CF-105 Avro Arrow

CF-105 Avro Arrow

The CF-105 was a delta-winged, big, fast interceptor. The production aircraft would have had 11700kg Orenda Iroquois engines, but the prototypes were powered by the far less powerful J75. The Arrow was a very promising aircraft, but was cancelled for political reasons, together with the Iroquois engine and the Sparrow 2 missile. Six built.

The CF-105 Arrow (by François Morin,

In the 1950s, A.V.Roe Canada from Malton Ontario developed a twin-engined, delta winged supersonic interceptor for the RCAF. It was designed to cope with the threat of Soviet nuclear bombers coming over the arctic. From 1953 to 1959, the Avro team designed and built one of the most sophisticated aircraft of the world. It was called the Avro CF-105 Arrow. This aircraft was ahead of its time and could still be a front line fighter in today's high tech warfare world. But unfortunately, the Conservative government of the time, led by John Diefenbaker, cancelled the project and ordered all aircraft to be destroyed.

The Arrow was very sophisticated for its time, and had many hidden features design people of the time didn't realize. First, there were no prototypes. The first aircraft coming off the assembly line was to be able to enter service in the RCAF. Design tests were performed on model jigs and the development tools were designed to be used on all production aircraft. At first, the Arrow was designed to be powered by two Rolls-Royce RB-106 engines, but the development was set back and eventually the project was scrapped. Therefore, the Arrow was nearly completed in development, but it didn't have any engines to power her.

Therefore Orenda Engines, the engine division of Avro, was called to develop an engine to fill the two "46 inch holes" on the Arrow and power her. The engine had to have a thrust rating of 20,000 lbs of thrust each, at dry thrust (optimal thrust with no afterburners). Development of the engine saw a few problems here and there, but development costs didn't exceed $90 million. Pretty affordable, even in the 1950s, for the most powerful turbojet in North America!

On the other side, the airframe itself was also very advanced. It was 80ft long, had a wing span of 50ft and was 21 ft high (at tip of fin). It had a fuel capacity of 2800 gallons of fuel and could fly at mach 1 for 2.5 hours without refueling. It could also pull 2G at Mach 1.5 without losing an inch of altitude or a knot of speed. The Arrow was also the first aircraft to adopt "fly-by-wire" technology, which is a type of control system where a computer assists the pilot in piloting the plane, making the plane easier to fly and manoeuvre. This system was called the Automated Flight Control System, and kept the aircraft stable in the event of an emergency and could perform automatic landings and take-offs. It also was a kind of airplane "cruise-control" which kept the aircraft on the set course and speed. Fly-by-Wire technology only started to appear in other service planes 20 years later.

It also had a weapons bay roomier than those of a B-29 or Lancaster, two great bombers from WW II. Any type of weapon could be fitted, and this helped in making the Arrow more versatile. Since it could carry a large selection of weapons, it was an interceptor-fighter-strike bomber-anti ship plane. But it was solely designed as an interceptor, but it was able to deliver missiles, bombs, rockets and torpedoes. This made it an air-superiority aircraft, a universal fighter plane. When critics say that the Arrow didn't have many advantages, they don't know the Arrow. It also had a semi-pressurized cabin and a two man crew, in a pilot-navigator configuration. The navigator was there to control the radar and navigation systems (although the pilot also had a navigation console, in the event of solo flights). The Arrow was to be equipped with the Canadian designed and built ASTRA-Sparrow II fire control system for weapon delivery. But this system saw many difficulties and the government cancelled it before the rest of the Arrow, trying to cut costs. The weapon bay doors opened in 0.3 seconds and a missile fired in 2 seconds (doors opened, deployed, cleared and fired).

Surprisingly, the Arrow also had a climate system, to cool the fuel tanks, weapons bay and cool or heat the cockpit. The Arrow was designed for high speeds, which means heat from friction, and flying in arctic air, which means cold dry air around the plane. The windows had a de-fogging system, a climate control for the canopy and automatic de-icing and anti-icing systems at the most critical areas. It also had a very powerful hydraulics system for flight controls and the landing gear. For example, it was measured that the hydraulic pressure applied to the elevators could easily lift 6 large elephants!

The Arrow was revealed to the public on October 4th, 1957. Unfortunately on that date, the Soviets launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. This event stole the spotlight from the Arrow, and resulted in changing how people thought of air defence. Since the Iroquois were still in development in 1957, Avro decided to power the first five Arrows with Pratt & Whitney J75 turbojets. These American engines didn't even meet the dry thrust of the PS-13 at full afterburners. These first five Arrows were designated the Mk.(Mark) 1, and the all Canadian aircraft with the Iroquois engines would be Mk.2s.

Flight testing started as soon as the engines were installed in Arrow 201, the first aircraft. It made its first flight, without any problems, on March 25 1958. Januz (Jan or Yan, as people called him) "Zura" Zurakowski was the first man to fly the Arrow. He said it flew like a marvel and was easier to fly than many other common aircraft of the time. Except for a few landing gear and damper problems, the flight testing was without a problem, and no-one was killed or injured during flight testing. Only 2 crash landings occurred when the landing gear wasn't properly aligned, but these problems were quickly fixed and bugs were removed. At the same time, the Iroquois was undergoing flight tests.

The Iroquois engine was tested on a static test bed, and when the results were favourable for flight tests, Orenda was loaned a B-47 bomber from the USAF. Canadair built a cowling on the side of the six-engined bomber, to insert the Iroquois. Once the Iroquois was fitted, flight tests commenced immediately. On the first flight, the large USAF bomber lifted up in the air, its six engines screaming and emitting thick black smoke. At 15000 ft, a safe altitude, they lit up the Iroquois. It was so powerful, they had to cut-off the other six engines, or else the plane would have gone supersonic; a velocity it couldn't resist without over-stressing. And they couldn't push the throttle past 60% since it would have shaken the plane to pieces. We must say that even with its sturdiness, the B-47 wasn't designed to hold the most powerful turbojet in the world on it's aft fuselage. The Iroquois delivered 20,000 pounds of thrust without after-burners, and drove the bomber on its own, and at a speed it wasn't designed to exceed. At afterburners, it was recorded that the Iroquois could surpass 26,000 lb of thrust. With two engines, this gave a maximum thrust of over 50,000 pounds to the Arrow, a force not even the fabled Tomcat can reach, and may I tell you, the F-14 is a very powerful plane. The Iroquois was the most powerful turbojet on the North American Continent, and when it was designed, it was the most powerful in the world.

But all this material and technical fame wasn't enough for the Conservatives up in office in Ottawa. And while the program was proceeding at a great pace of development and improvement, the American government came to know about the Arrow. Some USAF key people were invited up to Malton to visit the plant and get briefed on the Arrow. They were very impressed with the program and called the Arrow a "near perfect plane". In Early 1958, Canada signed the NORAD (NORth american Air Defence) treaty, which its goal is to establish norms for the air defence of North America. The NORAD council had both Canadian and American members but Americans had the advantage of having the last word and having more members too.

In the fall of 1958, the Conservative government of John Diefenbaker, elected in early 1957, cancelled the ASTRA-Sparrow II armament system to cut costs. Costs were rising because of lack of communication between the RCAF and the government and lack of organization. The RCAF quickly selected the Hughes Aerospace MG-3 armament system, and got it for nearly nothing because of the advantages of NORAD. This brought cost down drastically, and helped to recover from the financial load the Arrow program was providing. But for Diefenbaker, this was still not enough. It was almost thought that Canada shouldn't spend millions in rebuilding its defence, and build a defence against the most dangerous enemy we ever had. And the worst thing is, is that if the Soviets would have attacked the Americans, they would have wiped us out while they passed. This is why the Arrow was built. So those bombers couldn't cross over the arctic and keep our great country safe. But Dief didn't understand that and just to make matters worse, at the same time, the CIA and the American "Skunk Works" (Secret division of the USAF to develop spy planes and stealth planes ) were working on the Lockheed U-2 spy plane. This plane wasn't supersonic, but could fly at an altitude of 75,000ft; an altitude very few aircraft could reach in the 50s and 60s. Except the Arrow... Therefore, the CIA saw a threat from Canada, as they do with every country, even their allies. The CIA then informed the administration and the presidency. At the same time, Dief was trying to absorb the cost of the Arrow program, and he tried to sell it to foreign buyers. But that's not the way you do International business. You don't try to sell a product you are building for yourself, and that you are still testing, to others! Its definitively sure they won't buy! And the worse thing is that he tried to sell it at the one and only customer who would never buy: America. The Americans would have never bought the Arrow for its defence because it would have greatly corrupted the American Aircraft business. It was a cutting-edge aircraft, 20 years ahead of it's time and their aircraft industry would have had a long way to go to compensate that amount of technology. But the USAF wanted it badly. Therefore, the chief of the USAF informed the Canadian government that they would buy Arrows FOR Canada, but not FROM Canada, as they did with most UN countries during the beginning of the Cold War. But Canada took this as charity and said NO.

But even when the development costs were paid, the heaviest part of the bill, the Conservatives still wanted the cost of the program down. They couldn't understand that warfare isn't cheap. Then the Americans informed them of the Bomarc missile. Since Sputnik, some people thought that the future of air defence was on missiles and that manned fighters were obsolete. Even a fighter 20 years ahead of its time. And some of those people ran the country. The Bomarc was composed of a detection system on the DEW line (Distant Early Warning), a nuclear warhead and a solid fuel rocket. They were to be fired from two bases in Canada, one in northern Quebec, the other near North Bay in Ontario. But the missile only had a range of 400 miles, but there were 3000 miles left unprotected west of North Bay! The back door was still open. And just to prove the Bomarc wasn't that good, the Americans planned to build 18 bases, it later dropped to 14, and then to 8. This was weird since the Americans usually increase their amount of protection... But Diefenbaker fell for it. He bought missiles at a price of 200 million US. On February 20th, 1959, he cancelled and terminated the Arrow program, so his defence budget could afford the Bomarc missiles. At the price he paid for the Bomarc, 135 Arrows could have been produced and put in service, including the armament system. 15, 000 people lost their jobs in one day. The Arrow was the biggest R&D project in Canada, and the biggest layoff in Canadian history happened after its cancellation. A.V.Roe itself crumbled from the second largest corporation in Canada, to a sleazy 500 employee company, mainly performing CF-100 overhauls, the plane it built before the Arrow, and building a few appliances and aluminum boats.

Many ex-Avro employees went to the US after the Arrow and became chief engineers for NASA and other aviation companies. Many Avro engineers, including Jim Chamberlin, became the head of NASA's design team, and designed the Moonar landing vehicles and spacecraft for the Gemini and Apollo programs, and even started to design the Space shuttle. Others went back to England and helped in the design of the Concorde.

After the cancellation, all the Arrows, production tooling and blueprints were destroyed and scrapped. It was all sold to the Sam Lax & Co. of Mississauga, for 350,000$. The 5 completed planes themselves, valued around 3 million each, were sold to him for 2,500$ each, and they were cut to pieces.

Weapon Systems

The Arrow did have a weapon system, but on the Mk.1 aircraft, which were the first five aircraft built (the ones with the J-75 engines), the weapons bay was occupied by testing equipment. Weapon system development was proceeding while the Arrow and the Iroquois engine were being tested. The weapon system in question was the ASTRA-Sparrow II missile system. THe Sparrow II was a radar guided missile with a nuclear warhead. Some tests were made with this missile with CF-100s, and the Arrow would be able to carry from 4 to 6 missiles of this type. More could have been carried if there would have been missile mounts under the wings. But this weapons system increased costs drastically. Infact, it was one of the major factors in taking the step to scrap the entire Arrow program. It rose costs through the roof, and bad communication between the RCAF and the government made the situation worse. The ASTRA program was even many months behind schedule. And in a desperate attempt to save the whole Arrow program, which was beginning to be at risk by the end of 1958, the RCAF abandonned the ASTRA-Sparrow II missile system, and adopted the Hughes MX1179 fire control system, with 8 Falcon missiles in the belly.

Future considerations did include adding a cannon on the nose, and making a more suitable dog-fighting version. (because of the lack of visibility provided by the small windows.) The reason why the Arrow didn't have a large all-window canopy was because it was built to fly by itself, intercept targets at more than Mach 1.5 and fly bak to base. The pilot only being there for taking the aicraft out of the hangar and taxing it on the runway and bring it back to the hangar, and operate in case of an emergency, of course!

The documantation I have says that the invention of the microchip, (around 1963) would have boosted the Arrow even more, dropping the weight by 30% and making more room for fuel and armament, greatly improving its already impressive range and effictiveness as a weapon.

The Arrow could carry 4-6 Sparrow missiles and 8-12 falcon missiles. But due to its armament being carried in a "pack" it could carry many types of weapons, and have the ability to quickly change from a configuration to another. Which is why I like to call the Arrow an Air-superiority fighter.

Future developments that were intended on the Arrow included a Mach 3 reconnaissance a/c, a supersonic strike fighter for Britain (which would have taken the duty of the BAC TSR-2, which was also cancelled, in 1963) And an always improving version of the basic version.

Type: CF-105 Arrow Mk.1
Country: Canada
Function: fighter
Year: 1958
Crew: 2
Engines: 2 * 8392 kg P&W J75-P-3 turbojets
Wing Span: 15.24 m
Length: 25.30 m (other sources claim 23.71m)
Height: 6.25 m
Wing Area: 113.80 m2
Wing loading: 226.9 kg/m²
Empty Weight: 22244 kg
Max.Weight: 31118 kg
Speed: 2104 km/h (with J75 engines, Orenda Iroquois where never flight tested)
Ceiling: 18290 m
Range: >2700 km

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