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CF-105 Arrow: The Fighter Jet Built for a War with Russia

As a Cold War aircraft, the Arrow was not only nuclear-capable but also designed to track and intercept nuclear-armed Russian aircraft looking to transit the Atlantic and potentially attack the U.S. 

CF-105. Image Credit: Creative Commons/Artist Rendition.
CF-105. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Canada’s sudden decision in 1959 to halt production of its Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow fighter jet interceptor is still an intensely debated topic. Why it was suddenly scrapped remains something of a mystery.

Following its inception, the Avro was widely regarded as the pride of Canada. It was ahead of its time in many key respects. The aircraft not only had a sleek-looking design but also, according to specs, it could travel at nearly three times the speed of sound at altitudes up to 60,000 feet.

The aircraft’s shape appears to have sparked numerous innovations over the years. It looked like a cutting-edge striker-bomber hybrid, and it was large, with a max take-off weight of 68,000 pounds. 

As a Cold War aircraft, the Arrow was not only nuclear-capable but also designed to track and intercept nuclear-armed Russian aircraft looking to transit the Atlantic and potentially attack the U.S. 

CF-105 Arrow, Explained 

A 2013 essay about the Avro in Global News captures the sentiment many Canadians felt. 

“The first flight of the Arrow should have been a crowning moment for the Canadian aerospace industry. Yet the plane was scrapped by the federal government just a few months later, in a decision that remains controversial to this day. For many Canadians, the Avro Arrow has come to symbolize both the potential, and the unfulfilled promise, of Canadian innovation,” the essay explains. 

Avro Canada’s Arrow came to exist following results from a series of 1950s-studies focused on finding ways to build improved variants of the Avro Canada CF-100 Canuck, a fighter plane that flew in the Royal Canadian Air Force from the 1950s until its retirement in 1981. 

The aircraft did have an ability to almost function as a bomb truck, as it could take-off with a max weight of 68,605 pounds and can carry two AIR-2A Genie unguided nuclear bombs. It reached speeds of Mach-1.98 and registered an impressive .825 thrust-to-weight ratio, a high value given the size of the aircraft.

There does not appear to be much available information on the reasons for the cancellation, and the event lodged itself in the hearts and minds of Canadians for generations. The aircraft did experience a few incidents while taking off and landing, yet its advocates even today maintain that it brought something unique to the force. One former Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, who flew the Arrow years ago, talked about how the handling was improved, specifying that “erratic controls” were no longer there.

According to the pilot, Jack Woodman, “The aircraft, at supersonic speeds, was pleasant and easy to fly. During approach and landing, the handling characteristics were considered good … On my second flight … the general handling characteristics of the Arrow Mark 1 were much improved … On my sixth and last flight … the erratic control in the rolling plane, encountered on the last flight, [was] no longer there … Excellent progress was being made in the development … from where I sat the Arrow was performing as predicted and was meeting all guarantees.”

Kris Osborn is the Military Affairs Editor of 19FortyFive and President of Warrior Maven – Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

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Written By

Kris Osborn is the Military Editor of 19 FortyFive and President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.