The Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow programme : decisions and determinants
Isinger, Russell Steven Paul
The Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow supersonic interceptor programme haunted Canada's national security bureaucracy throughout the 1950s only to achieve a mythological status during the nearly forty years since its cancellation. The popular literature on the project has advanced a techno-nationalistic, conspiratorial viewpoint that the project should have been completed regardless of the financial burden or operational requirement. The Arrow programme's termination is invariably interpreted as an unjustifiable action by an inept Conservative government that was ignorant of defence policy and acting at the behest of the United States. The academic community, believing the lessons of the project to be largely self-evident, has not countered this belief with any studies of significant length or breadth of research. This thesis examines the civil-military decision-making environment which existed during the Arrow programme and concludes that the widely held in conventional wisdom is wrong. A case study of a weapons acquisition process, this thesis is based on declassified government records and personal papers taken together with the secondary literature and government publications. The evidence presented hereinafter demonstrates that the decisions which led to cancellation of the Arrow programme occurred early on by the Liberal government which had initiated the project and allowed it to accelerate and expand beyond salvage. Furthermore, this thesis outlines a chain of command characterized by deference by the political authority, Liberal and Conservative, to the advice proffered by the highest military decision-making body,the Chiefs of Staff Committee. The system of "bottom-up" decision-making, coupled domestically with the financial difficulties of a middle-power procuring modem weapons systems and internationally with the transformation of the "bomber gap" into the "missile gap," doomed the Arrow programme. The project's demise was the thus the largely inescapable consequence of three interrelated factors: a flawed weapons acquisition process driven by an overly ambitious Royal Canadian Air Force, dramatic strategic shifts, and harsh financial realities.