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.