September 12, 2012

I must be missing something in the Avro Arrow vs. F-35 argument

As you all know, I like learning about pretty much anything aerospace and defence and the Avro Arrow is one of those stories that is just so full of complex engineering, politics and scandal that even if you're not Canadian, it's hard to resist (yes, I have the movie..whattup Dan Aykroyd!).

But then I read this article in the National Post. Which indicates that the Arrow has been proposed as an alternative to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets. Now, I'm not a pilot, I'm not an engineer, and I'm not an accountant, but how on earth does this even make sense? The Arrow designs have not been revised to meet the needs of our current Air Force. It certainly hasn't been approved for tender. No one's bid on its business. It's most certainly not in production. And it definitely hasn't been tested.

How is this even a logical proposal? Even if all of the aforementioned could be accomplished in the next few years, the cost of the aircraft (claimed to be cheaper) would need to account for the loss of time and money already in the F-35 program. On top of that would be the loss to future business within the F-35 maintenance and sustainment programs around the world.

I'm not saying the Arrow couldn't be revisited as an overall design for the future, but it seems a bit daft to cut your nose off to spite your face just because the F-35 has had a rocky political start here in Canada.



  1. We live in a defence world dominated by politics - of both 'political' and industrial nature. There is a groundswell of opinion against the F-35 procurement and the Arrow provides a catalyst around which more active (but ho fully informed?) pundits can gather in mega-fulmination mode.

    The primary advantage the F-35 offers is low-observability: let's not call it stealth, because it falls a long way short of that promise. But it does provide the ability for missions to be carried out by low numbers of aircraft with a higher probability of survival. And if you haven't got many aircraft (because you can't afford them) and your investment in pilots and operators is so high that you can't afford to lose them either - that's a powerful argument for buying an aircraft that is in full flight test mode rather than still on the drawing board.

    In an ideal world, would Canadians prefer their Air Force to operate Canadian combat aircraft? Sure. But it doesn't - it hasn't for a long time - and we don't live in an ideal world!

    You get what you pay for in life. If the Arrow were to be bought it might fulfill a major part of the Air Force's requirements - but it would be unlikely to offer the range of capabilities the F-35 would. And at a time when requirements are changing rapidly and the pace of threat evolution is outstripping the imagination of planners constrained to established budgetary and doctrinal models - the ability to use a platform that has capacity excess to the requirements of everyday operation is potentially a life-saving and conflict-winning boon!

    1. Couldn't have said it better, Tim! Thanks for the eloquence! It's like we're swapping baseball cards in the hopes to win an argument.