Australian Air Force Cadets

In February 1941, the War Cabinet approved the formation of a cadet corps (known as the Air Training Corps or ATC) as part of the RAAF Reserve and provided pre-entry training for air and ground crews to the RAAF during WWII.

Mr William Alexander Robertson was appointed Director with the rank of Group Captain. The original staff of the Directorate of the ATC started duty on 11 June and the six ATC Wings came into being from 12 August.

Wings were formed in each State by 1 October. Although staffed by a small core of RAAF personnel, most of ATC’s instructors were unpaid volunteers, many of whom had been pilots in WWI.

By 31 October 1943, 12,000 cadets were training. Although this number declined to 7,557 when the Pacific War ended in August 1945, by then just under 12,000 former members had gone on to enlist in the wartime RAAF. Originally, the Air Training Corps provided 74% of aircrew training for the RAAF.

The Corps had two objectives. The primary short-term aim was to train young men between 16 and 18 to join the wartime RAAF. The second, long-term objective (to come into force after the 1939-1945 War), was to encourage young men to increase their knowledge of air matters and in particular the RAAF, instil a sense of discipline, and provide elementary training in air-related technical matters.

From 1946 to 1948, the ATC was demobilised and scaled down for post-war years, the aims were changed to a peacetime role. Reserve Magazine of December 1949 outlined the composition and conditions for the post-war ATC as an ‘air youth movement’, and gave its numbers as ‘at least 3,000’. Cadets were not obliged to enlist in the RAAF, but preference was given to those who did.

On 26 August 1975, the Whitlam Labor Government announced that the Army, Navy and Air Force Cadets would be disbanded from 1 January 1976.

On 27 May 1976, the Air Training Corps was raised and re-formed by the Fraser Coalition Government and renamed AIRTC.

On 6 May 1982, the Minister for Defence announced the inclusion of girls in the AIRTC.

In January 1989, the total strength of the AIRTC was raised to 6,800 – 740 adults and 6,060 cadets.

To better reflect its charter, the Air Training Corps was re-badged Australian Air Force Cadets (AAFC) in 2001.

Today, the Australian Air Force Cadets aim to better equip young people for community life by fostering initiative, leadership, discipline and loyalty through a training program designed to stimulate an interest in Aviation and the RAAF. The training program is structured to reflect the following objectives:

• To give Cadets a foundation of Air Force knowledge and discipline

• To develop the qualities of leadership, initiative and self-reliance

• To develop good character and good citizenship in the widest sense

• To develop an interest in the Royal Australian Air Force and aviation generally

• To instil a knowledge of the history of aviation

• To encourage Cadets to continue an active interest in aviation into their adult life.

In the Australian Air Force Cadets (AAFC) you may start at the very bottom, but it is possible to achieve a senior rank over time.

The current Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, AC, was a former Mirage III and F/A-18 Hornet pilot and the Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Geoff Brown AO, was a former CH-47 Chinook, F/A-18 and Roulette pilot. Air Chief Marshal Binskin, Air Marshal Brown, former Prime Minister John Howard and former Governor General Sir William Deane were all former cadets with the Air Training Corps during their youth.

They head a long list of other former air force cadets who progressed in their chosen career to provide leadership and value to the nation, the defence force, business and the community. It is a measure of the organisation’s contribution to young lives that many commercial airline pilots say they were inspired to seek a career in aviation as a result of their time and experiences in the AAFC.

Today, the Australian Air Force Cadets has about 7000 male and female cadets. It is a vital and a premier youth organisation within Australia because it continues to inspire future leaders and build a love of aviation.

2016 marks the 75th anniversary in Australia of the AAFC, a time to celebrate, remember and recognise the very impressive and rich history of achievements of its diverse and strong membership.

The Australian Aviation Hall of Fame proudly presents the 2014 “Southern Cross Award”, honouring an organisation which has made an outstanding contribution to aviation, to the Australian Air Force Cadets.