pathology_doc: Ginny Weasley (film) clutching Riddle's diary: Ginny/Horcrux OTP (Default)
"I, said the Sparrow. With my bow and... oh wait."

This is one of those books that sends aviation enthusiasts into fits of razor blade-wielding depression, and details a scandal which, for Canadians, is the equivalent of the TSR-2 misery that afflicted the British aircaft industry a few years afterwards.

The Arrow was a supersonic (Mach 2+) fighter designed to a specific requirement of the Royal Canadian Air Force, that was successfully developed to prototype stage and flown in the last 1950s... and then abruptly cancelled. Vindictively so, too, depending on your viewpoint - all the prototypes and their construction jigs were destroyed, and only the front fuselage of Arrow Six remains.

The major justification at the time was that ICBMs had just become a technical probability (Sputnik I was launched on the day of the Arrow's rollout), and that with the obsolescence of the manned bomber, the manned fighter also seemed not-all-that-necessary. Gainor contends that regardless of how beautiful an aerodynamic achievement it was, the Arrow was a long way from being a complete weapon system (integrated airframe, radar, attack computers and missiles), and there was still a lot of money to be spent on the thing before it was a viable combat aircraft.

This may or may not have been true. Things can't have been helped by vacillation over the weapon system: Avro Canada were offered the Hughes Falcon missile and an associated radar/air combat computer as a package, but although Gainor mentions the RCAF's refusal of the missile, he doesn't go into the reasons why. The RCAF chose the much more advanced Astra combat computer (which was discontinued as its development costs soared) and Sparrow II active-homing missile (an even more difficult technological ask - the British had dumped their much larger Red Dean as an unreachable goal not long before, although it was briefly considered for the Arrow's armament), which added hugely to the projected cost of the aircraft. (So in one sense the Sparrow did kill the Arrow, by making the whole project unachievably expensive, but nobody can fault the RCAF for wanting the best possible weapons for their new baby - and the RCAF was not alone in wanting such a missile.)

Gainor may have a point here. It's easy to judge in hindsight, without standing in 1950s shoes and trying to look forward, and he certainly tries to do this and offer a balanced case for its cancellation. He also seeks to exculpate the United States for its alleged role in getting the aircraft cancelled so that it could sell its alternative to the RCAF. Unfortunately, I don't think his point holds completely. When you consider what the RCAF ended up with (American BOMARC surface-to-air missiles with a shorter range than the Arrow, but which could not intercept ICBMs, and American F-101 fighters armed with the Falcon missile and its associated Hughes attack computers), the charge that the Arrow and its armament were insufficient for future requirements rings rather hollow.

Gainor's claim that the Arrow was unsuitable for the task the RCAF was assigned in Europe (low-level strike with conventional and/or nuclear weapons) also seems hollow - it's amazing what a good airplane can be modified to do when the designers put their minds to it (witness the F-15E, a magnificent strike aircraft which has evolved out of a pure air-combat fighter which was never intended to lift so much as a single bomb, but which in its current form carries more than a dozen).

In exchange for almost entirely local spending (the missile and fire control were offered to Avro virtually for nothing) and an indigenously-developed interceptor, the Canadians got an almost entirely foreign purchase of less aerodynamic and strategic-tactical capability, and all of Avro Canada's aeronautical and systems expertise was dispersed to the US and the UK.

I may not agree with Gainor's conclusion, but I think he does present a valid case for not automatically screaming OMFG DIEFENBAKER U HOR, U KILLED OUR GLORIOUS AIRPLANE. My call is that the decision to kill the Arrow project was clearly wrong, but this book does offer a very useful springboard for discussing the reasons why. It is available for sale from the North Atlantic Aviation Museum, Gander, Newfoundland and probably also on the Web.

Enthusiasts have since built full-scale models of the Arrow, and an airworthy version is being spoken of. The Arrow may yet live on!
pathology_doc: Ginny Weasley (film) clutching Riddle's diary: Ginny/Horcrux OTP (Default)

The English Electric (later BAC/British Aerospace) Lightning.





At 1:37, when you see the missile leave the left-hand rail, look at the earth below. It's curved. And the sky is black.

That's how high this thing could go, and fight.

The particular subtype that could do that was around in 1964. They were finally retired in 1988. Not bad, for an airplane whose basic design was started three years after World War Two.

If you have US$60,000 to spare, I'm told you can go to a place in South Africa and have an hour's joyride in a two-seat version.

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