I am of an age that thinking about the 1950s brings memories. And certainly one of them, perhaps engrained in my psyche a little more indelibly because of my great uncle Philip Garratt, A.F.C., C.M., being head of the de Haviland Aircraft Company, is about an airplane: the AVRO Arrow.
You know, for some of us, it seemed tough growing up back in the 1950s, next to the mighty U.S.A. But suddenly, we Canucks had the authoritative Avro Arrow to boast about. Omygosh! What an impressive delta-winged interceptor airplane it was! I mean, here we had our symbol of Canada's high-tech future in aircraft manufacturing!
But then, that old “fuddy duddy” Prime Minister John Diefenbaker went and scrapped the whole thing! Just like that, it was over. And the rumour mill started flourishing immediately. Many believed Washington didn’t want an interloper such as Canada stealing their grandeur so they deliberately manipulated the intelligence given to Ottawa in order to influence Diefenbaker to give the Arrow the kibosh. There were other hints of “intelligence” too.
However, a new research paper reveals the decision to scrap the fabled Avro Arrow was significantly influenced by Canadian information gathering. Seems our bright stars pointed out a reduced need for the Arrow in the evolving Cold War with the USSR because the Soviets was shifting away from manned bombers to long-range ballistic missiles, suggesting that interceptors like the Arrow would increasingly play a smaller role.
“The paper makes the case that these strategic intelligence assessments — long the ‘missing dimension’ in the debate over the Arrow's demise — now allow for a fuller understanding of an important episode in Canadian history,” says a media outlet. “It can be concluded that the Canadian intelligence assessment of the changing Soviet bomber threat to North America was an important factor in the fateful decision to cancel the Arrow."
So, it wasn’t the U.S. steering us Canucks away from our own high-tech future after all. We did it to ourselves… supported by research, of course.
Almost feels like an anti-climax.
But I suppose we can be proud that it was Canadian intelligence that cast doubt on the extent of the Soviet threat.