Grostenquin, France
Memories of Decimomannu

Dale Kilshaw

In the NATO days of the Royal Canadian Air Force in Europe, the RCAF had four night fighter (we called them all-weather) squadrons in Europe. These squadrons were: 445 Squadron, #1 Wing, Marville, France; 423 Squadron #2 Wing, Grostenquin, France; 440 Squadron, #3 Wing, Zweibrucken, Germany; and 419 Squadron, Baden-Soellingen, Germany. The four Wings were considered to be the Royal Canadian Air Division in Europe. Air Division Headquarters was located at Metz, France.

The four Canadian CF-100 (AW) fighter squadrons moved from Canada to Europe commencing with 445 Squadron to #1 Wing in November 1956. The other three squadrons flew to #2, #3, and #4 Wings and were all in place by August, 1957. Each squadron had 18 CF-100's. They were the CF-100 type - Mark 4 B. Two engines in each aircraft. The engines were Orenda XI, each engine developing 7,275 pounds of thrust. These aircraft were originally armed with eight 50 calibre machine guns as well as 58 rockets, the machine guns were disused after 1960. Each aircraft carried 29 rockets on each wingtip in rocket "pods" for a total of 58 rockets when fully armed. For "rocket firing practice" these large rocket pods were replaced with smaller pods carrying seven rockets each. So, while at Decimomannu, the rocket firing was done with only 14 rockets on each trip.

On March 1, 1957 the RCAF was permitted by the Italian government (as part of NATO) to open an AIR WEAPONS UNIT at Decimomannu, Sardinia. Here in Sardinia the RCAF Air Division Squadrons could deploy each year to practice weapons firing over the Mediterranean to the west of Sardinia. The firing range was approximately 200 km long and 100 km wide. It was approximately 30 km west off the coast of Sardinia. I believe that the firing range was also used by the Italian and German airforces as well.

Each Canadian Squadron deployed to Decimomannu twice each year for three weeks at a time in order to practice rocketry and gunnery firing. The first CF-100 Squadron to visit Decimomannu was 445 Squadron on November 23, 1957. Please remember that the RCAF F-86 Sabre (day fighter) squadrons also deployed to Sardinia for firing practice. As there were two F-86 Sabre squadrons at each Wing, this made a total of eight Sabre squadrons from the RCAF which also visited Sardinia regularly along with the four CF-100 Squadrons.

To summarize: there were three fighter squadrons at each Wing. Two squadrons were F-86 and one squadron was CF-100. Therefore there were 12 squadrons (three from each Wing) which used the AWU at Decimomannu regularly.

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Updated: March 3, 2003