The A.V. Roe Canada CF-105 interceptor, commonly known as the Avro Arrow, was a top of the line Canadian jet under research and development. Initiated in 1955, the program was created to design and build a jet capable of defending Canada’s northern airspace from the Soviet Tupolev Tu-95 bombers in the midst of the Cold War.
The interceptor was capable of achieving Mach 1.98 and had a flight ceiling of 75 000ft, making it far ahead of its time. However, in 1959, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, under pressure from the United States, was forced to cancel the program.
The termination of the Avro Arrow program caused numerous setbacks and problems in the Canadian economy, also causing a ripple effect that hurt the Canadian aerospace and engineering sectors overall. The entirely Canadian designed Arrow would have been among the most advanced interceptors in the world at the time. Hundreds of millions of dollars had already been spent at the time of cancellation. Additionally, the Canadian government simply followed US politicians into cancelling the program so quickly, which allowed them to move on with their industry.
Canada’s aerospace industry was booming at this time, and Avro was leading it. Following the success of the Avro CF-100 “Canuck”—the first mass-produced Canadian fighter. Avro was tasked with creating another one by the Ministry of Defence with requirements from the Royal Canadian Airforce (RCAF), to defend the Northern air spaces of Canada from the Soviets. Their answer, the CF-105, dubbed the Avro Arrow.
Avro employed many talented employees in its Malton plant, including its designers, mechanics, and pilots. During the research and prototyping period, the Avro’s research team pioneered many revolutionary and new technologies. One such example was the automated 3-axis flight system, which added on another control area to the previous 2-axis system, this was the first time such a system was ever used in an aircraft.
Avro also developed flight simulations in the later testing stages, being some of the most advanced at the time. Additionally, due to the high-speed requirements of the Arrow, new engines were also being researched by Avro and partner companies at the time, specifically the PS. 13S Iroquois. Although they were constructed and installed in the sixth aircraft, they never actually saw flying time.
Instead, two placeholders, the Pratt & Whitney J75 turbojet engines, were used in the first five aircraft. The Iroquois engines were both lighter, since they used a titanium construction, and more powerful, as the J75’s produced 23 500 pounds force compared to 30 000 pounds force from the Iroquois. When the Arrow was cancelled, these engines were cancelled and scrapped as well.
Additionally, around fourteen thousand Avro employees were also subsequently laid off. Many of these same people were then hired by American organizations, such as Lockheed Martin, NASA, and Boeing, which meant Canada lost essential talent that led to the US passing Canada in the aerospace industry, leading to the Americans subsequently winning the space race.
These people leaving Canada also meant Avro “gave” away most of their future technologies being researched, leading them to become leaders of the US space programs. Avro as a company itself shut down a couple of years after the cancellation was issued. Thus, Avro was no longer purchasing parts/equipment, and this resulted in the disruption the chain of supply further setting back the economy in the sector. Resulting in more jobs lost. “It was not just the cancellation of an aircraft, it was the cancellation of an industry” (Avro Arrow)
Due to the technological advancement of the Avro Arrow, the aircraft would still be a viable aircraft for the R.C.A.F. today. From the way that weapons pack and armament bay was engineered, the Arrow would require little modification to fit in modern munitions and their systems.
This would’ve meant that the Canadian government did not have to keep on buying/develop new jets, instead of using newer and different variants of the Arrow’s base. Recently, in 2012, a redesign of the Arrow was submitted as an alternative to purchasing the Lockheed Martin F 35 jets. When comparing the jets, the Avro Arrow beats the F 35 in speed and maneuverability.
The Arrow update would have also been able to carry the same munitions and payloads as the F 35. The only significant differences between the jets are that the F 35 has a 25mm cannon affixed to the wing and VTOL capabilities, while the Arrow has no such features. If the government did bring the Arrow program back, it would cost 11.73 billion, compared to the 16 billion for the F 35 program.
Had the Diefenbaker government not initially canceled the Arrow project, Canada would still have had many jobs in the aerospace industry and have a Canadian jet flying for Canada today, thus not having to rely on American jets for the RCAF. There are also concerns that the cancellation of the Arrow program was at the behest of the US Government, which would indicate an increased reliance on the US, or that the SS was only interested in acquiring the Arrow’s technology and engineers for themselves.
The day that Prime Minister Diefenbaker announced the cancellation in 1959, also became known as “Black Friday” to anyone close to the Avro Arrow. “Employees walked around in a state of disbelief” (Avro Arrow). All Avro Arrows were destroyed, including five entirely constructed and flown aircraft and three others in late development stages (the versions were referred to as RL 10[x]).
Only the cockpit and nose gear of RL 206 and the outer wing panels of RL 203 remains on display today. Originally, 26 million of the defense budget was set aside for the program, but this number rose to around two hundred million by the time of cancellation, plus costing additional money to cancel the program. Arrows cost 12.6 million dollars per unit at the time, and this price would only go down as mass production began.
The defense budget was, in the end, spent on a project that gave no practical results that could be used by the Canadian government in the future, as most, if not all, hardware was scrapped, and much of the plans and drawings were lost. When considering the costs and factors given, it only would’ve made sense to continue and finish a program that had gone so far into development and taken up such a sum of money.