If one were to ask most Canadians to name when the Country turned off the path of innovation in Defence development and production, the answer would resoundingly be 20 February 1959. “Black Friday”, as its known, is the day of the AVRO CF-105 Arrow’s cancellation. The cancellation of the AVRO Arrow strikes a chord in the Canadian psyche; it is a moment where we say to ourselves “Our Country turned its back on achievement.” The Arrow was a world-class interceptor aircraft, and its cancellation meant that from that point on Canadian air defence needs would be met from US manufacturers.
Black Friday may remain in the minds of Canadian over half a century after the cancellation of the Arrow, but it would be more than a decade later when Canada truly stops taking an active hand in developing unique Canadian answers to the defence needs of the nation.
Development of HMCS Bras d’Or began in 1960, with the ship undergoing trials until 1971. Bras d’Or was a hydrofoil, designed for anti-submarine warfare, using high speed to allow it to intercept nuclear submarines. Bras d’Or was never fitted with weapons, but she did prove her speed. During her trials, she achieved a foil-borne speed of 63 knots (117 km/h; 72 mph). The ship’s cancellation in 1971 came after priorities shifted from anti-submarine warfare to sovereignty. It is easy to imagine descendants of Bras d’Or serving today as high-speed Offshore Patrol Vessels, or even selling in the international market as missile or patrol gunboats. Canada turned its back on the possibilities, and possible sales, when the cancellation of Bras d’Or came. Twelve years after the Arrow and Canada has once again surrendered innovation.
1964 would see Canadair start construction of the CL-84 Dynavert. The Dynavert was a unique tilt-wing aircraft capable of vertical flight like a helicopter or conventional flight like a turboprop aircraft. In operation the aircraft was similar to the much-later V-22 Osprey. Dynavert was smaller, but had one unique capability that the larger Osprey does not have, Dynavert was capable of making a fully conventional takeoff when space was available. This was made possible by the use of conventional propellers instead of the Osprey’s rotors.
Dynavert testing was conducted from 1965 to 1974. Testing included releasing drop tanks, the firing of a minigun pod, shipboard trials aboard USS Guam and even a flight into the helipad at the US Pentagon. Despite the success of the trials Dynavert gained no sales. The US lost interest at the end of the Vietnam War, and the Dynavert was a victim of NIH, Not Invented Here. The British had also looked at Dynavert, but again no sales resulted. Canadair would try several other nations as potential sales targets, but in the end there was no buyer. Not even Canada would buy this innovative Canadian aircraft.
Examples exist even today. Canadian industry produces innovative products, but all too often they don’t find their way into Canadian service. If we are to foster an environment of innovation, innovation must be rewarded. The ultimate reward, the ultimate sign of confidence in Canadian products must be Canadian service. We must ask ourselves, is Canadian industry better served with Industrial Regional Benefits as a hand-me-down from whatever foreign sourced purchases we make? Or would we be better served producing creative products ourselves, and reaping the rewards of a vibrant industry?