Avro Arrow – Nuclear Demise?

Over the decades much has been written about the demise of the delta winged CF-105 Avro Arrow.  There is a great deal of mystery surrounding this magnificent aircraft.  Conspiracy theories abound.  While more terrestrial reasons for its cancellation are most likely – high cost, government incompetence or personnel antipathy, I did come across a passage from L. Douglas Keeney’s book, 15 Minutes General Curtiss Lemay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation that I believe is the most practical reason for its demise.  From Keeney’s book –

‘Quite apart from the “sword and shield: was the “nuclear shield” To penetrate American airspace, a Soviet bomber would have to fly through a gauntlet of nuclear air-to-air missiles, and nuclear surface-to-air guided missiles, each having a kill box of unprecedented size and lethality.  The 1.5-kiloton Genie missile air-to-air missile carried by a jet interceptor, for instance, had a kill box the size of three football fields.  The 40-kiloton Nike Hercules surface-to-air missile would deliver a warhead twice as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima with a kill box many times that of the Genie.  In both cases, close was close enough.  The blast effects of these warheads could take down as many jets as were close enough to the burst points.  At its peak, the nuclear shield consisted of some 1,600 Nike launchers and some three hundred or more fighters on strip alert.’

Considering the distances any subsonic Soviet nuclear bomber would have to transit before getting into American airspace and the fact, that while Canada would have been targeted by Soviet A-bombs, Canada’s three largest cities would have been targeted with the minimum of Soviet bombs.

Once Canada was supplied with the Genie armed CF-101 Voodoo and Bomarc nuclear air-to-surface missile the question of air defence was clear.  Any intrusion by Soviet bombers into Canadian air space would be met by a hailstorm of nuclear weapons.  A highly advanced mach 2 interceptor like the CF-105 would have, in many was, been a luxury.  The need for high speed and accuracy were supplanted by, ‘close was close enough.’

With the advent of the intercontinental ballistic missile the age of the interceptor became secondary.  Soviet bombers that survived the first salvo of Canadian nuclear Genie and Bomarc missiles (not including the US fighter units based in Canada during a time of crisis) would have most certainly been shot down by the US Air Forces Air Defense Commands fighters and missiles.

gbomarcThe truly sad part of the Avro Arrow’s demise is the short sightedness of the Canadian Government and the brutal unforgiveable destruction of all remaining aircraft.  While expense to develop it would have been prudent to equip at least two squadrons of the RCAF.  This would not only have saved jobs, but kept the highly skilled aeronautical industry intact for a few more years and hopefully onto new and better things.

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