50th Anniversary of Avro Arrow Cancellation


The Avro Arrow, built by AV Roe Canada was a high performance delta-wing interceptor. It represented the culmination of a design study that began in 1953.

At the time of construction, the Arrow was considered to be an airplane well ahead of its time and a major technological achievement for the Canadian aviation industry.


Following the end of the Second World War, the Soviet Union began to develop a fleet of long-range bombers. These bombers, when completed, would be capable of dropping nuclear ordnance on North American and European cities. In the late 1940s, the Royal Canadian Air Force began looking for a suitable long range interceptor capable of shooting down Russian bombers before they could drop their payloads on Canadian or American cities.

The RCAF contacted several British, French and American airplane builders, all of whom told them that their specifications, which included a maximum speed of mach two and the ability to execute a one G turn at 50,000 feet, while traveling at mach 1.5, were impossible to meet.

The Avro Arrow’s Developemt

It was at this time that the RCAF turned to Avro, which was also building the CF-100 Canuck, the first jet fighter totally designed and built in Canada. The Air Force made its presentation to Avro in May, 1953.

It was decided that the Arrow would be built using the Cook-Craige method of construction. This called for the construction of the proto-type airplane on the production jigs that would be used to build the actual production aircraft. In some ways this was a more complex method of development, but it was also faster than the usual method of airplane design, which was to first produce a hand-built proto-type. Permission to commence development of the aircraft, which would be designated the CF-105 Arrow, was given in July, 1953.

Work on the Arrow progressed steadily through the 1950s. Wind tunnel and experimentation with free flight models necessitated a number of small changes that would help to improve the overall efficiency of the Arrow’s design. Some of these included a notch in the leading edge of the wings. This was meant to improve air flow over the wings at supersonic speeds.

Meanwhile, development of the Arrow’s weapons system was being undertaken by RCA-Victor and Canadair. The Arrow was to be armed with Sparrow missiles equipped with the Astra II guidance system.

The Avro Arrow’s Cancellation

In August, 1957 the Liberal government of Prime Minister Louis St Laurent was voted out of office and replaced with a conservative government under Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. Diefenbaker had campaigned on a promise to cut rampant Liberal spending and one of the chief targets of his campaign was the Arrow. Additionally, Diefenbaker’s government was already being pressured by the Americans to scrap the Arrow and buy the American made Bomarc Missile from Boeing instead.

Support for these views came on Oct.4, 1957. On the same day that the first Arrow proto-type was unveiled to the public, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first man-made satellite, into orbit. Nuclear attack from space now became possible and rumours of a “missile gap” between the United States and the Soviet Union began to spread, as jet fighters under development all over the world came under increased scrutiny.

The cancellation of the Avro Arrow was formally announced on Feb.20, 1959.

The announcement caught Avro’s senior management off-guard and put more than 50,000 people out of work, mainly at the Malton, Ontario plant. Within months, all material associated with the Arrow was destroyed. In doing so, the Avro Arrow became a Canadian legend instead of a reality.

Works CitedStewart, Greig.Shutting Down the National Dream. McGraw-Hill Ryerson. Toronto. 1997



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