Written By Simon Sundaraj-Keun
The Avro Arrow CF 105 was a prototype all-weather interceptor aircraft of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Arrow conception was ahead of the any aviation technology that existed during the early Cold War era but its mysterious demise would rattle the very core of Canada’s aerospace, military, and economical industries. To understand Arrow’s short but illustrious lifespan is to investigate the political and military influences on the Arrow Project and also its implications on Canada’s social, economical, and intellectual sectors.
Canadians regard the Arrow CF 105 as a living legend to a past that could have brought greatness to Canada’s military and aviation industry. Its existence was known orally or common knowledge but physically evidence was illusive excluding some archival documents and foreign newspapers sources. The beauty of Arrow was in its technological superiority and symmetrical delta-wing airframe design propelled its image into Canadian psyche. The people who built, designed, and worked on the Arrow Project since infancy till its demise aided in establishing the aircraft as a Canadian mythological entity.
However to comprehend Canada’s Arrow Project logically was to briefly analyzed the historical development of World War II (WWII) jet technology that contributed to the Cold War jet powered fighter aircraft program. WWII brought about many advances in the scientific arena but none became obvious than the development of the atomic bomb and jet powered aircraft. German jet powered aircraft displayed its potency over the skies of Europe during the tail end of WWII but never did decisively thwart the Allied Air Campaign that Hitler envisioned. The Allies took captured German models, blueprints, and research materials of jet powered aircraft back to respective home nations and began to developed potential war planes for future conflicts. The atomic bombing of Japanese cities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki by United States of America (USA/US) B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers would reshape the post WWII geopolitics and military planners.
Political ideology became the prime motivator of a global military arms race between USSR (Soviet/Eastern Bloc/Russia) and the USA (West/Western Bloc/Free World) which led to the Cold War. A few incidents in the late 1940s would strain fragile diplomatic relationship between USSR and USA. The Berlin Crisis of 1948, Mao’s victory in China over Nationalist forces in 1949, Korean Conflict from 1950 to 1953, and the first USSR hydrogen bomb detonation in 1953 would make the Western Bloc nervous. The actions of USSR would cause an equal and opposite reaction by the USA as both tried to outwit each other in the geopolitical chess game on a global scale.
This left Western Allies like France, Spain, West Germany, United Kingdom (UK), Canada, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Argentina, and others uncomfortably reliant on USA for military hardware. The reliance on USA’s military industrial would change after France and United Kingdom faced diplomatic and military isolation during the Suez Crisis in 1956. West Germany was allowed to rearm itself but faced a formidable Soviet Air Force in East Germany. Other nations like India, Argentina, Canada, Sweden, and West Germany realized that relying on a single weapons supplier would jeopardize individual nation’s national security. Plus an individual weapons supplier would not be able to cater to the every single client demands whereby each nation has its own unique defense requirements.
There was the Soviet supersonic fighter and bomber program that accelerated a number of nations to investment in domestic aerospace defense. France invested in the Mirage aircraft as an alternative for Europe and British aviation industries invested in a couple of aircraft designs for its Commonwealth members. Sweden dilemma was maintaining a potent air force with the improvement of its military aerospace industry while continuing to be neutral. West Germany on the other hand wanted a defensive air force while not agitating the Soviets. Argentina and India wanted self-reliance from the West and possibly to create a military industry for Third World Nations.
Canada’s reasons were a combination of other nation’s dilemma role up into one. The Canadians had an aviation industry in place since WWII and had contributed to the Allies victory. Its national interest priority was to equip the RCAF specific weapons to strengthen Canada’s air defense network. There was also the underlining factor of expanding its domestic aviation industry and to become an alternative to American, British, and French weapons supplier in the Free World. The question anyone asked would be what were the problems faced by Canada that will inspire the development of the Arrow and later led to its demise? To consider an answer one has to place into retrospective the internal and external forces that influence the Arrow Project.
There were internal and external problems faced by Canadian military planners in effectively defending Canada’s vast territory. These obstacles faced by the RCAF were Mother Nature, specialize equipment, Soviet supersonic bombers, proximity to the USA, lack of manpower, and dependency on American military hardware. Each problem pose a logistical nightmare to Canada’s air defense network as it was the ‘First Line of Defense’ for USA. To understand the birth of project Arrow is to examine closely the threat each predicament creates to Canada.
The Soviet supersonic bombers threat that Western military experts predicted would be able to strike US major cities with nuclear weapons by flying across the Artic circle and through Canada. This Soviet threat created the ‘bomber gap’ idea that the West believe it was lagging behind the in the Cold War arms race. One has to understand that Western intelligence on Soviet weapons development were non-existence or at best limited. The Canadians took the Soviet menace to heart and desperately tried to work on a countermeasure.
However Canada and the West became ever more nervous with the induction of Soviet Myasishchev M-4 Bison into the Soviet Air Force in 1956. Western intelligence got word of the M-4 Bison since its first test flight in 1953. The information on Bison’s specifications and abilities were inaccurate but its existence caused an immediate development of supersonic interceptor aircraft programs in the West. In actuality the Bison was a subsonic bomber with a maximum speed of 0.95 Mach. It had a range of 11, 000 miles and could not reach Washington DC in a round trip from Northern USSR. The 1950s Soviet Air force logistic inventory did not have airborne refueling aircraft in service.
In 1955 there was also the induction of Soviet Tu-16 bombers into service. The Tu-16 did not have the range unlike the M-4 but was considered as a threat by Western intelligence that tends to overestimate Soviet aircraft and bomber capabilities. This latest but incorrect information only fuel an arms race between the West and USSR. Canada’s political and military officials realize that the bomber threats from Russia needed to be neutralized. The overriding factor for Canada’s proactive posture in domestic weapons development program was the proximity of the USA to its borders. USSR bombers required to fly through Canada in order to reach targets deep within the USA.
The notion of Canada as America’s First Line of Defense was a fact because of its close geographical position to Northern Russia by crossing over the North Pole. Clearly any attack from the Soviets had to come through the North Pole and over Canadian air space. Canada was also part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that requires the commitment of Canadian military to protect its nation and Allies in war. It was also a blank spot in United States Air Force air defense network and warning system against potential Soviet bombers attack. The armament of Canada became a priority to fortify its air defense network and repel any potential USSR air assault on North America.
Canada was definitely within the attack radius of M-4 but other problems arise when selecting the right equipment in countering the Soviet bomber threat. The vast Canadian Northern Territories was a challenge to be reckoned with since the dawn of Canada as a nation. Canada’s wilderness was isolated by land and inaccessible by sea during winter. Pilots and aircraft flying into the Northern frontiers were at the mercy of Mother Nature. The rugged mountainous terrain and artic weather conditions in Northern Canada eludes Canadian defense planners in allocating RCAF bases.
RCAF was Canada’s only line of air defense from the Soviets but it lacks the fighting capacity in manpower, resources, equipments, and bases. The RCAF was a professional military outfit that contributed to the Allies victory in WWII. Canada’s Royal Air Force traced its aviation legacy since the induction of aircrafts as weapons of combat over the skies of Europe in World War I (WWI). New RCAF facilities or bases could not be to build throughout Canada due to climate, terrain, and lack of manpower. If war breaks out Canada military commitment to home defense, NATO and the USA would stretch its capacity to the limits. The search for the right equipment to answer all of RCAF problems was far from easy because numerous nations that produce all-weather interceptor aircraft were few or none.
Most of Canadian military equipment came from UK and USA but the trend of being dependent on foreign hardware was about to change. The need for a domestic interceptor aircraft program was necessary in case those military supplies would be interrupted in time of crisis or war. This Canadian interceptor aircraft program would be able to established alternative arms supplier and compete with the USA, UK, or USSR in the global weapons market. It would also give Canada the freedom to plan a solid but flexible air defense network. The development of a domestic military industry in Canada would fuel economic and intellectual growth that subsequently instills a sense of national pride.
Canada’s military had their mind-set for a fast but versatile all-weather interceptor aircraft that would be able to counter the Soviet threat. This aircraft would be able to work under Canada’s extreme climate conditions, out performed any foreign aircraft, and end foreign weapon dependency. The question would anyone asked who would step in and answer Canada call for a domestic built interceptor aircraft. There was one company that the Canadian government and military would turn to for innovative, advance, and versatile aircraft design. Avro Aircraft Canada Limited (Ltd) was the solution to Canada’s problems by answering its nation’s call with an advance interceptor aircraft known as the Avro Arrow CF 105.
Avro Aircraft Canada Ltd
The power and excellence of Avro Arrow CF 105 like any aircraft lies in its designer. In order to successfully analyze Arrow one has to methodically unravel Avro Aircraft Canada Ltd (Avro) successes and failures. British Avro also goes by the name Hawker-Sidley bought Victory Aircraft and renamed it Avro Aircraft Canada Ltd in 1945. Avro Aircraft Canada Ltd also goes by the name A. V. Roe Canada Ltd or Avro Canada. In name Avro Canada was owned by British Avro but in actuality Canadians controlled the company’s stocks. Avro headquarters was located in Malton, Ontario while other facilities were scattered throughout Canada.
Crawford Gordon was president and chairman of Avro Canada. He was the driving force behind the Arrow Project. The actor Dan Aykroyd did a superb job in portraying Crawford Cordon in the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) and Hallmark Channel Arrow television movie miniseries. Gordon gained experience in British Avro in WWII which aided him in developing Arrow for Canada within a short time frame. British Avro produce remarkable aircraft for the Allies in WWII but the Avro Lancaster heavy bomber was the work horse of British Bomber Command over Germany. Avro Canada was filled with experts like Gordon who overcome numerous obstacles with limited resources and contributed to Allied victory in WWII.
Avro Canada manufactured two significant aircraft that would contribute to Arrow’s design and technological advances. The first supersonic heavy fighter aircraft designated Avro CF 100 Canuck was produced by Avro Canada but it would not be in service till 1953. The delay would cause Avro to simultaneously conduct research into a possible replacement for the Canuck. Avro Canada by request of the RCAF was developing a new aircraft while the Canuck was in its last leg fight test. RCAF believed that CF 100 would be outclassed by better developed Soviet supersonic fighter aircraft.
C-102 Jetliner was a passenger aircraft that was developed by Avro which did not survive into production. The Avro Jetliner was built-in 1949 but was beaten by 13 days in which UK’s De Havilland Comet took to the air. C-102 was North America’s first jetliner without the problems that led to the Comet demise. Avro was requested by the Canadian government to stop working on the Jetliner and concentrate on finishing the Canuck in 1951. The other reason was the Korean War which forced Canada to switch priorities from civilian aviation to military airpower. For some mysterious reasons the only prototype of the C-102 Jetliner was scrap that same year.
There were numerous research conducted by Avro Canada but none was as elegant and unconventional that the Avrocar. The Avrocar of 1959 was based on Nazi flying saucer technology captured by the Allies after WWII. Avro Canada tried and failed to create a Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) vehicle or a workable flying saucer. Hovercraft technology was resulted from a failed venture into saucer shape aircraft. The Canadians could not claim first dips in hovercraft technology because Avro Canada did not pattern the Avrocar design. The project was also canceled by the Canadian government as funds ran out and all prototypes were scraped.
The consortium of Avro Canada consists of Canadian Car & Foundry, Canadian Steel Improvement, and Orenda. Orenda used to be Turbo Engines that built Arrow’s Iroquois engine which was to be integrated into Arrow CF 105 Mk 2. Canadian Car & Foundry and Canadian Steel Improvement was the research wing of Avro Canada in airframe steel density and metal composites. Avro Canada was the main production and testing facility for Arrow CF 105s. Most of the equipment from previous aircraft testing and research was located in Avro main facility in Malton.
Avro Canada previous expertise made it the prefect solution to Canada’s air defense problems. Minister of Department Clarence Decatur Howe selected Crawford Gordon to run Avro with the full support from the Canadian government to develop the Arrow Project. Minister Howe was a strong proponent of domestic designed and manufactured aircraft in order to end Canada’s military hardware dependency on the US and UK. Howe was born in the USA in town called Waltham, Massachusetts. He obtained an engineering degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and move to Canada. Howe was a dedicated member to the Canadian Liberal party since 1935 and became a great asset in Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent cabinet form 1948 to 1957.
Arrow CF 105 was the solution that A. V. Roe Canada Ltd had for Canada’s air defense crisis. Avro Design & Engineering Team headed by Chief Designer and Engineer James (Jim) Chamberlin that was the brainchild behind Arrow CF 105 Mk 1 conception in 1951. Chamberlin was an experience engineer who worked for British Avro in WWII then on the C-102 Jetliner and CF 100 Canuck for Avro in the late 40s. Both Chamberlin and Gordon pushed Arrow’s potential by promoting its technological value to a reluctant RCAF. In 1953 Arrow design was finalized after reviewed by the members of Canadian cabinet, Avro engineers, and RCAF defense planners.
The inceptor aircraft would be designated Canadian Fighter (CF) 105 by the Royal Canadian Air Force but it would be tested and upgraded by Avro. Arrow was a conventional aircraft by most standards but its weapons and flight specifications were technologically advance. Arrow’s avionics and weapons system would have consisted the Velvet Glove and Sparrow II. The fire control system known as the Velvet Glove was a semi active radar homing air-to-air missile system produced by Canadair but it was canceled in 1956. Velvet Glove was a rudimentary fire control system compared to today’s ‘fire and forget’ weapons system that exists in the United States Air Force (USAF) aircraft. Sparrow II was an active radar seeker air-to-air missile developed by the United States Navy (USN) and Canadair but it was cancelled in 1958.
Production was completed in 1957 on the twin-engine delta-wing supersonic interceptor aircraft manned by two crewmen which was a pilot and co-pilot or navigator. Arrow CF 105 Mk 1 rolled out to a crowd of 20,000 people and Avro designated Make One (Mk 1) as the first five prototypes were ready for testing. Arrow’s production was delayed due to the selection of engines and licensing dilemmas that was needed in order to attain engine blueprints. Avro selected a couple of engines like Rolls Royce RB 106, Bristol B 0L. 4 and Curtis-Wright J67 but due to delays the Pratt & Whitney J75-P-3 engines were selected. Avro Canada assigned Orenda to construct the Iroquois engine for later Arrow CF 105 Mk 2 models in order to prevent future delays within the project timeline. Priority was also given to develop or search a new fire control system when the Velvet Glove was canceled by the RCAF. Arrow was developed within 6 years from a conceptual design on the drawing broad into a physical marvel over Canada’s skies was an outstanding achievement.
Janusz Zurakowski was the first individual to fly the Arrow CF 105 on March 25th 1958. Zurakowski was born in Poland and served for the Polish Air Force as a flight instructor prior to WWII. He fled to Britain in 1939 when Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany. Zurakowski like other Europeans contributed to the British air defense in the Battle of Britain. His career within the British Royal Air Force (RAF) was illustrious but was exiled when the Soviets occupied Poland after WWII. Zurakowski became a test pilot for the British Air Ministry. As Avro Chief Test Pilot he went on in breaking the sound barrier for Canada in the CF 100 Canuck.
Sequential test fights of the Arrow were successful and problems with the aircraft landing gears were repaired. Arrow’s landing gear problem was its exposure to the cold at high attitudes that freezes the mechanism which lowered the gear during landing. Avro engineers solved the problem by installing gas hydraulics system to quicken the landing gears before the pilot land the aircraft. Arrow CF 105 Mk 1 reached to a maximum height of 58,000ft at a speed of 1.98 Mach with a combat radius of 410 miles. Canadian politics will put an end to the Arrow Project when Canadian Liberals lost the Canadian parliamentary election to the Progressive Conservatives in 1957. During Canada’s political transition Arrow CF 105 Mk 2 which included with the Iroquois engine and latest fire control weapons system was partially completed for testing. Before combat testing or simulation could begin the Arrow Project was canceled on February 20th 1958 by the newly elected Canadian Progressive Conservative government.
The cancellation of Arrow also prompted the end of the Sparrow II program and the replacement program for Velvet Glove fire control system. Gordon and others in Avro fought to no avail in convincing the new Canadian cabinet in continuing the Arrow Project. In 1959 under the supervision of the RCAF by orders of the Canadian government every single Arrow was to be scraped, destroyed, and melted. Avro Canada was sold over time to Hawker-Siddeley, De Havilland Canada, McDonnell-Douglas and Boeing. The last Avro facility in Toronto was demolished in 2005. To understand why and how CF 105 bite the bullet one has to first comprehend what advances Arrow brought to Canada’s aerospace industry.
Canadian Aerospace Advances
Canadian aerospace industry took a gigantic leap in technology, scientific research, and aircraft designs with Arrow. The Arrow Project not only contributed to Canada’s economy but also aided in its intellectual growth. It also propelled Arrow as a strong competitor in the global arms race against Soviet and Allied advance aircraft alike. Avro Canada had in their possession an interceptor aircraft 20 years ahead of its time and no foreign fighter aircraft rivaled the Arrow.
This maybe a bold claim made by the Canadians equaling to their superiority in ice hockey but Arrow laid the foundation to USA future aviation developments. Canada never exploited any of these achievements after the termination of the Arrow Project but others will. The great strives Arrow brought to Canada’s aviation industry was its advances in airframe design, composite structure, weapons system, safety components, controls, airframes, speed, and power. Avro Canada emphasized on Arrow’s conventional design but unconventional implication of internal hardware system during the course of its physical development.
Arrow’s aerodynamic symmetrical delta-wing was the main fixture of its airframe design and enabled it to carry more payloads without compromising its structural integrity. The delta-wing smoothen Arrow’s transition into the sound barrier without producing drag and prevented stalling on the aircraft. It also ensures the aircraft’s maneuverability at high attitude and speed but delta-wing airframes only drawback was flying at low attitude with slow speed. This would not be a problem because Arrow’s main purpose was to intercept and engage Soviet bombers at high attitude.
New technologies were developed to aid the CF 105 performance during flight and air combat. As mention earlier the Velvet Glove fire control system which suppose to work like the present day ‘fire and forget’ system on a Longbow Apache. This system was basic because it requires the pilot to point Arrow’s nose constantly at a target in order for the system to keep on a continuous lock. It was dangerous for the pilot which would be engaged more than one target at a time. The Arrow armament would have been the active radar guided air-to-air missile known as Sparrow II which was preferred by Arrow’s pilot because it was controlled by the co-pilot/navigator.
The Arrow had an internal weapons bay which made it very unconventional for a combat aircraft during its time. An aircraft with an internal weapons bay would be able to reduce radar detection on it compared to an aircraft with external hard points. The CF 105 structural composites were basic stainless steel with aluminum alloy which was not stealth technology. It was the streamline airframe that made Arrow more maneuverable than an aircraft with external hard points which would be more susceptible to drag. This internal weapons bay concept would be implemented into future USAF aircraft like the F-117, F-22, F-35, and others.
Arrow also had a rudimentary fly-by-wire system that gave its pilot a better feel and control during flight. These create the aircraft to synchronize its reaction based on the immediate response signals sent out by the pilot during air combat. The installment of compressed gas hydraulic landing system ensured the Arrow’s landing gear would detract in time before descending on the runway. Its other safety component was the automated ejection seat that ensured its crew survivability which was non-existence on Soviet combat aircraft.
The development of the Iroquois engine by Orenda would have powered the Arrow CF 105 Mk 2. Unfortunately the second version of Arrow and its engine was canceled and destroyed. Orenda initial tests of the Iroquois engine fitted with afterburners was very successful and theorize that it would have pushed Arrow beyond 2.5 Mach. At the same time Avro’s Canada Steel Improvement was developing a combined of titanium and aluminum alloy composites for Arrow Mk 2 airframe. Avro’s researchers believed that the two combined metal would enable Arrow to sustain speed beyond 2.5 Mach for longer flight duration.
The RCAF was not easily convinced in Arrow’s capability even with all the advances made in Canadian aerospace industry. RCAF monitored the Arrow Project closely by gathering other 2nd generation fighter aircraft to match up with the CF 105. The RCAF main concern was the Soviet multi-role fighter aircraft known as MiG-21. This was a mistake on the RCAF part because Arrow would unlikely meet the MiG-21 in combat over the skies of Canada. There was no way MiG-21s could escort M-4 Bison bombers across the North Pole into North America. If the assumption that Arrow would face MiG-21 over the skies of Europe then that confrontation would not be solely between the two combat aircraft. The CF 105s would concentrate in taking out the M-4s and the MiG-21s would have to contend with other NATO’s fighter aircraft. The RCAF was looking to dominate the skies but firstly needed to compiled research materials on any possible rivals to the Arrow from across the globe.
Arrow’s Foreign Rivals
The Arrow equaled other 2nd generation combat aircraft abilities and specifications in theory. This matched up against the Arrow included fighter aircraft from India, Sweden, USA, UK, France, and Russia but excluding West Germany from the list. West Germany was researching on VTOL combat aircraft and most of its weapons were American made. It was very unlikely that most of these countries expect for Russia would attack Canada but the RCAF was looking for air superiority over its rivals. The problem was Arrow which was still a prototype and most aircraft that will be compared below were the end product. It still proves that Arrow was a superior aircraft even though it was a prototype interceptor aircraft.
RCAF began an extensive research program by pitting Arrow Mk 1 general stats which was a prototype against other international end of the line combat aircraft. In order to investigate Arrow’s potential one could used Sun Tzu military strategy theory of comparing equipment between two armies to determine an outcome. Arrow’s rivals were the F-100D Super Sabre, F-106 Delta Dart, F-104 Starfighter, F-105 Tunderchief, F-11 Grumman Tiger, F-8 Crusader, Gloster Javelin, De Havilland Sea Vixen, English Electric Lighting, MiG-19, MiG-21, SAAB J35 Draken, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) Marut, Dassault Mirage III, and Dassault Etendard IV.
The F-100D, F-106, F-104, F-105, F-8, and F-11 were made in America. The USAF used F-100D, F-106, F-104, and F-105 and the USN placed F-8 and F-11 into its service. SAAB J35 was used by the Swedish Air Force (SAF) and HAL Marut was utilized by the Indian Air Force (IAF). The French Air Force used Dassault Mirage III and its navy air wing deployed Dassault Etendard IV. The RAF main fighter aircraft was the Gloster Javelin and English Electric Lighting but its Fleet Air Arm used the De Havilland Sea Vixen.
Super Sabre single engine fighter-bomber was built by North America Aviation and entered service in 1954. It had a top speed of 864 mph and could reach the maximum attitude of 50,000ft with a combat range of 1996 miles. F-100D was a single seat aircraft which was enhance version of a smaller F-86 Sabre. F-106 was a single seat and engine interceptor aircraft built by Convair in 1959. The Delta Dart could reach 2.3 Mach due to its rocket shape airframe. It could reach to a maximum attitude of 57,000ft with a combat range of 1,800 miles. The single engine and seat fighter bomber F-104 built by Lockheed entered service in 1958. Starfighter could reach an attitude of 50,000ft at speed of 1.98 Mach with a combat radius of 420 miles.
Fighter bomber single seat and engine F-105 was built in 1958 by Republic Aviation. Tunderchief could reach speed of 2.08 Mach at an attitude 48,000ft with a combat radius of 780 miles. The F-11 was a single seat and engine built by Grumman in 1957. Tiger fighter carrier aircraft could reach 1.1 Mach at an attitude of 42,000ft but with a range of 1,275 miles. F-8 single engine and seat fighter carrier aircraft was built by Chance-Vought in 1957. The Crusader could reach an attitude of 60,000ft with a combat radius of 645 miles with speed up to 2.21 Mach.
The RAF’s Javelin two seat and engine built in 1958 by Gloster Aircraft Company could only reach a speed of 710 miles. It could reach an attitude of 53,800ft with a combat radius of 954 miles. English Electric Lighting with dual engine and seat interceptor aircraft could reach 2.27 Mach. It has a combat radius of 800 miles and reached to an attitude of 60,000ft. Sea Vixen was a fighter aircraft with dual seat and engine built by De Havilland in 1957. It had a combat radius of 780 miles with an attitude of 48,000ft at 0.91 Mach.
HAL Marut was dual engine single seat fighter-bomber that could reach 1 Mach built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in 1960. It could reach to an attitude of 48,000ft with a combat radius of 500 miles. The J35 Draken could reach an attitude of 65,000ft with a range of 2,060 miles and has a maximum speed of 2 Mach. J35 is a single seat single engine fighter which had its first flight 1955 by SAAB and entered service in 1960. The Mirage III single engine and seat fighter was built by Dassault Aviation in 1961. It could 2.2 Mach and reach to an attitude of 55,800ft with a range of 1,490 miles. Another Dassault Aviation design was the Dassault Etendard single seat engine fighter aircraft for the French Navy Air Wing. It could reach to an attitude of 50,900ft with a range of 2,060 miles but with a maximum speed of 682mph.
The aircraft from USA, UK, France, India, and Sweden will never faced Canada’s Arrow in combat but the RCAF wanted to make inroads into the global weapons market. The Arrow wide delta-wing airframe made it more maneuverable to all stated aircraft expect to the J35 Draken and Sea Vixen. Even some of the aircraft were also delta-wing but Arrow had a wider wing span which improves its agility. Arrow’s supersonic speed of 1.98 Mach may have left most of its rivals in the dust but Draken, Mirage III, Lighting, Crusader, and Delta Dart had the upper hand. Arrow was not weapon tested and its initial engines were similar to the British and American aircraft counterparts. Arrow’s 410 miles combat radius were about average but still lacked behind most aircraft.
Arrow service ceiling was at 58,000ft was about average but falls short of the Crusader and Draken. Most of the aircraft in USAF and French arsenal were single engine aircraft that was more susceptible to damage in combat compared to twin-engine aircraft. Arrow’s minimum drag in the air and low trust to weight ratio during take off made it an easy flying vehicle. Plus the Arrow had minimum radar hits due to its internal weapons bay compared with all other aircraft which had external weapons hard points.
The Soviet MiGs was the RCAF main concern because it would challenge Arrow for dominance in the skies. Mikoyan-Grurevich built MiG-19 in 1955 and MiG-21 in 1956 for the Soviet Air Force. MiG-19 was a single seat but dual engine fighter aircraft with supersonic speed of 1.1 Mach. Its maximum attitude was 57,000ft with a range of 1,375 miles. The MiG-21 was a single seat and engine multi-role fighter aircraft which could reach 2.0 Mach. It had a combat radius of 310 miles and could reach to a maximum height of 65,600ft.
MiG-19 and MiG-21 superior in attitude but lack the maneuverability against the Arrow. However both MiGs weight lighter than the Arrow but have a higher trust to weight ratio. Survivability of the Arrow in combat was great due to safety components like automated ejection seat, twin-engine design, and effective control/reaction time from pilot to machine. The Arrow lack one component that was a main cannon/gun which would render it useless in close combat or in a dogfight with all aircraft stated previously. Its missile would take out the MiGs before even it get close due to the radar guided system controlled by the Arrow’s co-pilot. MiG’s pilots relied on vision verification of targets because it does not have an effective radar tracking system. Arrow primary purposed was to search and destroy bombers and fighter aircraft engagement was secondary. Plus it was very unlikely that Arrow would have met all those aircraft except for the MiGs in combat which was stated earlier. Most of those countries except for Sweden and Russia shared technology with each other.
The RCAF’s intelligence like other Western Allies viewed that the Soviets and other nations had better combat aircraft than the Arrow. So the RCAF pressured Avro to develop new weapons system by diverting research funds from improving the Arrow Mk 1 or pushing ahead with Arrow Mk 2. This set back would cost Canada and Avro financially but most off all prevent the completion of Arrow CF 105 Mk 2. Arrow Mk 2 would have been an excellent match against the 2nd generation fighter aircraft previously mentioned. RCAF should have concentrated on the Soviet bomber threat and developed Arrow’s advance technology at hand. Unfortunate turn of events from above and beyond would undermine internal support for the Arrow Project.
Oppositions From Above & Beyond
It was October 4th 1957 as Avro rolled out the Arrow CF 105 Mk 1 to a crowd of 20,000 an object known as Sputnik I flew over Earth’s orbit. It would change the military balance in USSR favor and also hammered a nail into Arrow’s coffin. As stated earlier the world was also nervous with the Soviet induction of the new MiG-21 that was perceived as a formidable aircraft. The threats that came from above and beyond have Western military planners scrambling for a solution.
The RCAF perceived that the notion of the ‘bomber gap’ has been replaced by the ‘missile gap’. Fears past through the Free World that if Soviet bombers were stopped by combat aircraft than what could prevent missiles raining down from the sky. This added a new dimension to warfare and there were no known countermeasures for taking out a target in space. The option was to develop a missile program and assured a retaliation could be conduct if attack. Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) became USA and its Allies doctrine in order insured deterrence was to assured total annihilation of the human race.
Arrow became secondary along with the Soviet bomber threat because there was no first line of defense. It only assured defense planners if the Soviet missiles fail to hit its target than the bombers would be launch as a second strike option. These missiles contain nuclear devices that could hit any city on the planet within 30 minutes. Canadian politician were worried because most of the spending went into Arrow and none into missile development. The nation of Canada could only turn to the USA for missile technology.
However the Arrow Project got to go in order for Canada to secure sophisticated missile and defense technology from America. The reasons for keeping Arrow was getting slimmer by the day since the Canadian Progressive Conservative party came to power in 1957. The RCAF managed to convince the Canadian government that Avro’s Arrow and other research program cost overrun were in the billions. For 1950s Canada the amounts of money spend on the Arrow Project could have been used for improving public services into Canadian Northern territories.
The cost overrun was not solely Avro fault because most of the decision-making on researching and upgrading Arrow was in RCAF hands. The military indecision on Arrow’s armaments wasted numerous resources and canceled potential weapons system. RCAF tended to try something new like the Sparrow II missiles and Velvet Glove fire control system without improving on existing technology that already works. When Avro’s researchers were task multiple projects cost began to climb and delays were inevitable in order to meet RCAF high expectations.
There was a rivalry in the political arena between Progressive Conservatives and Liberals over Project Arrow. Liberals had majority of the Canadian population backing its government so in turn Progressive Conservatives to back seat on the Arrow issue. The Liberals were in power for over 20 years and under its administration brought progress to Canada economy, health care, public services, and provided aid to Allied victory in WWII. It all change in 1957 when Progressive Conservatives lead by John Diefenbaker won the parliamentary election. Liberals may have won the popular vote but lost the parliamentary election.
Prime Minister John George Diefenbaker served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Army during WWI. After the war he became active in politics by joining the Progressive Conservatives which eventually won the 1957 parliamentary election. Arrow was seen by most Canadians as symbol of national pride but Progressive Conservatives saw it as a Liberal legacy. Prime Minster Diefenbaker and his cabinet tolerated the Arrow Project but took a stance in cancelling it when Sputnik I was launched. He wanted a better defense network that would save cost and improved cooperation with the USA.
The RCAF received complains from pilots who served in NATO and USA that Arrow’s weapons system would not operate on Canada’s Allied operational systems. It was an interesting point because Arrow’s weapons system was constantly changing based on RCAF specification orders. In reality Arrow’s weapons system was not even installed for testing and RCAF assumption on its flaws was speculative. Arrow would have work well in European weather which were better than Canada and its internal weapons bay would be easier to upgrade compared to external weapons hard points fixed-wing or delta-wing aircraft. RCAF backed by Progressive Conservatives perception about the Arrow as a Liberal failure pushed for a replacement.
Canada under the leadership of Prime Minister Diefenbaker joined the North America Air Defense (NORAD) network in August 1957. The Canadians had to cover the cost and apply manpower into the once USAF run radar station network across Canada. The treaty was not directed or contained any supplements regarded to any Canadian concession of its indigenous aviation program. It only required Canada and USA forces to cooperate in the defense of North America. The Canadians under no external pressure canceled the Arrow Project in order to start integrating its early warning system and staffs along NORAD specifications.
However NORAD did not have any direct influence on Arrow because it was a work in progress between USA and Canadian military since the Soviets started building bombers. It gave Diefenbaker’s cabinet an excuse to kill the Arrow Project but needed more concrete evidence in order to get parliamentary support. The RCAF had the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) fire control system and Bomarc medium range surface-to-air nuclear/conventional tip missile on its shopping list. SAGE was an automated fire control system for collecting, tracking, and intercepting bombers with Bomarc within NORAD network. In theory the SAGE system could automatically direct aircraft to intercept bombers with relaying commands to an aircraft’s autopilot system. The Bomarcs were capable of carrying conventional or nuclear warheads with the intension of preventing a perimeter breach by Soviets bomber formation. Canadian military and political officials saw SAGE, NORAD, and Bomarc could be incorporated into one operational network across Canada.
The Canadian government along with the RCAF firmly believed that the top priority was to have a workable but also comparable system with its NATO and USA counterparts. Progressive Conservatives wanted to cut on defense spending because it was hurting the Canada’s Health Care system and other social services. RCAF also wanted more research into missile technology in order to have a second strike capability against Soviet ICBMs first strike. Missile technology like the Bomarc would be able to cover Canada’s vast territory. In order to fulfill Canada’s defense and domestic needs the Arrow Project had to be cancelled.
Reasons for Cancellation, Destruction & Replacement
Arrow was cancelled by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker on February 20th 1958 almost a year of flight tests. The reason stated by the Canadian government was cost overrun for the project was in the billions. RCAF wanted to have an integrated defense network that would be able to effectively defend Canada. As stated previously the RCAF push for the Canadians joining NORAD, installing the SAGE system and acquiring Bomarc missiles caused money. The only way to achieving RCAF needs was to cancel the Arrow program.
The Canadian government not only canceled the Arrow Project but took a step further by destroying every single aircraft in Avro’s hanger in 1959. Arrow airframes were scrapped, destroyed, and melted in order that no one could obtain its technology. There were rumors that the Arrow CF 105 Mk 2 was flown away secretly to prevent its destruction but no evidence points to any surviving aircraft. The contractors that scrapped all six aircraft were under constant RCAF supervision in the destruction process of every single material that points to Arrow’s physical existence. This day in age source materials on Arrow’s design concepts were documented from surviving individuals who have worked for Avro and posted on the internet.
Prime Minster Diefenbaker was blame by the Canadian people for Arrow’s cancellation which he denied till his death. The mystery surrounded Arrows cancellation and destruction grew more extravagant over time with Canadians blaming Americans, Crawford Gordon alcoholic tendencies, and the RCAF. Canada joined NORAD and the Americans did not force the Canadians to the cancel and destroy the Arrow Project. The Americans along with UK, France, and NATO Allies marvel the Arrow’s technological achievement but USA or UK will never purchased it but others would. The assumption that the Americans were involved in Arrow’s demise was preposterous because if Arrow entry into the weapons market would create a technological and economic competition that Free World needed.
Arrow was always a Canadian issue and that led some conspiracy enthusiasts who speculated that Crawford Gordon ordered its destruction. Then one should ask why Gordon would destroy Arrow which was something he fought long and hard to placed his nation on the global aviation map. For one Canadians should be thanking Gordon for ushering an era of technological, economical, intellectual growth in Canada. He was one of the strong proponents who not only fought for Arrow but for the C 102 Jetliner and the Avrocar. The other individual blamed by Canadians was Prime Minister Diefenbaker but he did what most people in power did their job. He took the same action by destroying Arrow as his predecessor did to C 102 Jetliner.
Another assumption was the Arrow Project destruction was to begin immediate prior to the expansion of NORAD, SAGE and Bomarc defense network was false. NORAD was an upgraded system that long existed since WWII. It was planned prior to the Arrow Project and Canada had the budget for finishing the radar defense network. SAGE would end up to cost more than the Velvet Glove and Sparrow II program due to its technical sophistication. The problem with SAGE was new installation had to be built in remote areas with limited access. This caused money since new roads, harbors and airports to ship in supplies and materials were needed for construction. The Bomarc missiles was the reason for pushing the SAGE network further north because the current network was near major cities. The scenario was if nuclear tip Bomarc missiles were launched on Soviet bombers formation its fallout radius would destroy Canadian cities. In actuality it was a mutual assured destruction of Canada’s cities by RCAF nuclear tip missiles within its own territory. The Canadians did not install but cancelled the Bomarc along the SAGE automated weapons system.
The RCAF was to blame for the miss management or prioritized research on new technology that sky rocketed cost in the defense budget. RCAF did what most other global military would do ensure survival of its personals and had to persuade the government to pursuit top of the line equipments for national defense. A country would be safe if the military concentrate on its main objective that is defending its borders and that was what the RCAF did. RCAF operational doctrine was based on the possible threat of Soviet bombers with nuclear bombs attacking through Northern Canada one day and to a potential Sputnik type object filled with nuclear devices raining destruction from the heavens onto Canadian cities. So with those Armageddon scenarios in mind it was certainly a tactician nightmare which required out of the box thinking that was not always a rational way to go but it was necessary to ensure Canada’s security. If anyone was to fill RCAF shoes during the Cold War they will come to respect the individuals who served in its organization.
There was something to be blame and that was Cold War paranoia. The reason was simple the Soviets were notorious in sealing and reverse engineering technologies. Soviets reversed engineered the B-29 bombers by creating Tupolev Tu-4 and Communist sympathizers in the USA handed over atomic secrets for the development a Soviet atomic bomb. This was the reality of the Cold War with spies and sympathizers everywhere no secrets were secured. The potential that Soviets agents might get their hands on valuable research and aircraft was great. Arrow’s complete destruction was imminent in order to prevent Western weapons system from falling into Soviet hands and to be used against the Free World.
Prime Minister Diefenbaker had to order the cancellation and destruction of the Arrow Project. Since the Progressive Conservatives tend to associate themselves with domestic issue and in turn Arrow’s demise would save Canada’s Health Care system. The truth was that no one had the ability to admit that there were Soviet spies and sympathizers existing throughout the Free World. It would have caused mass hysteria and a witch hunt like America’s McCarthyism could have happen in Canada. In turn everyone from the military, politicians, Avro’s owner, and Americans were blame because its war and a nation reserved the right to protect its secret. Arrow’s destruction may seem mysterious but the Cold War was the perpetrator that hammered the last nail.
The RCAF with Diefenbaker’s backing decided to purchase the F-101 Voodoo which was known as CF-101 after the cancellation of the Bomarc and the destruction of Arrow CF 105. CF-101 Voodoo was built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation in 1957. It entered into service in 1961 with the RCAF and was retired in 1984. Voodoo was a two seat with dual engine delta-wing with a T-tail fighter aircraft. It could reach 1.72 Mach and fly to an attitude of 58,400ft with a range of 1,540 miles. Arrow cost US 3.3 million dollars with armaments and fire control system but the Voodoo cost US 3 million dollars just for the aircraft. Arrow would have been produce in Canada but Voodoo was an imported aircraft and was bound by licensing rights. The Arrow would have out preformed the CF-101 but Canada politicians and military officials had made their choice which in turn would cost it dearly.
Canada’s ‘Brain Drain’
Avro Canada hired 41,000 employees during the Arrow Project and countless more were subcontracted to other research programs. The city of Malton, Ontario was as busy and lively like Toronto. It was the a time of economic growth parallel to Canada’s construction road and railway systems that link its Atlantic to the Pacific provinces. In aerospace technology Canada was making leaps in airframe design, engines, and metal composites.
There were changes looming as the Progressive Conservatives came to power. The Canadian government under Prime Minster Diefenbaker leadership cancelled the program and left thousands jobless. In turn it would affect Canada’s economic slump and pushed its aviation back before making back to the top in today’s aerospace industry. If Arrow was to continued it would save Canada a lot of money in the long run by paying back government investments through taxes and bonds. The decision was made and many individuals had to look for jobs.
Dassault Aviation of France began to hire former Avro researches and experts to aid its Mirage program. France became an alternate weapons supplier after Russia, UK, and USA. It also gave France the economic and military potential to be independent from NATO by setting its own global sphere of influence in the late 60s and 70s. Nations that were neutral or had falling out from the big two sphere of influence were not restricted in purchasing fighter aircraft from France. Taiwan, Israel, India, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America were France’s clients. Avro’s crews were experience working with delta-wing aircraft which were France’s ideal choice of a combat aircraft. French Mirages were also known for there great engine output which improved by engineers of the Iroquois engine.
UK’s aviation industries benefited with the aid of Avrocar’s engineers and designers in its VTOL experimentation. The RAF supersonic bomber programs like the Vulcan benefited tremendously with the influx of Avro’s staffs. SR-71 Blackbird structural airframe integrity benefited from Avro research into combined composites which contained titanium and aluminum alloy. The engine that fueled the X-plane program in the early 60s and 70s was a partial copy of the Iroquois engine. Numerous corporations like Boeing, Lockheed, McDonnell-Douglas, and others benefited from Avro’s skilled labor force. USAF benefited form basic ideas like the internal weapons bay, fly-by-wire, fire and forget system, and other weapons network that would be improved as advances in technology were made.
Avro engineers, scientists, and technicians left Canada and were welcome in the USA, UK, and France. The ultimate success story was James Chamberlin and his Avro Design & Engineering Team that was hired by “National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)”. Chamberlin aided in the Mercury space vehicle design that pushed the USA into the space race. He became a project manager for NASA’s Gemini and Apollo space programs. It took one nation to pass aside its people but requires another to utilize their true potential and the USA was that other. Ironically, Canada lost its intellectual pioneers but America won the space race and dominated the global skies.
Canada’s Avro Arrow CF 105 destruction may have been a mystery but its conception was not. Arrow was the pinnacle of Canada’s aviation achievement and undeniably one of the most sophisticated interceptor aircraft in its brief existence. There were speculations and conspiracies but unraveling the puzzle pieces from the picture frame was the key in drawing a hypothesis of Arrow’s demise. The Canadians authorities performed a Third Reich on Arrow’s physical existence because of Cold War hysteria.
There was no one to blame for Arrow’s demise because the Cold War made everybody nervous that technology in the wrong hands could be doom for another. Fear was the motivation for Arrow’s final call but its cancellation was based on wrong intelligence. RCAF, Prime Minister Diefenbaker, and the cabinet had their doubts but drawing to conclusion on Arrow’s inability to stand up against end of the line aircraft was wrong. As stated earlier Arrow would have “safe cost” and “increase profit” by providing jobs to Canadians. Economy, science, and military market began to open it doors to Canadian technology. There was pride within the Progressive Conservatives, indecisiveness within the RCAF needs, and cost overrun by getting into to many side projects that contributed to Arrow’s cancellation.
Arrow’s cancellation blame was on the military and politicians that were involved but the destruction like its predecessor the C 102 jetliner was a national security procedure. The death of Arrow’s airframe structure and its conceptual idea may be erased from books, documents, and blueprints but it still exists in the people who designed and engineered it. One may destroy the product but no one can ever kill an idea. CF 105 legacy survives and thrives in France, USA, UK, and those that worked for Avro Aircraft Canada Ltd. The Canadian government should realize in every project requires money and expect some amount of risk. Canada faced an economic slum due to the lost of a major industry and Malton, Ontario became a ghost town. It would take Canada a couple of decades to be back at the top of the global aerospace industry.
However other nations around the globe were also in Canadian shoes when it comes to indigenous aircraft program. The only success story that someone got it right in its aviation program was Sweden. Sweden had the same climate, terrain, and location problems like Canada but it also had a very strong Soviet motivator across the border. The Canadians had the North Pole but the Swedes had a neutral and under armed Finland. Swedish airpower was essential for its nation survival and SAAB paved the way with the J35 Draken which was a superb fighter to defend its neutral air space. The Swedes did not quit but kept on building and in present day have unveiled a new 4.5 generation fighter aircraft known as the JAS-39 Gripen. This could have been Canada’s future if individuals in the military and politics really wanted the best for its nation.
The others who failed was India’s HAL Marut, Argentina’s IAe Pulqui II, and West Germany VTOL program but credit should be given to Kurt Tank in bring aerospace technology to the far reaches of the globe. Kurt Tank was made immortal for building the Focke Wulf Fw 190/Ta 152 for the Luftwaffe in WWII. The IAe Pulqui II was based on Focke Wulf Ta 183 designed. India never pursuit Marut full potential due to its weak engines and decide to import planes from UK, France, and Russia. India realization of past mistakes in the Marut program and the dangers of sanctions are currently testing its new Light Combat Aircraft known as Tejas. The issue of domestic design aircraft will always be an uphill battle but if the motivation exist then so will the aircraft.
Finally, Canada’s wrong choice was the logical assumption but Arrow should have been the right decision. Arrow short lifespan was heavily influenced by politicians, military officials, and the Cold War but its legacy will last beyond the grave. The potential that Arrow could have become in the world of aviation is still debatable but its impact is undeniably lasting on Canada’s social, economic, and scientific sectors. Avro Canada Aircraft Ltd became a footnote in history but Arrow became a legend in Canada. The Avro Arrow CF 105 will always be a testament to Canadian air power lost.
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