By Nathan Rudyk
We admittedly have a soft spot for globally competitive innovation – that's what the market2world team is devoted to promoting on behalf of our clients. In this instance, we have no interest in the outcome, but wish retired Major General Lewis MacKenzie and his associates well in their quest to revive the design of Canada's storied Avro Arrow to create a new military jet to defend our borders.
Technologies that "come of age" are nothing new. From voice recognition to virtual reality to photo voltaics to stem cells, it's not uncommon for decades to pass before core technologies are economically feasible to enable promising initial inventions or designs.
In the case of the Avro Arrow, the plane was lauded as decades before its time in the 1950s, before being unceremoniously destroyed in 1959 (versus shelved - with bizarre government orders for the destruction of all visible evidence that the aircraft existed).
As reported today on iPoltics.ca, according to MacKenzie, the Arrow’s basic design and platform still exceed any current fighter jet and is perfect for Canada’s needs, and thus may have indeed come of age:
“It’s an attack aircraft. It’s designed for attacking ground targets and its stealth is most effective against short range radar, protecting ground targets,” MacKenzie said.
“What we need in Canada is something that can go to the edge of our airspace, from a sovereignty point of view, and be able to catch up with intruders.”
The plan to build an updated Arrow in Canada instead of buying into an international deal for a fleet of F-35s was originally put before the Harper Conservatives in 2010 by a company called Bourdeau Industries, which has offices in the U.K. and Canada.
The proposal, which was updated in 2012, suggested the plane could fly 20,000 feet higher than the F-35, soar twice as fast and would cost less.
For example, the proposal said that the total cost of the Arrow program would be $11.73 billion, compared to the $16 billion the federal government says the F-35 program will cost.
... The Arrow project would also create a made-in-Canada plane and an industry that would add thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the Canadian economy, the proposal’s author wrote.
It's a fascinating proposition that would replace a politically crash-prone F-35 fighter jet project with a made-in-Canada renaissance initiative able to fire imaginations and national pride, not to mention high-skill jobs and follow-on industrial growth when and where we need it most (Ontario and Quebec's manufacturing heartlands).
It's also fascinating that despite the politcally-motivated destruction of the Arrow program in the 1950s, Canada's aerospace and defense industry is still thriving with global success stories like Bombardier jets and Héroux-Devtek landing systems. Last week Bombardier Aerospace also announced that it delivered a Global 6000 aircraft to the US Air Force – the fourth Bombardier Global aircraft to be added to the existing US Air Force inventory.
Reviving the Arrow would be a bold, imaginative stroke for the current Canadian federal government, and remove the dark stain of a tragic industrial policy decision from the past.