military college campuses: Royal Military College of Canada (RMCC) at Kingston, Ontario, and Royal Military College Saint-Jean (RMC Saint-Jean) at St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec.

Closed Bases

As the needs and budgets of the Armed Forces change over time, so bases are restructured – often shutting down or having operations scaled back in places that were once busy with military life. The tendency since the end of the Cold War has been for Canada to reduce the number of bases, both in Canada and overseas. Dozens of Canadian Forces Bases have been shut down since the 1970s, including:

  • CFB Lahr, Germany (army)
  • CFB Baden-Soellingen, Germany (air force)
  • CFB Calgary, AB (army/air force)
  • CFB Rivers, MB (air force)
  • RCAF Station Centralia, ON (air force)
  • CFB Summerside, PEI (air force)
  • CFB Chatham, NB (air force)

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