Avro Arrow floated as fighter jet alternative

The Avro Arrow was put forward as an alternative to the purchase of F-35 stealth fighter jets, according to documents obtained by Global News.


OTTAWA – A Canadian company is seeking to go back in time to help fly Canada’s air force into the future.

Documents obtained by the Global News program “The West Block” indicate an update to the storied CF-105 Avro Arrow was put forward as an alternative to the purchase of F-35 stealth fighter jets.

And among the project’s champions is one of Canada’s top soldiers, retired Maj.Gen. Lewis MacKenzie.

The Arrow was an advanced, all-weather supersonic interceptor jet that was developed in the 1950s. Several prototypes were built and flight tests were conducted, but the project was abruptly shut down in 1959 and the aircraft never went into production.

But MacKenzie told the “The West Block” that the Arrow’s basic design and platform still exceed any current fighter jet and it is perfect for Canada’s needs.

“It’s an attack aircraft. It’s designed for attacking ground targets and its stealth is most effective against short range radar, protecting ground targets,” MacKenzie said.

“What we need in Canada is something that can go to the edge of our airspace, from a sovereignty point of view, and be able to catch up with intruders.”

The plan to build an updated Arrow in Canada instead of buying into an international deal for a fleet of F-35s was originally put before the Harper Conservatives in 2010 by a company called Bourdeau Industries, which has offices in the U.K. and Canada.

The proposal, which was updated in 2012, suggested the plane could fly 20,000 feet higher than the F-35, soar twice as fast and would cost less.

For example, the proposal said that the total cost of the Arrow program would be $11.73 billion, compared to the $16 billion the federal government says the F-35 program will cost.

That figure has been disputed by the auditor general and parliamentary budget officer, who peg the true cost of the new stealth fighters at closer to $25 billion.

The Arrow project would also create a made-in-Canada plane and an industry that would add thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the Canadian economy, the proposal’s author wrote.

“The government of Canada is in a position to project foreign policy initiatives within the global community while simultaneously leading Canada’s socio-economic capabilities to rise to real security, defence and industrial policy challenges at home and abroad,” the proposal said.

But in June, the government rejected the plan, saying too much money and time was required to execute it and the plane didn’t meet the technical specifications required.

“Unfortunately, what is propose is not a viable option for Canada’s next generation fighter,” said a letter from Julian Fantino, who was then Canada’s associate minister for national defence.

Meanwhile, the plans for the F-35s remain on hold.

Last spring the auditor general tore a strip off the government, accusing the Department of National Defence of hiding $10 billion in continuing costs for the fighter and the Public Works department of not doing enough homework to justify the purchase.

Conservatives responded with a seven-point action plan that took responsibility for the plane away from defence, giving it to a secretariat at Public Works.

Last week the government announced it has hired the accounting firm KPMG to crunch the numbers on the program.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said the Arrow program was cancelled before a single plane was built.

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Avro Arrow floated as fighter jet alternative

  1. Sure… great idea. Develop an entirely brand new aircraft from the ground up rather than buying something already made.

    In case that went over anyone’s head, it was SARCASM. The whole idea is terrible.

    There is nothing that this new aircraft would actually have in common with the Avro Arrow, which by TODAY’S STANDARDS, would be completely antiquated. It was an obvious attempt to sway people emotionally by the name-only connection to that massive blunder from more than a half century ago.

    • Given the response to your very reasonable statement with 3x as many down votes as up votes, it seems to be working.

  2. Trying to rebuild the Arrow and use it as an F-35 replacement?!? April Fools is still a few months away. This story should have been saved until then.

    • They aren’t talking about using those ancient designs (which I understand have all been destroyed). They’re talking about designing and building an ENTIRELY NEW aircraft and NAMING it “avro arrow”.

      • Well, that’ll certainly save us some money.

  3. This is a great idea, a made in Canada plan, the Avro Arrow. Many years ago one of the reasons given for cancelling the program was the high cost per plane, as much as 39 million per plane, an absolute fortune in those days.

    • Super. No doubt this will be equally cost effective.

  4. actually the F-35 only exists on the drawing board as well… It’d be about as easy to re-invent the Arrrow…

    • Actually the F-35 is undergoing testing. The first F-35 flight at Eglin AFB took place March 6 this year. Air Force officials will begin their F-35 Operational Utility Evaluation Sept. 10 this year.

    • The Arrow was about 80% tested with only a high speed test, which was a forgone conclusion along with some minor detail work. The only difficult testing left was 50 000 feet above the artic which is now comonplace.

  5. The Arrow was ‘all that’ in the 50’s. It would be a gigantic radar blip on even a 4th world country’s radar screens. Whoever thought this was a viable idea is a retard. Ret. Gen MaKenzie should know better.

    The Arrow was designed to intercept Russian bombers and nothing more (that whole concept died out with the ICBM) . It can’t turn inside of a whole province, too big to hide, and as far as it’s greater speed over the F-35?…Mach 3 is old hat. It is too slow to out-distance a missile, and couldn’t dog-fight with a Cessna 172. What usefulness would it have? None, except a giant, typically ‘Canadian’, masturbatory expression of ‘We were great once……(way back when )!

    Look at a F-22 Raptor…. THAT is what a modern jet fighter looks like. A gigantic delta-winged monstrosity like the Arrow would be ridiculed around the globe. Think stealth. If you can see it on radar, it is as good as shot down.

    • I’m not sure who’s disagreeing with you, arctic_front, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t any of the guys that would have to fly our awesome “new” fighter into a combat zone.

      • It’s the people who watched the mini series on TV a few years back and got caught up in a nationalistic myth.

    • A couple things here:

      First, nobody is talking about building the exact 50s-era “giant delta-winged monstrosity” as per the original design. We are talking about a spiritual successor to the Arrow – something that prioritizes speed and range over stealth and ground-attack capability. Given the nature of our DOMESTIC air defense requirements, I’d say there’s a certain amount of logic to that plan.

      Second, the F-35 is a horribly compromised fighter design. It is simply a bad purchase unless our primary goal is to participate in overseas bombing adventures at the request of the U.S.

      • Everything I’ve read so far indicates the idea is to build an Arrow as designed by Avro, with some concessions to this being 2012, and not 1958. If they think they can create a design from scratch, and do so for the price they’re claiming, they’re kidding themselves.

        • Exactly. They’ll be just as susceptible to delays as the consortium (which is more than just the Americans) has been with the F-35. Retro is cool for Minis, VWs and FIATs, but if my son was a fighter pilot, I’d want him in something which gave him every possible advantage. The ability to derive national pride from his equipment would be secondary.

      • Look, the Arrow was designed in the 1950’s to intercept supersonic inter-continental bombers. Of which 12 are currently in service. So it’s a plane which addresses a need we don’t have (and didn’t have in the 1960’s either). Mach-2 speed isn’t a requirement to hunt down and trail the Bear bombers that occasionally lumber into our airspace. In contrast let’s look at the needs we do have. Over the past 20-odd years, Canadian fighters have flown combat air-patrols over the Persian Gulf in the first Gulf war, they’ve flown strike missions in both the former Yugoslavia and in Libya – both roles for which the Arrow would be singularly unsuited.
        So what you’re telling us is that you want to develop and build a modern plane (from scratch, mind you – because no airplane ever goes over budget right?) to address a need we don’t have, rather than buy a plane that addresses needs that we do have, and which reflects the type of combat that we have actually engaged in over the past few decades while still capable of adequately performing an air defense role in Canada. Incidentally, this isn’t to say that the F-35 is neccesarily that plane (I think a good case could be made for the revised F-18 Superhornets that Australia is buying), but a revised Arrow definitely isn’t that plane.

  6. and judging by the latest fighter jets made in the US… anything that actually could fly without computers would be a better buy…

    • Then the Arrow isn’t your plane. It was fly-by-wire. The only problem is that the computers used vacuum tubes.

      • Not fly by wire in the current sense. The Arrow used an analog stability augmentation system – actually pretty common among aircraft of the era, including the F-4 Phantom. Modern fly-by-wire implies a digital flight control system, and is significantly more complex than what was attempted on the Arrow.

        • Thanks for the clarification. The description of its avionics as “fly by wire” seemed a bit implausible when I read/heard it, and I can’t even recall where that was, so I may be recalling incorrectly. All things considered, the Arrow was an interesting aircraft, and certainly deserved better than its ultimate fate 50 years ago, but I wouldn’t want to send our guys into harm’s way in one now. They’re worth more than what the F-35s will cost once sorted, in my view.

    • Modern air combat without a computer equals death. You would be shot down at a distance of 120km by an unseen unknown enemy. I doubt you could find anyone that knows even a little about modern air combat to fly a jet without a computer.

      • Nonsense, Deux_XM. I remember the days of Bishop, Barber and Collishaw. Well, I read about them, anyway. Any of those guys could shoot down some Tom Cruise Top Gun hotshot in a jet fighter without breaking a sweat. We should reintroduce the Sopwith Camel! Think of the maneuverability! Think of the money we’ll save!

        • What about paper airplanes, incredible maneuverability at less than a penny per piece of paper, and just as effective as the Sopwith Camel or Avro Arrow would be in modern air combat!

  7. There’s an editing error in this article. When MacKenzie says “It’s an attack aircraft. It’s designed for attacking ground targets and its stealth is most effective against short range radar, protecting ground targets” he’s referring to the F-35. The article makes it sound as if he’s talking about the Arrow. Also, those who are knocking down the idea in their comments appear not to have watched the original Global interview. I recommend doing so.

  8. No doubt it’ll bring Buddy Holly in loud and clear on the AM radio. While we’re at it, why don’t we reintroduce something like the B-58 Hustler supersonic bomber? We wouldn’t want to be without a made in Canada bomber plan, and besides, it’s just as cool looking as the Arrow, which will help to win over the amateur Air Marshals who congregate at Tim Horton’s every weekend and ask themselves “what if”?

  9. Several Arrows were built and flight testing was being done when the order came to destroy them!

  10. If the government decides to revitalize the Arrow, Harper will just contract it out to the Chinese anyway.

  11. If the Arrow is a better product, why is Harper not considering it? Does not make sense…

  12. Why does Canada always tuck tail and run! You had in your hands in the 1950’s the beginnings of a major worldwide aircraft industry with hugely talented people ready to make a significant difference in the development and creation of state of the art aircraft and you gave it all away! Those talented people moved here to the USA and helped us put a man on the moon among other major achievements! You again have the chance to do something major, something great. Will you squander the opportunity again?

    • Yes.

  13. Why not just buy old MiG 25 Foxbats and revamp them, they are essentially a copy of the CF105. There’s gotta be at least 100 models lying all over Eastern Europe.

    Those Russian bombers invading our airspace will turn around laughing at the irony.

  14. it is hard to believe this lunacy. We have only grown to 30 some million citizens as opposed to 18 million at the time of the Arrow and yet we feel we have the financial capacity to go it alone . There is absolutely no change in the landscape of aerospace and defense industries . You either sell to much of the world for export or your citizens pay about 70 percent income taxes. The big players in this game are the US, Russia and China and they will give away their product rather then allow Canada to sell fighter jets. Sweden cant even afford to develop new fighters simply because Saab only sold fighters to a couple of nations. Saab now is nothing as an industry. The most successful Fighter of all time Mig 21 for selling over 10000 fighters to non-nato countries. The Mig 21 ironically first flew around the time of the Avro Arrow TEST PROGRAM.

  15. whatever he’s on…I want some! Ludicrous would be putting it mildly…..

  16. too bad the govt (same govt that canned the Avro in the first place)..too bad they wouldn’t strike a non partizan committee..include bright lights in the military..give them a time limit and orders to do a viability study..might wind up saving us some money, having a superior aircraft and possibly appealling to markets other than our neighbours to the south..I remember when Mr Def canned that plane..everyone was p…….then too, because of then obvious potential of our Canadian technolological excellence.

  17. I think fielding a 50’s era plane, however advanced for its time, would be a big error…and I’m as much of an Avro Arrow fan as the next guy. Or even the next dozen guys.

    That said, I’ve often wondered why the Canadian government doesn’t just decide to resurrect the once-proud Canadian aerospace industry by placing an order for an entirely new Canadian fighter (never mind the Arrow). Currently there is no non-Canadian fighter that really fits our needs (i.e. long range, multi-engine, fast, heavily armed, stealthy, and with state-of-the-art avionics/weaponry). So why not develop one? Sure, it would take a while, and sure it would be costly. But the money would be spent in Canada rather than the US, and we’re going to have to spend it one way or the other.

    And damn, it would make us proud. I’d join that enterprise in a heartbeat, and I bet a lot of my colleagues would do the same.

  18. The original Avro Arrows planes were like no other planes ever built before. All materials, design, technology and equipments used never existed before, all research & developments were done specifically to built the Arrows here in CANADA including the world’s first flight computer that kept the Arrow flying at MK2+ speeds at altitudes exceeding 50,000 feet. This fighter jet was so advanced that became the envy of the world specially NASA (used Avro technology for trips to stratosphere & beyond also Avro designed lunar landing craft used for Neil Armstrong’s and Edwin Aldrin’s moon landing on Apollo 11 flight), BOEING (used many designs including the Iroquois engines) and BAC British aircraft corporation (Concord) and later in French and Swedish aircraft designs. The destruction of Avro corp was purely a political game played on Canada’s 13th Prime Minister John Diefenbaker by a group of developed countries led by Americans and British.
    I AGREE with Maj. Gen. Lewis MacKenzie idea “What we need in Canada is something that can go to the edge of our airspace, from a sovereignty point of view, and be able to catch up with intruders.”
    The plan to build an updated Arrow in Canada instead of buying into an international deal for a fleet of F-35s is one of the GREATEST IDEAS I have heard in a long time.
    Get proud Canadian people (not smart money seekers) to build the planes and it will be on budget, even if it costs more at least we keep the money in our country, our economy which creates jobs, income tax, sales tax, puts money in our workers pockets for spending which fuels other industries like housing, auto and many more.
    Next, the world is our market for the Arrows and other side products to sell to bring money in and create more jobs. We need to export more finished goods than natural resources.
    This project can be 50% financed by Federal, provincial and municipal governments and 50% by proud Canadian citizens money with special tax benefits from Canada Revenue Agency.

    • Just build one Arrow for old times sake :)