KIT: Hobbycraft 1/48 CF-105 Arrow
KIT #: HC 1659
DECALS: All five aircraft
NOTES: Improved tooling


The saga of the CF-105 Avro Arrow is an intriguing blend of nationalism, technology, Cold War politics, Canadian internal politics and what-might-have-been.

The CF-105 was born out of a need for a Mach 2 interceptor to replace the subsonic, but still serviceable, CF-100 for intercepting Soviet Nuclear Bombers over the Arctic.  The Arrow was to have a crew of two, carry a computerized radar fire control system similar or identical to the MA-1 carried on the F-106 (that was in development at the time), armed with up to four air to air missiles in an internal weapons bay, with a rapid mission turnaround time and a service ceiling of 50,000+ feet.

 The program started in 1953 at the Avro plant in Malton, Ontario.  To speed up production, the Arrow team decided to build the prototypes on the production jigs rather than do the tooling after prototyping.  The Arrow was first flown in 1958 with Pratt and Whitney J75 engines while the Orenda Iroquois were still being developed.  By 1959, the Iroquois was ready for testing.

 In 1957/1958, two things happened that would cause the cancellation of the Arrow program.  One was the launch of Sputnik, which seemed innocent except for the fact that the capability to launch a low Earth orbit satellite was the same required to drop a nuclear warhead on a city.  This allowed the USSR to make obsolete most of the soon to be named NORAD air defense network and reduce the necessity for a Mach 2 interceptor.  The other was the defeat of the Liberal Party (which had ruled Canada for 22 years) by the Progressive Conservatives, led by John Diefenbaker, who came to power in part because Canadians were tired of 22 years of Liberal rule.

 The Liberals had made the Arrow the largest R&D project in Canadian history, but Diefenbaker was looking to reduce the amount of government spending especially for what they considered industrial welfare.  It did not help that the Arrow suffered what seems to be the curse of all weapons systems, massive cost escalation due to unexpected issues such as the delay of the Orenda Iroquois engines.

 Even with new masters in Ottawa, Avro continued with their development while in the background, Defense Minister George Pearkes VC kept trying to cancel the program and replace them with supposedly cheaper alternatives such as the Bomarc missile.  Pearkes managed to kill the Sparrow II weapon system in 1958 which left the Arrow without anything to fire.  It was later revealed that Pearkes made a deal with the Americans to kill the Arrow and replace them with CF-101 Voodoos and Bomarcs (these documents were used as proof for the myth that the US and in particular, the CIA, actively wanted the Arrow dead because it was a threat to the then top secret U-2 spy plane.)

 <Excerpt From Wikipedia>

On 20 February 1959, known as "Black Friday" at the Avro plants, Diefenbaker announced to the Canadian House of Commons that the Arrow and Iroquois programs were to be immediately cancelled, subsequently, telegrams sent to Avro stated that all work should stop on reception. Due to contract obligations with the unions at Avro, the Avro management had no choice but to immediately lay off some 14,000 workers at Avro and Orenda plants. Avro engineer John Hodge later recalled that in his plant the announcement about the lay-offs was made over the public address system.[2] In total, an estimated 30,000 employees or more were laid off due to cancellations of contracts with various subcontractors.

 Declassified records show Avro management was caught unprepared by the suddenness of the announcement by the government. While executives were aware that the program was in jeopardy, they expected it to continue at least until the March review. It was widely believed that during this lead-up to the review, the first Arrow Mk 2, RL-206, would be prepared for an attempt at both World Speed and Altitude records.

 An attempt was made to provide the completed Arrows to the National Research Council of Canada as high-speed test aircraft. The NRC refused, noting that without sufficient spare parts and maintenance, as well as qualified pilots, the NRC could make no use of them. A similar project initiated by the Royal Aircraft Establishment (Boscombe Down) had resulted in Avro Vice-President (Engineering) Jim Floyd, preparing a transatlantic ferry operation. This proposal, like others from the United States, was never realized.

Avro CF-105 Arrow nose section on display at the Canada Aviation Museum

Within two months, all aircraft and engines, production tooling and technical data, were ordered scrapped. This was partly in response to RCMP fears that a Soviet "mole" had infiltrated Avro, later confirmed to some degree in the Mitrokhin archives. Officially, the reason given for the destruction order from Cabinet and the Chiefs of Staff was to destroy classified and "secret" materials utilized in the Arrow/Iroquois programs. Although almost everything connected to the programs was destroyed, the forward fuselage and nose gear of RL-206, the first Mk 2 Arrow and some sections of the wings (of RL-203) were saved and are on display at the Canada Aviation Museum in Ottawa, alongside an Iroquois engine.

<End of Wikipedia exerpt>

 This cancellation ended any hopes of a major Canadian aerospace industry and many of the engineers who worked on the Arrow moved to the US in the 1960s found work at NASA for Gemini, Apollo and the Space Shuttle programs.

 The nuclear armed Voodoo and Bomarc missile system proved to be a very expensive alternative to the Arrow.  While the Voodoos served Canada well, the Bomarc missile system proved to be an expensive and toxic dud which was quickly retired after only 10 years in service.  These nuclear warheads caused a controversy that eventually led to the Diefenbaker government’s election defeat in 1963 (at the time, Diefenbaker had the largest parliamentary majority in Canadian history.)

 Personally, I don’t think the Arrow was the greatest super plane that never was.  If it had survived, it would have been a very good interceptor along the lines of the Mig-25 and Mig-31 and not have been a multi-role fighter like the F-4 Phantom due to the limitations of its design and ultra thin wing.  However, the various wars in the 1960s and 70s showed that an interceptor was of limited value in anything but the Big One (aka WW3.)

In the end, I think the most painful loss to Canada caused by the Arrow cancellation was the brain drain of engineering, technical and scientific talent from Canada.

 We can argue about what might have been, but what has been done can not be undone.  The Arrow will remain, like the TSR2, to be a technological might-have-been wonder that can still ignite Canadian nationalist fervor even after nearly 50 years.

 Information from Wikipedia


This is the latest retool of the Hobbycraft Avro Arrow.  The initial kit was criticized as being inaccurate as well as being too simple (especially the landing gear wells and cockpit.)  This latest retool is apparently much improved (especially in the external detail) over the original, but it is a typical Hobbycraft product as there is little detail on the interior parts.

 The kit consists of two sprues of grey plastic (64 parts) and two canopies (one spare) plus the decal sheet.


Hobbycraft should be commended for making this piece of Canadian Aviation History, but the kit suffers the typical Hobbycraft issue of lack of cockpit and landing gear detail.  Despite criticism, the Hobbycraft Avro Arrow is a remarkably simple model kit of such an advanced plane and can make a decent if not detailed replica of this plane. 

 As for me?  I live some 20 minutes away from where it was built so it has some emotional impact for me (even though my parents weren’t in the country at the time it flew.)  This is one of the few models that I’m more than willing to spend money on update sets to make it look “real.”

To give the kit depth and detail, I have purchased three detail sets—the NorthStar Hobbies Cockpit Set (which I previewed) and the MasterCasters Landing gear and External Detail Sets.  With the addition of these sets, that basically means that the only original Hobbycraft parts that I am going to use are the fuselage bits, tail, and wings.

February 2007

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