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.
Mr W.A. 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. All Wings were formed in the States by 1 October. Although staffed by a small nucleus 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.
The Corps had two objectives. T he 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. This objective indicates recognition of a continuing post-war role for the Corps.
1946 - 1948
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 .
The Federal Government’s Minister for Defence announced on 26 August 1975 that the Australian Cadet Corps (Army Cadets) was to be disbanded from 1 January 1976 (based on the recommendations of the Millar Report of 1975). The Minister confirmed that Navy Cadets and the ATC would also be disbanded. While it was disbanded it remained to be administered under a volunteer service.
Air Training Corps raised and and re-formed by Fraser Coalition Government
On 27 May 1976, the Federal Government’s Minister for Administrative Services announced the re-formation of the Australian cadets’ movement. The ATC was 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.
In 2000 Topley Review was conducted and in that same year the Directorate of Defence Force Cadets was form
Until 2001, there were eight separate organisations based on state political boundaries. While the organisations had identical uniforms and observed RAAF customs and service culture, they were not part of Defence. There was no consistency in ground or air training standards or systems.
In April 2005, re -organisation of the AAFC raised three functional Wings: Ground Training, Air Training and Logistics Support. An Office of the Chief of Staff provided national policy with command authority.
Traditional operational Wings continued. Nos. 1-8 Wings were based on state boundaries but were redirected to provide service delivery and focus.
- 1 Wing – North Queensland
- 2 Wing – Queensland
- 3 Wing – New South Wales
- 4 Wing – Victoria
- 5 Wing – Tasmania
- 6 Wing – South Australia
- 7 Wing – Western Australia
- 8 Wing – Northern Territory
In 2016 the AAFC celebrated its 75th anniversary with the presentation of a Governor Generals Banner in recognition of the AAFC service to Youth Development in the Australian Community.