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An Italian Arrow for the Red Devils

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Avro Canada CF-105N Arrow - 6° Stormo 'Diavoli Rossi', Aeronautica Militare, 1970


In early 1954 'Aviation Week' published the disturbing news that the Soviet Union was developing a new swept-wing jet bomber capable of delivering a nuclear bomb to the United States from bases in Russia. A subsequent article referred to this aircraft as the Myasishchev M-4 'Bison' and such was the concern over these articles (and rumours of other Soviet jet bombers) that the issue was debated publicly, both in the press and in the United States Congress. During the Tushino air display in July 1955 Western observers saw 28 'Bison' aircraft fly past in two groups leading to to the mistaken belief that the bomber was in mass production and a Central Intelligence Agency estimate that 800 jet bombers would be available to the Soviet Air Force by 1960. Whilst we now know that this impressive flypast was a hoax (created by just one group of ten aircraft repeating the flypast once before a third flypast with eight aircraft) the CIA's estimates led to the American press announcing a 'bomber gap' which was seized upon by politicians and military planners alike.


During this time, both the USAF and RAF were showing interest in the Avro Canada CF-105 project, regarding it as being the world's most advanced interceptor and a far more practical and affordable alternative to the North American F-108 Rapier project. At a government level the US and UK negotiated with the Canadian government to adopt 'observer' status on the CF-105 programme with a view to purchasing the aircraft but the public outcry at the perceived 'bomber gap' led to an urgent rethink and during late 1955 the three governments reached full agreement on a collaborative programme to manufacture the Arrow as the standard interceptor for the air forces of all three nations. Avro Canada would continue to lead the project and develop the airframe whilst Hughes would develop a new radar and weapon system (based on their outstanding MA-1 integrated fire-control system) leaving the propulsion system to Bristol Aero Engines (later Bristol Siddeley) with an advanced afterburning version of their Olympus two-spool axial-flow turbojet for the production aircraft with the prototypes continuing to use the Pratt & Whitney J75. Each country would have it's own production line with Avro Canada manufacturing aircraft for the RCAF, North American Aviation manufacturing aircraft for the USAF and Hawker Siddeley manufacturing aircraft for the RAF and also for other European air forces. Whilst the Iroquois engine was cancelled in favour of the Olympus, Orenda would manufacture all Olympus engines for RCAF and USAF Arrows. 


The prototype CF-105 Arrow first flew in October 1957 and development moved smoothly with production aircraft entering service in August 1960 when No.425 Squadron at Bagotville, Quebec re-equipped with the CF-105B. By the time the aircraft entered service the 'bomber gap' myth had been well and truly debunked but Avro Canada proposed several variants of the Arrow including the CF-105N as a NATO standard multi-role fighter that was soon adopted by the Italian Air Force (entering service with 6° Stormo in 1963) and subsequently by the Marineflieger and Netherlands Air Force. The final export order was for the CF-105J (essentially a CF-105N with reduced air-to-ground capability) for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.














Edited by Spinners
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