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Bringing back Avro Arrow won’t help aerospace industry

Sept. 11, 2012, Ottawa - Critics are throwing cold water on a Canadian company's plan to resurrect the country's aerospace industry with a modernized Avro Arrow jet.


September 11, 2012
By Global News

"Is it
feasible to think that a small Canadian upstart, in a decade's time,
will be able to compete with one of the largest aerospace manufacturers
in the world in terms of information technologies and systems?"
asked Philippe Lagasse, a University of Ottawa defence procurement
expert.

 

His question comes one day after it was revealed that a consortium of Canadian business, engineering and design experts are lobbying the government to reach back more than half a century into history for a way out of its fighter jet problems.

The answer, they say, lies in Canada's 1950s aviation marvel, the Avro Arrow.

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The
group's ambitious six to eight year timeline for resurrecting and
having the Avro Arrow in the military's hands is simply not realistic
given the state of Canada’s aerospace industry, says Lagasse, who has
been a critic of the government's fighter jet procurement process.

Although
he doesn't doubt the ability of Bourdeau Industries, the company behind
the proposal, to deliver an airframe, he's sceptical when it comes to
what's inside — the brains of the plane.

"How do you build a
product that is as capable as what's on the U.S. market, and not have it
explode in cost? It's the other components… weaponry, payload and
information systems that will eventually hamper this Canadian effort,"
said Lagasse.

If it were simple to access the high-level computer
technology needed to make an aircraft inter-operable with those the
allies are flying, other countries would likely be doing the same, he
said.

The Canadian group, backed by the celebrated infantry
commander retired Maj.-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, says that an updated
version of the CF-105 Avro Arrow would fly faster and more powerfully,
and cost less than the U.S.-built F-35 stealth fighter jets the
government was on track to purchase.

Even MacKenzie's endorsement of the plan and criticism of the F-35s didn't sway the Conservative government, which rejected the proposal in June, newly-released documents showed.

John
Diefenbaker's government abruptly cancelled the Avro Arrow project in
1959, after several prototypes were built and tests were conducted, but
before the all-weather supersonic interceptor went into production.

Still, the Canadian group is convinced its plan can work and is asking, at the very least, that it be given a fair shot.

"At
its time, the Avro Arrow was far ahead of its competitors. It is robust
enough to allow us to bring it forward to today's requirement," said
Allen Green, a member of the consortium who recently retired from his
job as a vice-president at General Motors Canada, where he was in charge
of operations and personnel.

Because some data survived the
ordered destruction the original Arrow's plans, Canadians would save a
good portion of money traditionally spent in the development stages of a
project, Green argued.

"You avoid all the costs that would
normally be assigned to a brand new program," he said. "And our
approach, rather than put in place a company that would, from ground
zero, design and build this, we want to use existing suppliers in Canada
who we think are fully capable of delivering all the components
necessary to the final assembly."

Bourdeau Industries is looking for a one-year grant to perfect the design and present a manufacturing plan.

Green
said that although he wasn't surprised the government rejected the
proposal, he was hoping it would receive a detailed analysis.

But the government isn't budging.

"While
we appreciate the sentimental value of the Avro Arrow, which was
cancelled 53 years ago, analysts looked at the proposal and determined
that this is not a realistic option," a spokeswoman for Associate
Minister of Defence Bernard Valcourt wrote in an email Monday.

"The
proposal to develop, test and manufacture what would effectively be a
brand new aircraft is risky, and would take too long and cost too much
to meet Canada’s needs," the email continued.

The exploding costs
of buying into the F-35 program was part of what prompted the
government to press the pause button on the purchase and bring in an
accounting firm to help crunch the numbers.

So while the plans
for the F-35s remain on hold, the official Opposition is asking that the
government stop rejecting plans; without establishing the policy and
national defence needs these jets would meet, it's difficult to begin
ruling out options, said NDP defence procurement critic Matthew Kellway.

"The
issue is, we should have an open competition. That's what we've been
calling for for a long time," he said in an interview. "If the
proponents of the Avro Arrow think they've got a plane that can compete
in an open competition, then let's have the competition and see what
comes of it."

Read it on Global News: Global News | Avro Arrow won't resurrect aerospace industry: expert