Monday, September 10, 2012

What what? Arrow you say?

OK, this a is most intriguing bit of fun in the F-35 drama.

A Canadian company is seeking to go back in time to help fly Canada's air force into the future.Documents obtained by Global News 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. MacKenzie told Global 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. [Boris: Mackennzie is referring to the F-35] 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."

I have no idea how an updated Arrow design might compete with modern fighter aircraft in term of fine-grain performance, but it is a hell of a thought experiment. At a basic level the Arrow meets or exceeds the altitude and speed envelope of modern fighters. Like all modern stealth(ish) machines, it includes an internal weapons bay, giving an aerodyanamically clean design and potential for low-radar cross-section performance.

With the amount of money the government is prepared to spend on the bloated and inefficient exercise that is the F-35 program, I think it is a very fair question to ask what that sort of reinvestment in the Canadian aerospace industry might produce?

Sadly, because we're addled with national governments (Conservative or Grit) who insist on giving away our national defence to the Americans and our raw materials to China, we will likely never find out.


The Mound of Sound said...

Boris, I just wanted to share my own Avro Arrow story that I left on Trashy's blog this morning. Here goes:

Let me tell you a little story from thirty-plus years ago. I knew then the general commanding Air Command (the RCAF). One day the Arrow came up in conversation. He told me a tale he said he’d deny outright if I ever repeated it. The General said one Arrow had not been destroyed but had been disassembled, crated, and was hidden virtually under the nose of the pols on Parliament Hill. He said it was all there. Airframe, engines, instruments and could be restored to flying condition.

A number of years later I represented a commercial airline pilot who, like myself, was ex-Air Force. He related a tale about having to deliver a parcel to Ottawa’s Rockliffe Air Force base via a Twin Otter I believe, one Christmas Eve in the late 60′s. The base was all but deserted with personnel released for Christmas leave. So he wound up in the Officer’s Mess with the base commander and the two proceeded to get loaded.

At one point the commander told the young pilot to get his coat on and follow him. They marched out to one of the three wooden hangars. The commander told the young pilot to pace off the length of the hangar on the outside. Then he took him inside and again had him pace off the length of the hangar. There was a difference of some 15 to 20-feet, a false wall. The commander then told this young pilot behind that wall was a crated Avro Arrow but he was never to speak of it again if he valued his career. If the Arrow was behind a false wall as claimed the young pilot saw nothing of it. He only knew what he was told and the fact that there was a false wall.

If the general was lying to me about a surviving Arrow, it was the first time he lied to me and we did exchange an awful lot of information during that period. If my client subsequently lied to me I can’t imagine why because he had nothing to gain from it. But that’s all I have, hearsay.

Still it’s hard to imagine anyone resurrecting the Arrow today. It was a huge airframe designed to accommodate two equally massive Orenda engines for long-range, high-speed interception, with nuclear-tipped missiles, of squadrons of attacking Soviet bombers. It was a real Cold War interceptor. It was never a dogfighter or a strike fighter. It was nothing like the multi-role warplane we need today when we no longer field two or three types of aircraft.

The Mound of Sound said...

One other thing. MacKenzie, as usual, is wrong. The F-35 is not an attack aircraft. It's no strike fighter. Far too costly, too limited in range and payload and far too vulnerable for ground pounding. The F-35 is a first-strike, supposedly stealthy light bomber and nothing more.

The Arrow was a dedicated interceptor from an era when we typically deployed three types of warplanes - think Meteor, Vampire, CF-86, CF-100, CF-101B, CF-104, CF-5. It wasn't until the Trudeau government staged a proper competition and chose the CF-18 that Canada first had a legitimate, multi-role warplane.

The F-35 is not a multi-role warplane no matter how much lipstick Lockheed and the Tories slap on that pig. Neither would be a reincarnated Arrow. The updated F-15 Stealth Eagle might be the best option. It would certainly be cheaper (meaning more aircraft) than a reinvented Arrow.

Boris said...

True, and it would not surprise me to learn of a crated Arrow stuck somwhere or other. There are still secrets in this country.

That said, I think the overall point that this country is capable of producing things as sophisticated for their time as the Arrow is a good one. What is an F-35 or an Arrow but an assemblage of parts with firecontrol and avionics to govern them?

The problem with the F-35 (and Cyclone helicopter, or Windows OS for that matter) is the basic design is flawed and so they must devote massive engineering effort and expense after the fact to duct-tape and hammer the thing into serviceable shape. It's why they're still making F-15s and F-18s. Why not start with something that worked/s and work forwards?

The Mound of Sound said...

Everytime I see a SAAB Draken or Viggen or Gripen, I'm left wondering why, if Sweden can have that sort of aerospace leadership and technology, why Canada can't do at least as well?

It's not just a matter of technological and industrial expertise, it's also the capacity to build an aircraft completely suited to our requirements.

Boris said...

The other thing I keep wondering about is how a wealthy and fuel-hungry military intends to operate in an era of really, really, really expensive oil and economic depression? You hear the generals talk and the read the 'army/air force/navy of the future' bits in the trade-journals and its all hi-techness and international military adventuring. It's been a very long time since any NATO armed forces as faced a peer-competitor and associated casualty rates.

kootcoot said...

It has already been said, but I feel the need to reiterate as to:

" It was nothing like the multi-role warplane we need today when we no longer field two or three types of aircraft."

The F-35, as a patrol and intercept aircraft that would serve Canada's needs is more useless than tits on a bull. At least tits on a bull could nurse an orphaned calf, the F-35 couldn't fly from Vancouver to Toronto, much less protect Arctic sovereignty.

Beijing York said...

Geez, maybe I'm a dim bulb, but I always thought that Canada had the capacity and knowledge to have a strong aerospace industry. You would think that that would be something we would want to bolster.

Ray Blessin said...

F35 or Arrow, these are both "fighter" jets.
They are meant to do two things: slaughter humans and wreak destruction.
I have NEVER heard a commenter, war monger or progressive, ask:

Ray Blessin

Sixth Estate said...

I assume if this ever did become more than a highly hypothetical plan, the response would be:

"There's no export market, so it's not worth it. Plus, we need to maintain interoperability with the Americans, for the sake of continuing integration of our two countries."

You know, like they said last time.

Steve said...

The economist made a case for a Dash 8 type strike bomber, there would be a big export for this, both manned and drone versions.

Edstock said...

Time marches on. The CF-105 lived on in the big Dassault delta fighter-bombers.

IMHO, Canada needs the Super Hornet, which has the performance we need at an affordable cost. The USN has kept improving the Super Hornet, just in case the F-35 has problems.

IMHO, Canada should get involved with the X-47-B project. It's an armed, high-subsonic RPV designed to handle aircraft carrier landings, which means it has a good chance of withstanding Arctic rigors. Canada's computer/robotics expertise makes this a practical choice.

The Mound of Sound said...

You're right about the F-18 follow on, Ed. The U.S. Navy is falling back on it. So are the Australians. At some point the F-35 is going to have its Emperor/No Clothes moment when the political classes come to accept that (a) without stealth the F-35 is just an overpriced, overdue, under-performer and (b) it's supposed stealth is "perishable" and will likely be obsolete before the aircraft arrive in our hangars.

This is going to be an absolute gut-buster for Lockheed, America's dominant defence contractor, but that can't be helped. The Pentagon and Lockheed screwed up the F-35 programme from the start and it's ridiculous to expect America's allies to chip in on the bailout.

Here's a little something that rarely gets mentioned. The unit, flyaway cost the U.S. paid for the vastly superior F-22 was substantially lower than the best asking price for the F-35 junker.

Steve said...


This is yet another first in Canadian History. A sitting government, taking the AG to court. Citing:

"The injunction claims the auditor general's office is "interfering with the House of Commons' constitutional rights and privileges to proceed free from any possible interference or obstruction" and "also interferes with the House of Commons' right to decide what information relating to its internal proceedings should be released to the public."

Of course interference with the HoC's constitutional rights and privileges is the exclusive area of authority reserved for Harper's cabinet. How could we forget that.