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I was the fourth 427 Lion CF104 CO serving from May 1966 to 1 September 1967. As CO, I was directly responsible for 18 pilots, an adjutant, Al Hoare, and a Cpl clerk. My theoretical establishment of 18 CF104’s was pooled with those of the other two squadrons of 3 Wing namely 430 and 434 squadrons. Our 54 CF104’s were under the direct control of the Wing Chief Technical Services Officer, Hugh Kerr. Control of nuclear weapons was under the resident USAF Custodian. In effect, I was not CO of a traditional RCAF squadron which was typically made up of air crew, ground crew, aircraft and weapons establishments.

After assuming command of 427, I learned that my primary responsibility was to ensure that I provided two motivated combat ready pilots to man two CF104’s for 24 hours, 365 days as part of the NATO deterrent Quick Reaction Alert Force (QRA). Our QRA commitment of two CF104’s was a small part of a force of 100 NATO strike aircraft of 36 squadrons, mostly USAF, based in the south of West Germany and in England. The QRA deterrent was on 15 minutes stand-by for 24 hours and loaded out at all times with nuclear bombs. It was designed to pre-empt a sizable Soviet incursion into West Germany. The target strategy was to destroy Warsaw Pact air defences and to catch their strike forces on the ground as well as block their invading armoured columns. It is interesting to note that one QRA CF104 could drop the destructive power equivalent to a bomber raid of 1,000 WWII vintage bombers. The specific duties of my QRA pilots and their general squadron activities is contained in a excellent article authored by Eric Mould, formerly 427 SQN, which was published in the Legion Magazine of Jan/Feb 2009. In view of my comparatively limited experience in jet fighter operations, I decided to command in accordance with the following ranked principles: Attend to the career and personal needs of my pilots including their families when appropriate.

Ensure my pilots were combat-ready for QRA duty and that they consistently meet the requisite performance standards set by NATO authorities. This involved quality control measures through check rides in CF104D’s, chase on cross country missions, bombing range checks and flight simulator training sessions. It also involved frequent liaison and coordination with the Chiefs of Wing Operations, Technical and Administrative services and with other squadron commanders. This was necessary to ensure the safety and security of my pilots and their families from adverse influences. Ensure that I maintained personal flying proficiency to QRA standards. This duty was the most difficult for me to perform on a consistent basis unlike more experienced pilots. Albeit, I took part in inter-wing competitions and TAC EVAL’s with varying results.

I am proud to have been a Lion CO of the finest pilots I have ever met and to not have lost any during my watch.

Ferte Manus Certas
Pat Higgs, Wing Commander (Ret)