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From: (Henry Spencer)
Subject: Avro Arrow (was Re: Apollo and world museums)
Date: Mon, 10 Aug 1998 14:18:54 GMT

In article <Plaz1.1485$>,
Dwayne Allen Day  <> wrote:
>:>The US had nothing to do with the cancellation of the Arrow.  It was not a
>:>realistic project for Canada to undertake.
>: Huh?
>It's true.  Look it up.  Canada bit off more than it could chew.  It
>designed an airplane that it could not afford...

That's putting it overly strongly.  There is little question that Canada
could have afforded Arrow production... had it been considered important
enough.  Arrow production would have needed a substantial chunk of the
defense budget, yes, but except in wartime, Canada's defense budget has
never been a large fraction of its total federal budget.

This is like saying that the US designed a space station it couldn't afford.
There are elements of truth in the statement, but taken as a whole, it's a
gross oversimplification to the point of serious inaccuracy.

>Read Andy Chaikin's
>article on it in Air & Space several months back.

Read the article more closely, Dwayne.  He never says Canada couldn't
afford the Arrow; what he says is that the need for it weakened -- *after*
the project was undertaken -- and times were tough, and it was difficult
to justify.

To my mind, although I liked the article in general, he didn't give enough
weight to four issues, all of which influenced the cancellation:

1. The new Conservative government had a strong populist slant, especially
at the top, and was not friendly to big business or high technology.  All
the more so because it was the first Conservative government in many
years, and had various axes to grind.  (It is not clear that the Arrow
would have survived under a continuing Liberal administration, but its
chances would have been better.)

2. The previous administration had consistently been unwilling to settle
for meeting 90% of the specs at 50% of the cost, even as a temporary
measure, but had insisted on 100%, which drove costs up a lot.

3. The Arrow arrived on the scene at the worst possible time for a large
and costly new fighter program, shortly after Britain's infamous (but
temporarily quite influential) 1957 defence white paper, which predicted
the imminent demise of the manned fighter.

4. There is a long tradition in Canada of thinking that Canada just cannot
do high-tech projects by itself -- that the laws of nature somehow forbid
it, and hence that anyone proposing such an impossibility is a charlatan.
This belief is fundamentally irrational, which makes countering it with
rational arguments very difficult.

I think the best quick assessment is that the Arrow was neither impossible
nor unaffordable, but it was a very ambitious project that would have
needed good management (at upper levels, not just at the engineering
level) and strong political support to fully succeed, and when the crunch
came, it had neither.
Being the last man on the Moon is a |  Henry Spencer
very dubious honor. -- Gene Cernan  |      (aka

From: (Henry Spencer)
Subject: Re: Avro Arrow
Date: Mon, 10 Aug 1998 14:37:37 GMT

In article <BYrz1.1501$>,
Dwayne Allen Day  <> wrote:
>From the April/May 1992 issue of Air & Space:

Don't you mean 1998, Dwayne? :-)

>"...Furthermore, during a visit to the United
>States in August, Canadian officials had been unsuccessful in their
>efforts to sell the Arrow to the US Air Force, frustrating hopes that
>foreign sales might help defray the Arrow's cost."

Note that there were some unrealistic expectations at work here:  in the
best of circumstances, it's nearly impossible to sell an aircraft to
foreign air forces until it's in operational service.  And trying to sell
to the USAF is not the best of circumstances...

Had the Arrow been built and put into service, I think quite substantial
foreign sales were likely.  Perhaps even to the USAF, assuming that they
cancelled their own F-103 and F-108 (as they in fact did).  But the idea
of lining up firm foreign sales commitments for what was still partly a
paper aircraft was sheer fantasy, especially when the prospective customer
was the USAF, which has always had plenty of paper aircraft of its own.
With a finished aircraft -- complete with electronics and weapons and
supported by operational experience -- to sell, it might well have worked,
given patience; as it was, the fact that such a ridiculous sales attempt
was made indicates how worried people were about the project's future.
Being the last man on the Moon is a |  Henry Spencer
very dubious honor. -- Gene Cernan  |      (aka

From: (Henry Spencer)
Subject: Re: Avro Arrow
Date: Tue, 11 Aug 1998 13:14:59 GMT

In article <>,
James A Davis  <> wrote:
>...In 1949 the long range bomber was the only means of delivering
>nuclear weapons and a Soviet build up of bombers was greatly feared. By
>1959 this hadn't happened but the ballistic missile was clearly the wave
>of the future leaving the Arrow with no real mission. The F-103 and the
>F-108 were cancelled for the same reason and F-106 production was scaled
>back considerably...

I think a more precise statement is that it left the Arrow with a greatly
diminished mission, which would have put a premium on finding it other
missions -- not at all impossible for a capable aircraft with a large
weapons bay.  (The USAF never used its interceptors in any other role,
but that was a matter of having lots of different aircraft types available,
not of the interceptors being fundamentally unsuited to anything else.)
Only the British, briefly, thought that missiles had made manned fighters
completely obsolete.

>as sales to the US go probably the best that Canada could have hoped for
>would be a license production agreement with a US company - like the
>English Electric Canberra / Martin B-57 arrangement.

Probably true -- the US really wants such deals to go through a local
manufacturer -- but license agreements are not all alike.  The original
USMC buy of Harriers included a license agreement, but in fact all the
Harriers involved were built in Britain.  (The focus of USMC Harrier work
did later move to McDonnell Douglas, but that was more a matter of Britain
dropping the ball on Harrier improvements.)
Being the last man on the Moon is a |  Henry Spencer
very dubious honor. -- Gene Cernan  |      (aka

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