The Avro CF-100 Canuck

v1.0.6 / 01 jul 16 / greg goebel

* Canada and the US collaborated closely on the defense of North America during the Cold War. While the US was clearly the bigger partner in the defense relationship, the Canadians carried their weight, and provided their own distinctive contributions to the partnership. One of the more memorable was the "Avro CF-100 Canuck" interceptor. This straightforward and effective machine served as one of the mainstays of North American air defense through the 1950s. This document provides a history and description of the CF-100.

Avro Canada CF-100 Canuck Mark 4

[1] CF-100 ORIGINS / CF-100 MARK 1 / CF-100 DETAILS

[1] CF-100 ORIGINS / CF-100 MARK 1 / CF-100 DETAILS

* The CF-100 grew out of a January 1945 Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) requirement for a twin-jet, radar-equipped all-weather interceptor. Avro Canada, which had been established by the British Hawker Siddeley group in July 1945 through purchase of the Victory Aircraft plant, got the formal contract to develop the new aircraft under AIR Spec 7-1 in October 1946. The contract specified construction of two flight prototypes and a static test airframe, all with the designation of "XC-100". Development was performed by a team led by the company's chief engineer, John Frost.

The two prototypes were to be powered by twin British Rolls-Royce Avon axial-flow turbojets, but that was strictly an interim engine fit. The Gas Turbine Engine branch of Avro Canada had developed their own axial-flow engine, the "TR4 Chinook", which they then scaled up to the excellent "TR5 Orenda" for the CF-100. Initial test runs of the Orenda were performed in 1949, with results meeting or exceeding expectations.

* The initial "CF-100 Mark 1" prototype, as the XC-100 had been redesignated, performed its initial flight on 19 January 1950, with the aircraft given a snappy overall black color scheme detailed with white lighting bolts running down the sides. Since Avro Canada's test pilots didn't have fast jet experience at the time, first flight honors were performed by Bill Waterton, a Canadian who was the chief test pilot of the British Gloster firm, part of the Hawker Siddeley group. The Mark 1 was powered by two Avon RA.3 turbojets with 28.9 kN (2,950 kgp / 6,500 lbf) thrust each. Performance and handling were up to spec, but the wings flexed too much. That would be a serious issue in early development, aircraft having a nasty tendency to land with cracked wing spars. The problem was a major threat to the program and wouldn't be finally resolved until 1952.

The second prototype performed its first flight in July 1950; it was effectively identical to the first prototype. Its trials included a session at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, where US Air Force pilots got a chance to fly the machine, and were impressed by it. One of the main roles of the second prototype was evaluation of wingtip fuel tanks, which imposed unacceptable stresses on the wings until a fin was attached on the outboard side of each tank. The fins improved overall flight stability as well.

* The CF-100 prototypes set the basic design for the series. The machine was of simple and clean configuration, with a low mounted straight wing and twin jet engines, each mounted in a nacelle next to the fuselage. The fuselage was loaded with fuel tanks and had tandem seating, with the pilot in front and a radar operator in back. Both sat on Martin-Baker ejection seats in a pressurized cockpit, under a canopy that slid back on rails to open.

The wing featured double slotted flaps, airbrakes on both top and bottom, and leading-edge pneumatic de-icing boots. All flight controls were hydraulically actuated. The CF-100 had tricycle landing gear, with the nose gear retracting backward and the main gear hinged in the wings to retract inward to the fuselage. All the gear assemblies had twin wheels to handle the machine's relatively heavy takeoff weight.

The second prototype crashed near London, Ontario, on 5 April 1951, with both crew killed; the cause was believed to be a failure of the crew oxygen system that knocked out the pilot. The first prototype remained in trials service through the 1950s, to be finally scrapped in 1965.



* In July 1949, even before the first flight of the Mark 1, ten unarmed "CF-100 Mark 2" development machines had been ordered. The first, with twin Orenda 2 engines providing 26.7 kN (2,720 kgp / 6,000 lbf) thrust each, performed its initial flight on 20 June 1950. As it turned out, this machine would be the only real Mark 2 as such. The next four in the batch were built as trainers with dual controls and designated "Mark 2T". These five machines were used both for initial RCAF familiarization training and for trials. There was a scheme to build a photo-reconnaissance variant of the Mark 2, designated the "Mark 2P", using one of the Mark 2 evaluation airframes, but this program was canceled.

The success of the flight-test program led to an initial production order in September 1950 for 124 "CF-100 Mark 3s". The initial Mark 3 performed its first flight in September 1952 and entered squadron service with the RCAF in April 1953, to be given the name "Canuck". The RCAF never actually liked the name much in practice, and pilots and crews would generally call it the "Clunk".

Avro Canada CF-100 Mark 3

The Mark 3 was fitted with a US-built Hughes E-1 fire control system, organized around an AN/APG-33 radar mounted in the nose, the same radar as fitted to the CF-100's American counterpart, the Northrop F-89A Scorpion. Armament consisted of eight 12.7-millimeter (0.50-caliber) Browning machine guns in a belly tray that could be dropped out for fast servicing. Trials were conducted with a tray containing four 20-millimeter cannon, but technical problems led to the abandonment of this weapons fit. The Mark 3 featured a pitot tube on the left wing; earlier aircraft had been occasionally fitted with a nose pitot tube during trials. The Mark 3s generally flew in natural metal finish.

Two stores pylons could be fitted under each wing, for a total of four, for carriage of munitions, such as four 450-kilogram (1,000-pound) bombs. However, though the test program had included bombing trials, the CF-100 would never be assigned to the attack role operationally. Trials also included tests of "rocket assisted take-off gear (RATOG)", but though the scheme worked well, it was also not used operationally.

CF-100 Mark 3A with Velvet Glove AAMs

Another test fit evaluated by the Mark 3 was the "Velvet Glove" radar-guided air-to-air missile (AAM), with four missiles carried on the underwing pylons, or in some trials on pylons under the fuselage and engine intakes. Velvet Glove was a collaborative effort conducted by Canada, the US, and the UK; most of the missile was designed in Canada, with a solid-rocket motor provided by the US. The program was canceled in 1956 and Velvet Glove never entered service.

Only 70 Mark 3s were actually built, not counting four pre-production machines that had actually started life as part of the batch of ten Mark 2 pre-production aircraft; these four aircraft were built as "Mark 3T" dual-control trainers. Of the 70 production Mark 3s:

In service, the Mark 3 was promising, but it suffered from a number of teething problems; the Mark 3s amounted in effect to training and evaluation machines. One problem was that the control stick obscured the compass, a problem that was fixed in the field by modifying the stick. A second problem was a manual fuel control system that was too workload-intensive; the fuel system was also overly complicated and unreliable. Other annoyances were lack of nosewheel steering and unreliable landing gear.

When the Mark 3 was supplanted by improved versions of the Canuck, 4 Mark 3A and 43 Mark 3B machines were converted by Bristol Canada to "Mark 3D" dual control trainers, with the Mark 3As upgraded to Orenda 8 engines in the process. This exercise was followed by conversion of 9 Mark 3CTs to the Mark 3D standard, with these aircraft retaining Orenda 2 engines.

* In the meantime, the RCAF decided to adopt the American practice of using clusters of unguided 70-millimeter (2.75-inch) "Mighty Mouse" folding fin rockets as an air-to-air weapon, instead of guns. One of the Mark 2Ts was used for initial trials of wingtip-mounted rocket pods.

The first operational variant to carry the rockets was the "CF-100 Mark 4", with the initial prototype, which had started life as the last of the ten pre-production Mark 2s, performing its first flight on 11 October 1952. It could outrun its Sabre chase plane, though it was nowhere near as agile as the Sabre. The prototype even broke Mach 1 in a dive on 4 December of that year. It was used for evaluation of a belly rocket pack, mounted behind the gun pack, that could carry 48 FFARs. The belly pack caused severe buffeting when it was extended, and was abandoned. The Mark 4 prototype was lost during trials with this weapons fit on 23 August 1954, the pilot ejecting successfully but the back-seater being killed.

Avro Canada CF-100 Mark 4

The first production Mark 4 was rolled out in September 1953. The Mark 4 featured:

Early production Mark 4s lacked an autopilot; it is unclear if they were refitted with one later. Most Mark 4 production had a tail bumper, but it was deleted from late production aircraft.

The Mark 4 was the first honestly satisfactory CF-100 variant, and so the last the Mark 3 order was cut short, ending Mark 3 production as mentioned at 70 aircraft. 137 Mark 4s were built, and then the uprated Orenda 11 engine, with 32.4 kN (3,300 kgp / 7,275 lbf) thrust, was introduced as a production change; 193 of these souped-up Mark 4s were built and designated "Mark 4B", with the 70 Orenda 9 powered machines retroactively redesignated "Mark 4A". Two of the Mark 4As were converted to Mark 4B configuration.

* The last CF-100 variant was the "Mark 5", which had a simple straight 1.06-meter (3.5-foot) extension to each wingtip and wider tailplane to increase the type's operational ceiling. The Mark 5s were powered by Orenda 11s, or Orenda 14s with similar thrust. The Mark 5s were armed solely with wingtip rocket pods, the gun pack and gunsight being deleted. Wing leading-edge de-icing boots and the unused fittings for RATOG were also deleted to reduce weight.

Avro Canada CF-100 Mark 5

First flight of the Mark 5 prototype was in September 1954, with first flight of a production item on 12 October 1955.

   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                17.75 meters        58 feet
   wing area               54.9 sq_meters      591 sq_feet
   length                  16.7 meters         54 feet 2 inches
   height                  4.76 meters         15 feet 6 inches

   empty weight            10,480 kilograms    23,100 pounds
   loaded weight           16,800 kilograms    37,000 pounds

   max speed at altitude   1,110 KPH           690 MPH / 600 KT
   service ceiling         16,460 meters       54,000 feet
   range                   4,000 kilometers    2,500 MI / 2,175 NMI
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

281 Mark 5s were built as new production, and 49 Mark 4Bs were upgraded to the Mark 5 standard. A total of 693 Canucks was built in all; it was the only Canadian-designed jet fighter to ever reach production.

The CF-100 served with nine RCAF squadrons at its peak, in the mid-1950s. Four of these squadrons were deployed to Europe from late 1956 into 1962 under the NIMBLE BAT ferry program, replacing squadrons equipped with Canadair Sabre day-fighters to provide all-weather defense against Soviet intruders. Canucks flying at home retained natural metal finish, but those flying overseas were given a British-style disruptive camouflage scheme -- dark sea gray and green on top, light sea gray on the bottom.

Following the end of the CF-100's first-line service, a small number of Mark 5s were refitted as electronic countermeasures aircraft. The initial conversion was the "Mark 5C", featuring active radar jammers, fitted in the gun pack bay, and chaff dispensers on underwing pylons. The wingtip extensions were removed and wingtip tanks were carried as standard. These machines were followed by "Mark 5D" conversions, which added active communications jamming gear. They stayed in service until 1981 and were the last CF-100s to fly for the RCAF. For the farewell flight, at least one was painted black with white lightning bolts up each side of fuselage, the same paint scheme used on the initial Mark 1 prototypes.

53 Mark 5s were also provided to the Belgian Air Force, all being filtered through the RCAF and with initial deliveries in late 1957. They flew using the same disruptive camouflage scheme applied to RCAF CF-100s in Europe. The Belgian Mark 5s were retired in the early 1960s, and all were scrapped. Not one made its way to an air museum; in 1971 a Belgian air museum bought a Canadian CF-100 for the princely sum of a Canadian dollar, with the Belgians displaying it with its original RCAF markings.

* The following table provides a summary of CF-100 variants and production:


   type    built  upgraded  comments

   Mark 1      2            Initial prototypes with Avon engines.

   Mark 2      1            Evaluation machine with Orenda engines.
   Mark 2T     4            Mark 2 dual-control trainer.

   Mark 3T     4            Mark 2s built as dual-control trainers.
   Mark 3A     9            Production machines with Orenda 2 engines.
   Mark 3CT   11            Mark 3As built as dual-control trainers.
   Mark 3B    50            Production machines with Orenda 8 engines.
   Mark 3D     -        56  Mark 3 conversions to improved trainer.

   Mark 4A   138            Rocket armament, Orenda 9 engines.
   Mark 4B   193         2  Mark 4A with Orenda 11 engines.

   Mark 5    281        49  Stretched wings for altitude improvement.
   Mark 5C     -         ?  ECM conversions.
   Mark 5D     -         ?  Improved ECM conversions.

             693  TOTAL CF-100 PRODUCTION



* There were a number of special variants and modifications of the Canuck:

There were several concepts for a "Mark 6", such as a machine with afterburning Orenda 11R ("reheat") engines and Sparrow armament. The "Mark 7" was to feature a thinner wing and Sparrow armament. The "Mark X" was a concept for a high-altitude machine that added a Bristol Orpheus turbojet to each wingtip; and the "CF-103" was a swept-wing version of the Canuck.

CF-100 Mark 6 proposal

None of these machines were built. The CF-103 led, somewhat indirectly, to the development of the ultra-sophisticated Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow interceptor. The Arrow program effectively blocked development of improved Canuck variants, and unfortunately the CF-105 ended up being canceled in 1959 in one of the most painful defense-procurement fiascos of all time.

Avro Canada then proposed a "CF-100 Mark 8" that would carry long-range missiles and feature improved radar and new engines, but the Canadian government had already selected the US McDonnell F-101B Voodoo as their next-generation interceptor. The Voodoo wasn't an Arrow, but it was certainly a generation ahead of the Canuck; the F-101B replaced the Canuck in the RCAF for air defense in the early 1960s.



* As concerns copyrights and permissions for this document, all illustrations and images credited to me are public domain. I reserve all rights to my writings. However, if anyone does want to make use of my writings, just contact me, and we can chat about it. I'm lenient in giving permissions, usually on the basis of being properly credited.

Avro Canada CF-100 Canuck

* Sources include:

* Revision history:

   v1.0.0 / 01 jun 05 
   v1.0.1 / 01 may 07 / Review & polish.
   v1.0.2 / 01 apr 09 / Review & polish.
   v1.0.3 / 01 oct 10 / Review & polish.
   v1.0.4 / 01 sep 12 / Review & polish.
   v1.0.5 / 01 aug 14 / Review & polish.
   v1.0.6 / 01 jul 16 / Review & polish.