Canada’s Original Black Friday- ‘Cancelled Arrow’ Was Cutting Edge 1950s Jet Interceptor

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The first Arrow RL-201

The first Arrow RL-201

I began writing this post after an annual viewing pilgrimage of sorts. Each year on the eve of shopping’s busiest day, I crack open the well worn plastic jewel case and fire up the DVD player. It’s a fictional account but based in fact and is very entertaining and I can’t help but wonder what “might have been” after watching CBC’s 1996 mini-series “the Arrow” again. [You can watch this right here at the end of this post CP]

Over the decades fact and fiction have become tangled but the basic truths remain intact. In the late 1950’s a highly advanced jet interceptor designed to seek (and if necessary destroy) Russian nuclear bombers was conceived, designed, built and flown in Canada by a predominantly Canadian team. Here’s where things get fuzzy. The Arrow was developed when the federal Liberal party were in power but was finished and flown when the Conservatives were in power. It represented not only the technological capability of Canada’s aviation industry- but also the econo-political agenda of the mid-twentieth Century. So what happened at that time to help spell the doom of the Arrow?

-The ICBM- intercontinental ballistic missile was viewed as the future of warfare not the nuclear bomber. This meant that a jet interceptor was obsolete because it would be unable to intercept approaching missiles.

-Bad timing: on the day of the rollout of the very first completed Arrow, the Russians launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. In the public eye jets seemed unimportant.

-The American Bomarc missile system was designed to intercept incoming nuclear bombers and ballistic nuclear missiles. The Bomarc had a small nuclear warhead which would detonate in the pathway of approaching missiles (or bombers) and create a nuclear ‘shield’. The Bomarc was highly controversial at the time because our Prime Minister did not want nuclear missiles on Canadian territory. However, our Defence Minister did not agree and eventually resigned over the matter. This defence ‘split’ exacerbated the Arrow program and any chance for an Arrow squadron legacy.

-The Canadian designed Iroquois engines were not  readied in time and were not fitted into the Arrow. These engines were innovative and theoretically could have propelled the Arrow to speeds of Mach 2.5 or possibly Mach 3.0- far beyond every fighter of the time with the exception of secret black technology projects like the American Blackbird SR-71. Had the Canadian engines been readied and proven, there seems little doubt that international orders would have offset some of the Arrow’s mounting costs.

Black Friday…….almost 15,000 workers lose their job.

Canadas Black Friday

There is no official record of just who ordered the destruction of the remaining Arrows. Other than a few recovered test models, an incomplete cockpit and a few seconds of in flight film, nothing remains of this wonderful airplane . For the Silo, Jarrod Barker.


The completed Arrows being cut up and readied for a Hamilton,ON scrap dealer.

The completed Arrows being cut up and readied for a Hamilton,ON scrap dealer.



University of Saskatchewan The Nuclear Question in Canada

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Boeing’s  Bomarc Missile

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