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The Story of the CF-105 Arrow

"Avro Arrow"...illustration by Lance Russwurm

THE CF-105 ARROW  Illustration by Lance Russwurm   1998 by Labusch Skywear


    Even before the prototype CF-100 had flown, the Canadian Air Force began to make plans for its replacement. The CF 100 had been designed as a two place, twin engine, day and night, all weather, long range interceptor to meet Canada's requirements for defense of the north during the cold war.

    A swept wing version, the CF-103 was found to be obsolete before it left the drawing board. In 1953, the RCAF issued specifications calling for the following....

    The fighter must be a two seater, capable of operating from a 6000 foot runway,  have a range of 600 nautical miles, and a speed of Mach 1.5. It was also to have been able to carry an advanced missile and fire-control system, necessitating a large  internal weapons bay. It was to be able to pull 2 G's at 50,000 feet without any loss in speed or altitude. These were extremely advanced requirements for the day

As with the CF-100 in it's day, no other aircraft in the world was found to be capable of this performance, so the decision was made to design and produce the aircraft in Canada.


   In July, 1953, AVRO AIRCRAFT, Canada, got the go-ahead to begin design on a two seat, twin engined fighter/ interceptor based on these requirements. A high delta wing configuration was chosen, both for good high-speed flight characteristics, and to give easy access to the weapons bay and power plants. A large amount of room for fuel storage would  be possible in such a wing, although it could also be made very thin for low drag. This same thinness would  be a disadvantage as well....the undercarriage would have to be extremely slim to fit inside. (the brakes used had not been designed for the weight of such an aircraft, so these, reaching white hot heat, coupled with the tiny tires used, were a source of many blowouts and other taxiing problems). A four degree anhedral was had no appreciable effect on aerodynamics, but it kept the undercarriage length manageable.


     Originally, Rolls Royce RB106 engines were to be used. By 1954, these became unavailable so AVRO switched to Curtiss Wright J-67's. These, too, were discontinued, so the choice became Pratt and Whitney J75's. This was an interim measure, as the ultimate power plant was to be the  extremely advanced PS-13 IROQUOIS engine then under development at ORENDA, a division of AVRO.


    The technical difficulties to be overcome in developing such an advanced aircraft were enormous. Almost every aspect of it's design broke new ground. It's control system was computerized....what we now call "Fly by wire".  Instead of a mechanical link between the pilot's controls and the control surfaces, there was a complex system of sensors to detect the pilot's input, and servos and hydraulic jacks to deliver the required movement to the control surfaces at the correct time. In the event of failure of either engine under power, the computer could instantly quickly that the pilot wouldn't notice a change in the handling....this in direct contrast to the severe yaw which is normal in such a situation. The handling parameters could be readily changed via software. Ultimately, it was planned, the aircraft would be able to virtually fly itself on missions, as it was thought that interception at supersonic speeds would be too fast for the reflexes of any human pilot. Missions would also be controllable from the ground via a new telemetry system.


    A huge amount of aerodynamic testing had to be carried out as one had ever had to contend with the speeds expected before. The best aircraft of the day could only exceed Mach 1 under good a dive. The Arrow was conceived to be equally comfortable operating routinely on either side of the sound barrier. Heating and weakening of the structure due to air friction had to be taken into account, so an extremely powerful air conditioning system was needed.  Extensive use was made of titanium and other exotic substances. The air intakes came in for  special attention....airflow here for supersonic flight is especially critical. Various wind tunnel facilities were utilized, both in Canada and the U.S. Much supersonic proving was done at the N.A.C.A. facility in Langley, West Virginia, as nothing similar was available in Canada. A lot of theoretical work on the so-called "area rule" was carried out. (It was found that a fuselage which is shaped like a Coke bottle creates far less drag at supersonic speeds, and, therefore is far more efficient regarding power requirements.)


    Another important innovation was the fully enclosed, retractable weapons bay on the bottom of the fuselage. This space ( 3 feet by eight feet by eighteen feet) was larger than the bomb bay of a B-29 bomber. A variety of armament packs could be used, or the space could hold extra fuel or bombs, as required. This was a much neater and efficient method than hanging everything under the wings, which is STILL done on many of today's fighter jets. 

 Two weapons systems were being considered. AVRO favoured a fire control system from HUGHES AIRCRAFT as they had successfully dealt with this company on earlier projects. The Canadian military, on the other hand, was for an extremely advanced, but undeveloped missile system called ASTRA 1. Theoretically, this would have been a "do-everything" system...but the contractors working on it were inexperienced, and the costs of getting it up to speed showed every sign of becoming enormous. In 1956, AVRO again formally requested that an advanced Hughes system be used, but due to the fact that ASTRA was heavily classified, couldn't mount proper arguments. AVRO didn't push the issue enough, perhaps....the RCAF was, after all, the employer upon whom their entire existence depended! Ultimately, control of costs WAS passed over to the military. The ensuing huge cost overruns from endless re-designs and changes that had to be made to the entire aircraft were therefore beyond AVRO's control. (And, unfortunately, this did indeed become a major factor in the demise of the whole project)


       Also radical on the Arrow project was the fact that all aircraft would be built directly from production tooling...there would be no prototypes as such. This meant that all of the myriad systems would have to be extensively tested before being approved for tooling. This would mean enormous cost savings and less time to get the aircraft into actual service. 


    The first official roll-out of the Arrow was on October 4, 1957 before approximately 12,000 people. An unveiling speech was made by the Honorable George R Pearkes V.C, Minister of National Defense.

Here is a significant excerpt: "Much has been said of late about the coming missile age and there have been suggestions from well intentioned people that the era of the manned aeroplane is over and that we should not be wasting our time and energy producing an aircraft of the performance, complexity and cost of the AVRO ARROW. They suggest that we should put our faith in missiles and launch straight into the era of push button war. I do not feel that the missile and the manned aircraft have, as yet, reached the point where they should be considered as competitive. 

    They will, in fact, become complimentary. Each can do things which the other cannot do, and for some years to come both will be required in the inventory of any nation seeking to maintain an adequate "deterrent" to war. However, the aircraft has this one great advantage over the missile. It can bring the judgment of a man into the battle and closer to the target where human judgment, combined with the technology of the aircraft, will provide the most sophisticated and effective defense that human ingenuity can devise.

    These words are rather significant, in light of the Military's later total reversal on this issue...and the fact that they later had to reverse their reversal!


    Engine run-ups began in December,1957 and ground taxi tests were began in January, 1958. Finally....on March 25, 1958, the aircraft and the weather were both ready. Jan Zurakowski, AVRO's chief experimental pilot climbed into Arrow number RL25201 and  took off at 9:51 am, followed by two chase planes, an F-86 Sabre and a CF-100. The aircraft performed almost perfectly and was put through some mild maneuvers The total flight time was 35 minutes.


    By April 3, the Arrow had been taken to an easy Mach 1.1 at 40,000 feet. On Friday, April 18 a speed  of Mach 1.52 was reached at 49,000 feet while still climbing. These early tests were conducted over the Hamilton- Toronto area of southern Ontario and complaints were received from within a hundred mile radius of windows being rattled from sonic booms. As a result future tests were switched to over Northern Ontario.

    Flight testing continued. In August, the second Arrow became airborne. On Sunday September 14, Zurakowski flew Arrow 202 to Mach 1.86 at 50,000 feet, the highest speed he would reach in his career. be continued at a later date


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