Avro Arrow – Canadian Legacy Essay

Avro Arrow – Canadian Legacy Essay.

The push to create the Avro Arrow arose due to the perceived threat of faster and more efficient planes being created in the Soviet Union. At this time in history the Soviet Union was in a Cold War with Western Nations including Canada. Canada’s goal was to create a plane that was more maneuverable and faster in order to beat the Soviets at their own game. This goal was accomplished with the invention of the faster and more advanced Avro Arrow which was more than capable of doing the job.

Unfortunately, Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker cancelled the project. The publicly mentioned reasons for this were due to out of control development costs and a decrease in demand for other nation purchases as the USA had developed their own next generation war fighter at the same time. However, the cancellation of the Avro Arrow was a poor decision as it had detrimental effects on Canada. Canadian growth, nationalism, and military were all amongst those institutions affected.

During the period of World War II, Canada had transformed into an industrial based country. Industry was now crucial to Canadian economics which is why the cancellation of the Avro Arrow caused such a large impact on Canadian growth. The development of the Avro Arrow was a major boost to the economy of Canada, not only with its immediate employment increase, it positioned Canada as a global industrial leader and would have led to many more advanced industrial products being produced with Canadian talent.

The creator of the project, A. V Roe, was furious when it was cancelled and as noted by the Historica-dominion Institute (2006) “immediately fired his 14,000 employees”. Not only did his employees lose their jobs, but a according to Joan Dixon (2001) a multitude of people lost their jobs that were in the aeronautics industry. This was a huge blow to Canadian aeronautics and as Joan Dixon (2001) explained it had dampening effect on Canada’s ability to attract top notch engineering talent to work in Canada. This then affects the Canadian economy by having less of an industrial base and therefore less of a tax base.

The cancellation was able to propel the American aeronautics industry forward, many of Canada’s top engineering talent left to work in the USA in what is now referred to as a ‘brain drain’. As Scott McArthur (2009) states a “majority of the engineers and scientists that worked on the Avro Arrow went to the United States” to join a new program called the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; what we know today as NASA. Soon after the demise of the project thirty one of Avro’s best engineers were working for NASA.

They went on to creating things such as the Mercury space capsule design. The Canadian trained engineers were now providing America with their knowledge and expertise. This lost caused the Canadian aeronautics industry to slow down and ultimately live in the shadow of the Americans. The cancellation of the Avro Arrow project limited Canada’s aeronautics industry’s growth. Fred Smye (1989) explains that the decision not to produce the Arrow “concluded advanced aeronautical development”. If the plane was not cancelled the technology could have been utilized and improved in future planes.

This slowdown in the growth of the Canadian aeronautics changed the way the industry has developed today. The cancellation of the Avro Arrow project restricted Canada’s growth in our once thriving aviation industry. Diefenbaker’s poor decision to cancel the Avro Arrow cost Canadian economic growth. The Spitfires, Hurricanes and Avro’s Lancaster bomber were all important assets to defeating the Allied Forces during World War II. After the war, the race between the Soviet Union and the Western Democracies including Canada and the USA grew.

Both sides knew they needed to develop more effective aeronautic forces that could help them defend or attack at any moment. The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) determined that Canada should develop its own jet fighter to be prepared for the upcoming Cold War. With Canada’s large land mass and extremes in whether it was believed that a purpose built jet would better suit our needs. Kyle Schmidt (1995) calls the Arrow “nearly perfect” and explains that is was exactly what Canada needed; an all-weather, supersonic, high altitude aircraft.

The aircraft was practically perfect and the decision to cancel it wasted the Arrow’s sophisticated technology with the military. When the Avro Arrow program was cancelled by the Diefenbaker government, they noted that the military had recently installed Bomarc Missile sites along the East and West coasts (along with the US Air Force). This was to be the Avro’s replacement, Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) that had less maneuverability than the Avro as they had to be launched from permanent bases and too slow to keep up with the new era of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) and jet fighters.

According to Canadian Wings (2003) the result of choosing SAMs that required a permenan installation (rather than being mobile or launched from a fighter jet like the Avro) made their choice extremely inefficient for Canadian Military. The Canadian military then tried to replace the Arrow with second-hand American fighters called Voodoos. According to Joan Dixon these exact planes had been earlier rejected by the RCAF because they could not fly high enough or fast enough. The Canadian Military was not as strong once they downgraded to the Voodoo.

Diefenbaker could not find a sufficient replacement for the Avro Arrow resulting in the Canadian Military suffering and the loss of a great defence system. The main reason for the cancellation of the Avro Arrow was apparently Diefenbaker’s growing concern of the cost of the project. The project was originally estimated to cost approximately one to two million dollars for each Arrow. That number quickly sky rocketed to twelve million dollars per plane and caused the government to hastily cancel the project.

As the cancellation of the project proceeded it was clear that the government had made a yet another miscalculation, as the cancellation fees were estimated to be up to one hundred million dollars. Guy Martin (2011) claims that this money would have been enough to fund a whole unit of Arrows. Diefenbaker’s poor decision to cancel the Arrow resulted in Canada losing large sums of tax payer money, losing an investment in aeronautical technological superiority and Canadian’s losing a sense of their place in a Cold War world.

Canada also lost money while trying to replace the Arrow with the CF-18 Hornets. Canada bought one hundred and thirty eight Hornets for the total cost of five billion dollars, explains Guy Martin (2011). This works ou to a per aircraft cost of approximately thirty seven million dollars. According to CBC (2005) the Avro project consumed four hundred million dollars of tax money. The Canadian citizens had already invested a large sum of money into the project that was carelessly wasted by John Diefenbaker’s government.

The impact on Canadian growth, the loss of a technologically superior air defence system, and the strain on Canadian economy were all caused by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s poor decision to cancel the production of the Avro Arrow. We are reminded of just how great Canada’s aeronautic industry was by noting that some aspects of the plane’s technology is just now being surpassed by current generation jet fighters. Perhaps, if Diefenbaker had not cancelled the Avro Arrow project, it would have been Canadian technology that sent a human into orbit first or even a Canadian astronaut to take the first steps on the moon.

Avro Arrow – Canadian Legacy Essay

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