he Nighthawks stood up on June 17, 1941
at Digby, Licolnshire, England as a night
fighter squadron, initially flying the Bolton
Paul Defiant. Although the squadron's role
remained unchanged, it transitioned during
the war years to Beaufighters and then to the
well-known Mosquito. The squadron played a
key role in the defense of England as a night
fighter squadron, and was the first night fighter
unit on the continent after D-day and became
the highest scoring night fighter squadron after
the invasion. The Nighthawks accompanied
the advancing allies through France, Belgium
and Holland, and disbanded at Rhine Airfield,
Germany, on July 1, 1945.
The next phase of the squadron's life began
in 1954, when the Nighthawks were stationed
at CFB Comox. This post World War II
commitment to NORAD spanned 30 years
until 1984. The squadron flew the CF 100 and
the CF 101 Voodoo during this period with the
Nighthawks demonstrating a high degree of
expertise and proficiency. Both aircrew and
groundcrew won numerous awards at "Call Shot"
and "William Tell" competitions. The squadron
also became known for "Hawk 1 - a CF 101 Voodoo
painted in colors emblematic of the squadron, and
a frequent visitor to airshows and competitions
throughout North America.
In July 1984, the Voodoo was phased out squadron equipped with the CF-18. The squadron was relocated to CFB Cold Lake where its role remained unchanged with brief spells flying NORAD ALPHA Alert at Cold Lake and Bagotville, before the Nighthawks were reassigned to CFB Baden-Soellingen, in Central Region (Germany). This phase heralded, for the Nighthawks and for the fighter community as a whole, the beginning of a new and exciting era in fighter aviation in Europe.
On June 7, 1985, 409 Squadron arrived in Europe, the first Hornets to do so. This move to Europe also brought a primary role change to the Nighthawks: from one of air defence to air-to-ground operations, for the first time in the squadron's history.
The squadron continued to prove its mettle by receiving excellent TAC EVAL results in a number of NATO and national evaluations.
By the summer of 1990, 409 Squadron was beyond a doubt the most experienced and proficient fighter squadron in the Canadian Air Force. This reality coincided with Saddam Hussein's August 2 invasion of Kuwait.
On Sept 14, 1990, the Prime Minister of Canada, The Right Honorable Brian Mulroney, announced that a Canadian Fighter Squadron would be deployed to the Persian Gulf. The deployment of 409 Squadron to the Persian Gulf was undertaken smoothly and effectively at the beginning of October 1990.The squadron thus became the first squadron on active service since WWII. Tasked with air defence of the allied fleet in the
Persian Gulf, the squadron flew operational sorties immediately on arrival at Desert Home (Canada Dry 1 and 2) in Doha, Qatar. While on active duty, the squadron flew over 100 hours in the Middle East without any flight safety incidents. Since June 1985,
409 Squadron has accumulated over 28,000 Accident Free Hours on the CF-18, becoming the first squadron to achieve this flying rate for any nation or unit flying the Hornet aircraft. The Nighthawks have served Canada well with a long list of firsts. The squadron was the first to Europe after D-Day, first in night fighter kills after D-Day, the first fighter squadron in Comox, the first operational Hornet squadron,
the first Hornets in Europe and the first Canadian Fighter Squadron to the Gulf.
409 Squadron has another first, a rather unsavory accomplishment - it was the first CF-18 squadron to disband, 25 June1991.