Avro Canada CF-106 Lance
The Avro Canada CF-106 Lance is a variable-geometry fighter aircraft, designed by the Avro Canada in the Canada. It is considered to belong to the Canadian third-generation jet fighter category. Development began as early as 1959 when the Avro design team realized the Arrow would only be capable of performing very limited roles such as interception and reconnaissance and I wouldn’t be long before the RCAF asked for a more versatile aircraft to complement the Arrow. The CF-106's predecessor, the CF-105, was fast but limited in its operational capabilities by its large size, narrow role and lack of maneuverability. The CF-106 was to be a smaller, more versatile machine designed to remedy these deficiencies, and match other aircraft like the F-4 Phantom. The new fighter was to feature improved sensors and weapon system capable of firing beyond-visual-range (BVR) missiles and also ground attack weapons. A major design consideration was take-off and landing performance. The CF-105 with its large delta wing required very long runways which restricted their tactical usefulness. The RCAF demanded the new aircraft have a much shorter take-off run. Low-level speed and handling was also to be improved over the CF-105. This led Avro to consider lift jets, to provide an additional lift component, and variable-geometry wings designs.
The order to start series production of the CF-106 was given in December 1962. The first production CF-106 took to the air on 11 May 1965. The General Dynamics F-111 and McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II were the main Western influences on the CF-106. The Canadians, however, wanted a much lighter fighter to maximize agility. Both the F-111 and the F-4 were designed as fighters, but the heavy weight and inherent stability of the F-111 turned it into a long-range interdictor and kept it out of the fighter role and the Phantom suffered considerable stability problems. The CF-106’s designers kept the CF-106 lighter than the F-4 and agile enough to dogfight with enemy fighters.The first major production model, the CF-106 Mk.3, first flew in January 1971. The Mk.3 was largely similar to the Mk.2, having a full operational fit. The Mk.3 was equipped with the Orenda 19 turbojet engine with greater thrust. The CF-106 Mk.3 was armed with twin 30 mm ADEN cannons fitted in the belly with the gun ports under the fuselage. Unlike early Mk.2s the Mk.3 had two extra stores pylons, one under each wing. The outboard pylon was intended to carry infra red guided Air to Air missiles. A total of 162 Mk.3s were obtained by the Royal Canadian Air Force, with initial operational deliveries in July 1971. The Mk.3 remained in service with the RCAF until 1988 although most of the fleet was quickly upgraded to the Mk.4 standard from 1974 onwards. The RCAF also ordered a two-seat Mk.3T operational trainer, which first flew in March 1971 and the Mk.3R for reconnaissance missions. While the Mk.3 was being put into production, Avro was also considering an improved variant of the aircraft with greater ground attack capabilities, which eventually materialized as the Mk.4. The first of three prototypes flew on 1 February 1972. The Mk.4 differed from the Mk.3 interceptor most obviously in having more powerful engines, improved avionics and radar. The first production Mk.4 was delivered to the RCAF in July 1972, and a total of 336 were eventually delivered to that RCAF plus a total of 172 Mk.3 airframes upgraded to the Mk.4 standard. Total production of the Mk.4, including exports, was substantial, totalling 820 aircraft.
Avro Canada actively marketed the CF-106 abroad attracting interest from several potential costumers, the first country to show interest on the CF-106 was the Hellenic Kingdom as far back as 1965, the Royal Hellenic Air Force wanted a fighter with long range missiles, large CAP time, but also agile enough for dogfights. After a survey in international market, only the CF-106 was found to fulfill all requirements. A license for local production was acquired with the deal covering the delivery of an initial batch of Canadian built aircraft to be followed by aircraft and engines manufactured in the Hellenic kingdom. Thanks to its aggressive marketing campaign Avro managed to secure deals with Australia and the United Kingdom again with both countries making arrangements for local production. Delivery of the first Hellenic CF-106's took place in October 1973 with a pair CF-106 Mk.4H powered by Orenda 20 thundering above the Thessaloniki Military Parade. Full production of the CF-106 Mk.4H began in the Hellenic kingdom in 1975, by then the Hellenic order had increased to a total of 260 aircraft for the Air force and the Navy. In 1977 the Hellenic Factory of Turbine Engines began a project to upgrade Orenda 20/22 engines for Hot climates re-designating them as the 20M/22M variants. With the main difference being the installation of a new Hellenic designed afterburner, increasing thrust to 20,400lb guaranteed minimum, entering production in 1979.
Another major costumer for the CF-106 was the United Kingdom, in the mid sixties the RAF and the Royal Navy realized their interceptors such as the English Electric Lightning, suffered badly both in terms of range, loiter time and weapons fit, all of which hampered its effectiveness, especially in long interceptions of Soviet Air Forces and Soviet Naval Aviation bombers and reconnaissance aircraft over the North Sea and North Atlantic. Originally the both services had showed interest in the McDonnell F-4 Phantom in 1965 but the Phantoms shortcomings and its performance during the Vietnam war pushed the British to consider other alternatives, in 1966 a commission was sent to Canada to examine the new Avro CF-106, the report presented to the government stated that the Canadian aircraft was superior to the Phantom and it recommended the aircraft for British service. The decision was delayed due to the US governments insistence for the UK to order the Phantom, but the British government rejected the aircraft ones more, then in 1970 in a last attempt to beat the Canadians the US government offered the brand new F-14 Tomcat then in testing to the Royal Navy and the RAF, going as far sending an F-14 to Britain to be tested. British pilots had no doubt the F-14 was the best fighter available at the time but it was still in testing and its cost would never allow either the RAF or the FAA to acquire the number of aircraft they required, this lead the British government to place an order for the CF-106.
The UK's adoption of the CF-106 attracted the attention of the Royal Australian Air Force which at the time was looking for an aircraft that could perform a variety of missions from long range interception and interdiction to anti-ship strike and that would fill the gap between the Australian Mirage IIIs and their TSR2s. In 1971 a delegation of the RAAF visited Canada to examine the CF-106. After a series of test flights and briefing from Avro's mechanics and test pilots the RAAF delegation recommended the purchase of the CF-106, the contract was signed in late 1971, this included a license to produce the CF-106 in Australia. The first ten aircraft were delivered directly from Canada and put into service with RAAF in 1974. In the 1980s, a Mid life Upgrade program was conducted to evolve the CF-106's capabilities. The MLU process permitted the quick introduction of new capabilities, at lower costs and with reduced risks compared to traditional independent upgrade programs. In 1985, the RCAF had allocated funds to upgrade 350 CF-106s while waiting for the CF-107 to enter service. This upgrade included installation of a wide-angle HUD, a digital mission computer and some structural improvements. The main updates involved the radar, mission computer, HOTAS, the addition of an in flight refueling probe and the replacement of the original engines by the more powerful and reliable Orenda 20/22M. The upgraded aircraft first flew on July 1987 and was formally accepted on August 1987. The MLU program was also applied to British, Australian and Hellenic CF-106s.
Following the development of the MLU upgrade, Avro continued to experiment with yet more upgrades for the CF-106 series, named the Super Lance. Unlike the upgraded Mk.4s, the Super Lance was powered by the Orenda 25 engine used in the CF-107. The prototype, a conversion of a CF-106 Mk.4, flew in December 2002. Avionics were completely modernized, taking advantage from the development effort for the new CF-107 variants and the 5th generation CF-110 fighter then in development. The Super Lance upgrade added a fly-by-wire system to the aircraft, and featured an advanced nav/attack system; new multimode AESA radar; and a laser rangefinder system. The new engine gave the Super Lance impressive performance. The upgrade was originally intended for export CF-106s only but with increasing delays in the 5th generation aircrafts development the upgrade began to be applied to RCAF aircraft in 2004 with the upgraded aircraft designated as CF-106 MK.8. Of the CF-106 operators only the Hellenic Kingdom chose to upgrade its aircraft with the UK and Australia opting to procure more modern aircraft.