Bringing Down The Arrow: A 30 Year Retrospective pg2
Photo credit: Scott McArthur
System Not Ready
Ross W. Buskard, BGen (retired), Gloucester, Ont.
is true that the AIM 2 Falcon missile was originally
considered, along with others, for the Arrow,
but since the Falcon missile was linked to
Hughes Airborne Intercept Radar, the only missile
tested was the Sparrow 2. The decision to abandon
the Sparrow was made by the RCAF test team
(CEPE ultra west) at Point Mugu, California,
not by Avro.
An operational fighter interceptor is an integrated weapon system combining engine, airframe, radar and weapon. The Arrow never was more than an airframe. As a member of the RCAF armaments test team at the U.S. Naval Missile Test Centre and directly involved in the weapons trials, it is my opinion that an integrated weapon system was at least four years away from operational capability when the decision to cancel was taken. As a result of the delays in the development of the ASTRA Radar system and the failure to integrate that system with the selected weapon, there is some doubt as to whether an operational system could ever have been attained.
I accept that the cancellation of the Arrow was a major blow to the Canadian defence industry from which it never recovered. However, as far as overall Canadian aviation is concerned, the failure to enter into serial production of the Avro Jetliner probably had a more lasting impact.
Project Never Viable
Professor Julius Lukasiewicz, P.Eng., Department of Mechanical &Aeronautical Engineering, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ont.
relative quality of an aircraft or any technology
must be judged on the basis of performance. Such
characteristics as range, rate of climb, ceiling,
maneuverability, endurance under combat conditions,
effectiveness of the armament system are among
the factors which determine the technical quality
of an interceptor, apart from speed and economic
In Paul Campagna's article no data on the Arrow's performance (specified or attained) is given and no comparisons with the performance of other aircraft are made. An expectation of breaking "all speed records" is not a measure of performance.
The Arrow project, irrespective of its technical merits, was doomed for other reasons. Briefly:
* The establishment of theAvro organization was the result of aggressive entrepreneurship by Sir Roy Dobson of the parent British company. Dobson exploited the Canadian government's concern for the future of the huge wartime aircraft industry and the RCAF's aspiration for an independent role in air defence, requiring an independent aircraft industry. The Arrow project cost Canadian taxpayers $400 million, but Avro came through with flying colours. From 1955 on, it had diversified into manufacturing, steel and coal, and by 1958 became the third largest corporation in Canada with $371 million in net sales. When Arrow was cancelled and cost-plus government contracts were no longer available, Avro took no risks and did not offer any financial backing for alternative aeronautical projects.
* A separate RCAF role in northern defence yielded specification for a heavy, extremely complex and expensive weapon system (aircraft, missiles and fire controls). Procurement originally forcast at 500 to 600 planes was reduced to about 100 by 1957, and the costs escalated; an armament system was never developed. The principle of "independence" was compromised as adoption of major foreign components (missiles and fire controls) was necessary. Efforts to rescue the project through foreign sales were blocked by the same logic that led Canada to decide on the Arrow; neither the U.K. nor U.S. wished to depend on a yet to be developed foreign weapon.
* In embarking on the Arrow project, the politicians and the military, abetted by an eager contractor, did not appreciate the resources, experience and large markets necessary to pay for research and development costs. Sophisticated, expensive technologies and defence require a larger base than Canada and most countries can provide. Transnational industrial operations and military alliances (such as NATO and NORAD) are the answer. In aerospace particularly, international joint projects have become standard (such as the Tornado combat aircraft, Airbus jet liner, Ariane satellite launchers, etc.).
Canada's Arrow venture was not unique. Attempts to develop jet aircraft by Argentina, India and Egypt in the 1950s and 1960s also failed, for similar reasons. Lavi, a supersonic fighter developed in Israel, met the same fate in 1988, after an expenditure of over $1.5 million (U.S.).
Contrary to the popular myth, the Arrow project was neither militarily nor economically viable, and its demise was inevitable. The mistake was to be swayed by notions of technological and military sovereignty, national pride and prestige while ignoring defence, financial and market realities. The mistake was not to cancel, but to start the project.
White House, Office of the Staff Secretary: Records; International Series, Box 2, Folder "Canada (2) (Sept. 1959-May 1960)".
FOR DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
1. As we have recently discussed, we have under very serious consideration an arrangement on the above subject which should prove to be of maximum benefit to both the United States and Canada. I believe that our defense position can be greatly enhanced while, as part of the same transaction, we will be able to make a substantial step toward our MATS modernization goal.
The proposal is that the Canadians procure
66 F-IOIB aircraft, now in U.S. inventory
and procured with funds from previous
fiscal years, for approximately $105
million. As part of the
3. From our point of view, modern interceptor aircraft will be deployed as far north as practicable with very significant gains to North American defense as an immediate benefit. In addition, the interim modern aircraft needed so badly in MATS, can be obtained on a much more economical basis than is otherwise possible.
4. There are also some significant related benefits to be realized. As I have previously mentioned, a sensitive political situation has arisen in Canada due to a series of events involving the CF-105 cancellation in favor of Bomark and Sage joint procurement with the U.S., followed by reductions in Bomarc and Sage super combat centers. In addition, the production sharing program initiated 18 months ago has not produced the expected results from the Canadian viewpoint. The exchange-procurement discussed above presents an ideal opportunity to improve this situation while simultaneously attaining a significant benefit to the United States. In this regard, it is important to note that neither procurement would be likely to take place without the other also being made.
5. This suggestion has been given to the Canadians informally and their reaction is expected when their Prime Minister visits the President next month. The proposal is also subject to Congressional approval.
Economical To Proceed
Jeffery F. Briginshaw, P.Eng., Mississauga, Ont.
most of the seven years before Black Friday,
I was a project engineer in the, A.V. Roe Canada
Gas Turbine Division- later Orenda Engines
Limited-putting 14 years' experience gained
with the Rolls-Royce Aero Engine Division to
work in the development of the Iroquois engine
which received rather slim treatment in Paul
Campagna's article, apart from the picture
and caption on page 47. This engine was, one
of the 12 prototype/pre-production, models
which were bench-tested extensively to prove
the design and continuing modifications to
improve performance and reliability. All these
objectives were achieved through the experience
and dedication of all concerned, until the
Much of my last year at Orenda (1958-1959) was spent in two areas'- marketing research and proposals for other gas turbine applications, in the interests of diversification and involvement in the negotiations with the then Department of Defence Production on the Iroquois aspects of the Arrow program, in cooperation with what had become our "sister" company, Avro Aircraft.
It is in this latter role that I would take issue with J.L. Granatstein's statement:"The Chiefs of Staff killed it here because it cost too much...." Even as early as September 1958-when the writing began appearing on the wall regarding the Arrow's possible demise- about 70% of the total cost of the Arrow program, which included six squadrons of Arrows in service with the then Royal Canadian Air Force, had already been spent. In other words, we were past the "point of no return" and it would have been more justifiable economically to proceed. Senior DDP officials were in complete agreement and encouraged us to believe that a favourable decision would be taken ... just a few days before Black Friday!
Why, then, the cancellation? Politics: U.S. pressure and a lesser-known, seldom mentioned personality conflict between two of the leading members of the cast, both now deceased. John Diefenbaker, Prime Minister, and Crawford Cordon, President of A.V. Roe Canada. Their notorious meeting in the P.M.'s office on September 17, 1958 may not be a matter of public record but is still recalled by contemporary Ottawa mandarins who claim the altercations could be heard from the next block!
John Diefenbaker's resulting "vindictiveness" is exemplified by his personal insistence that all the prototype Arrows be blowtorched and the scrap metal disposed of by the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation-2,785 tons of exotic, sophisticated scrap for $304,370!- and that all photographs and documentary evidence of the Arrow's existence be destroyed. It could be said that the only person in Canada to benefit from the cancellation was the Hamilton, Ontario, junkman Morris Waxman of Sam Lax Bros.! Our American cousins benefited by selling us both Bomarc missiles (which soon became obsolete) and their McDonnell Douglas-built Voodoos (christened the CF-IOI by the RCAF).
What happened to all the people involved? A group of aircraft designers under jim Chamberlin joined NASA, other airframe personnel went to Boeing in Seattle, Washington, and other aircraft companies in California. Several of us engine people were almost immediately offered jobs by General Electric in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Pratt & Whitney in Hartford, Connecticut- at almost twice our Orenda salaries-but most declined for patriotic reasons; others went to Pratt & Whitney in Longueuil, Quebec; still others, like myself, adjusted to the realities of defence and put our talents to work in Canada in the fluid handling field. I retired two years ago after 15 years with Ontario Hydro, involved with process systems for nuclear and con- ventional generating stations.
But for philatelists and other interested parties, the Arrow still exists: in the 5¢ postage stamps issued on February 23, 1959-only 3 days after the cancellation-to commemorate the 50th anniverary of J.A.D. McCurdy's first flight in the Silver Dart at Bras D'Or Lake near Baddeck, Nova Scotia, the undersides of three Arrows are clearly visible. Obviously the Post Office had not been advised to destroy this "record."
A footnote regarding K.M. Molson, (Engineering Dimensions, November/ December 1988, p. 6): Ken was too modest to record that he was almost single-handedly responsible for establishing at Uplands, Ottawa, what is now The Aviation and Space Division of the National Museum of Science and Technology and the National Aeronautical Collection.
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