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Canada buys the A4 Skyhawk

uk 75

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Did Canada ever consider the A4 Skyhawk for its carrier aviation and Norway reinforcement role (instead of F5)? Would have been able to operate with USN/USMC.
 

isayyo2

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Well there was the CA-4E/F proposal from 1965: Proposal HMCS Bonventure did last until 1970 so it could have very feasible, but Canada rejected the proposal. A shame really, but I don’t know enough about my northern neighbor to make them more “defense oriented”.
 

SSgtC

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You need to get Canada to decide that Bonnaveture needs at least rudimentary fighter cover while performing her ASW mission. That is likely to lead to either a small A-4 purchase or having a USN or USMC flight serve onboard alongside the RCN
 

Apophenia

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As SSgtC points out, in her final years, the mission for HMCS Bonaventure was purely ASW. The Royal Canadian Navy retired its last Banshee in 1962 and that was the end of Canadian naval fighters. As for working with the USN/USMC, politically, having US aircraft embarked would have been a non-starter.

The timing shows that the CA-4E/CA-4F were being pitched at the RCAF not the RCN. This was for the RCAF 'lightweight fighter' requirement which would won by the Freedom Fighter. The RCAF preferred the Phantom although how the F-4 qualified as 'lightweight', I don't know. (Apparently, neither did the GoC.)

By all accounts, Northrop won with the CF-116 on the grounds of low cost (purchase and operating), twin-engined reliability (in contrast to CF-104 experience), and a willingness for license-production of airframes (by Canadair) and engines (by Orenda).
 

uk 75

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It can be added that the Dutch and Norwegian Air Forces also ordered F5s to serve in NATO alongside the Canadian ones.
Although Bonnie became an ASW carrier (CVS) some A4s in the anti-snooper role would have been useful as in the US ships. The Dutch might then have followed suit with their carrier.
A4s would have given Canadian, Dutch and Norwegian units the same kit as the USMC also reinforcing Norway.
 

riggerrob

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Dear issayo2,
After World War 2, Canada rapidly de-armed as the Federal Gov't built a cradle-to-grave welfare state, socialized medicine, education for Baby-Boomers, etc.
This was financed by Canada's booming post-war economy and massive defense cuts.
Canadian admirals were still trying to fight the last war with "big ships" even though the defense budget could not support "big ships." By the late 1950s, the RCN returned their focus to ASW in support of convoy-escort with big helicopters flying from small ships, hence the Bear Trap system to land 21,000 pound Sikorsky Sea King helicopters on small DDE and DDH destroyers.
This narrowed ASW focus forced them to abandon jet fighters. Banshees were obsolete by 1960, so HMCS Bonaventure only carried Trackers and Sea Kings during her last few voyages.

I doubt if A4 Skyhawk could have seriously defended a convoy since it was sub-sonic and primarily designed for ground attack. Look at (British Royal Navy) experience flying (similar sub-sonic performance) Harriers during the Falklands War. RN Sea Harriers downed 20 Argentine aircraft including helicopters, transports, A-4 Skyhawks and Mirage IIIs. RN attribute their zero air combat losses to superior piloting, though Argentine pilots were certainly courageous. RAF Harriers did not score any air-to-air kills because they were only configured for ground attack.

The CF-5 Freedom Fighters were a political diversion. Quebec Separatists were getting uppity during the 1960s, so the Federal Gov't "bought votes" on Montreal Island by license-building CF-5s at Canadair. Since then, all federal contracts have been biased towards Quebec. The RCAF struggled to find a combat role for these short-legged, light-weight fighters. Propaganda photos showed CF-5s refuelling from Boeing 707s while patrolling the Canadian Arctic. Hah!
The RCAF only ever had a pair of Boeing 707s and they were heavily tasked with a dozen other missions.
CF-5s were so short-legged that they could barely deliver a full bomb load to the end of their own runways! Eventually CF-5s were relegated to photo-recon and lead-in trainers for more expensive supersonic fighters (CF-101 Voodoos, CF-104 Starfighters and CF-188 Hornets).

The RCAF inherited USAF-surplus CF-101 Voodoos by default. After the cancelled CF-105 Avro Arrow and disappointing Bomark missle, the RCAF still needed long-range interceptors to chase Russian Bears away from Canadian shores. Fortunately, during the mid-1960s, the USAF was retiring their F-101 interceptors in favor of multi-mission F-4 Phantoms. The trade also included some RCAF instructor pilots posted to Texas to train young American pilots.
The RCAF would have preferred multi-mission F-4 Phantoms, but all the production was destined for the Vietnam War.

P.S. I worked on the flight decks of HMCS Iroquois and HMCS Athabaskan during the early 1980s.
 
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uk 75

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Many thanks @riggerrob for your insightful post!
Very much agree.
My suggestion about A4s was based purely on my understanding of Canada's NATO roles.
On a CVS a handful were only intended as anti-snooper patrols against Bears and Badgers (the original role of Harriers on the Invincibles)
I always saw the F5s as being Norway based reinforcements.
But your account sets out the real world position.
RN Type 12s with bear traps and Seakings would have been very handy.
I think Canada cropped up during the lengthy UK Phantom procurement saga as a possible partner.
 

GK Dundas

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There was proposal in mid 1964 by the Navy to purchase 21 A4s along with modifications to several DDEs to carry ASROC . As well as mid life refits to the Trackers and new Minesweepers.
And because Nothing's to good for our boys in service....that's pretty much what they got.
Actually what they got instead were the Tribal class DDHs and the ASROC Not a total loss of course and they were needed if only to keep the ability to build warships alive. And over the course of their lives they contributed immeasurably to navy and the nation.
but I can't help but wonder how much more the navy could have contributed if only the proposal had even been considered by the Government of the day.
Many thanks @riggerrob for your insightful post!
Very much agree.
My suggestion about A4s was based purely on my understanding of Canada's NATO roles.
On a CVS a handful were only intended as anti-snooper patrols against Bears and Badgers (the original role of Harriers on the Invincibles)
I always saw the F5s as being Norway based reinforcements.
But your account sets out the real world position.
RN Type 12s with bear traps and Seakings would have been very handy.
I think Canada cropped up during the lengthy UK Phantom procurement saga as a possible partner.
The CF 5 was a political plane if ever there was one. I had a cousin who flew one back in the day. And as much.as he loved flying them . He was quite well aware of their faults. Range of course being the biggest problem.
As for Norway or as the troops called it "Hong Kong north" ,was purely a political decision made as much for domestic consumption as for NATO's .
There was never any intent by the Government to honour that commitment .
Which quite frankly was just as well . It would have made the charge of the Light Brigade look like a.sensible military operation.
In the early to mid eighties the Conservative government actually tried to conduct an exercise deploying the CAST brigade. It was an extremely bad joke and thankfully just an exercise.
 

uk 75

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Canada did a good job of bluffing NATO and its allies.
This American boardgame published in 1983 reflected that misplaced optimism
 

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GK Dundas

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Canada did a good job of bluffing NATO and its allies.
This American boardgame published in 1983 reflected that misplaced optimism
To be fair it wasn't just the politicians fault.
Between the interservice rivalry (which wasn't even supposed to exist anymore because of unification done some twenty years before.) And the military had lost the ability to basically deploy and fight a war.
It was a real wake-up call. And there are still gaps in our capabilities to do this .
 

Apophenia

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Non-Canadians may want to just skip past this bit ... ;)

...This was financed by Canada's booming post-war economy and massive defense cuts...

riggerrob: Following GK Dundas' lead, I would argue that the RCN's failure to gain "big ships" had more to do with how the DND budget was divvied up. Naval and Army procurement came in a poor second and third behind the "the Big Air Force" concept (although that had crested by the time of Diefenbaker). The Directorate of Air Requirements also plays a much bigger part in its own 'disappointments' than is usually acknowledged.

You are quite right about Canada's postwar disarmament. But that brings up the persistent story about a Canadian postwar economic boom. The postwar period was certainly much better in Canada than the '30s. But boom times? I would argue that some of that viewpoint represented a 'contact high' with then-phenomenal US economic growth. Certainly basic Canadian economic health was better than today - many jobs were for life; a higher education wasn't an invitation to endless debt; and suburban sprawl was proceeding apace with affordable, fixed-rate mortgages. [1] But ... cherry-picking here from economic indicators ... what about growth in Canadian jobs?

Job-creation under St. Laurent and Diefenbaker (1948-1963) was stagnate at 1.8% (the lowest post-WW2 Canadian job numbers other than under Stephen Harper). Contrast with Harry Truman (1945-1953). Under Truman, US job growth averaged 15.4%. Even scaling for population (1948 Canada 12.8M vs US 146.6M) Truman's added 8.1M new positions would work out to something like 688,500 Canadian jobs. (If only!) My point being, US administrations had the income tax revenue to finance major military procurement.

For smaller economies, procurement is far trickier. As an example, take the New Fighter Aircraft project which was to replace the CF-5 (and others). That LPC policy-reversal was directed, in part, by CAST. But NPA deliveries didn't begin until 1982 - when the new PC GoC were in the midst of a major recession with 12.8% unemployment (up 50% in a year and the highest since 1934). Small wonder then, under such conditions, that the Mulroney Tories promised much but proved willing to pay for very little.

CF-5: Ottawa's pandering to Quebec far predates the souverainistes. Quebec votes can make or break Canadian governments so that bias is tied to basic political survival. On the other hand, has there ever been a peacetime fighter buy that wasn't inherently political? Nor was there anything unusual at the time for license production arrangements - many of Canada's NATO allies had similar deals. BTW, your 'Sea Thing' (RCN CHSS-2) was also nailed together in Quebec - at UAC Longueuil (the old Fairchild Aircraft plant, IIRC) :p

Sure there was a political bias towards Cartierville-based Canadair. But, the fact is, no other Canadian firm had experience in modern fighter construction. Canadair did - with the CL-90 Starfighters and the CL-13 Sabres before them. Canadair was also a subsidiary of Electric Boat/General Dynamics. So, RIBs + indirect income for US industry (although the latter can be easily overstated. I haven't checked but I suspect that the US taxpayer funded most if not all of the Netherlands' Canadair NF-5 purchase).

I would also emphasize that the original intended role for those 'lightweight fighters' was as lead-in tactical trainers to take heat off of the CF-104 fleet. All that predated CAST. It could be argued that the 1968 formation of CAST was the perfect opportunity for RCAF planners to argue for pushing the 'Supersonic Tinkertoys' back to their original tactical training role after buying a few Harriers for CAST. Still, back in the RW, it is worth remembering that one reason that the job fell to the CF-5s was that the Luftforsvaret were then flying similar Northrop F-5A(G) fighters (operational 1966-2000).

Apologies for being so long. And now we return to our regularly schedule programming ...

________________________

[1] Here, I'm not suggesting that the GoC has been 'cooking the books'. Only that they have always been highly selective in how their chosen statistics 'paint the picture' they want displayed. And, of course, statistics began much more GoC-friendly when StatsCan started omitting inconvenient numbers circa 1976.

As an even more OT comment, note that the GoC rarely acknowledges that Britain was paying Ottawa back for war debts until 2006. I find that odd. There is often public comment on UK repayments to the US (totalling £3.8B/US$7.5B) but rarely about the (£1B/US$2B) to Canada. As per capita numbers, those Canadian repayments are obviously much more significant and have been awfully handy for making GoC budgets look more balanced.
 

riggerrob

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Dear Apophenia,
Thanks for filling in the statistical and political back-story.

I was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec during 1957, so grew up in the whole FLQ era and by 1975, QPP made it clear that I no longer counted as a "white man" in my home town, in front of my grand-mother's house. Most of my generation moved out.

Yes those Canadian Sea King helicopters were bolted together in Longeuil. Supposedly, they were supposed to be the start of a much larger production line, but the RCN was their only customer. I question the profitability of manufacturing parts in Connecticut, crating them, shipping them to Quebec, un-crating them and bolting them together in Quebec. ... but at least it bought Ottawa politicians a few votes.
 

riggerrob

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by Jim Atwood
"In July 1957 I was posted to NDHQ-DAE to work with Cmdr Jim Hunter in the search for a new fighter to replace the Banshee. This study was appropriately named "Project Holy Grail". Jim had already looked at UK aircraft, one being the Saunders-Roe SR.177, a combined rocket/jet propulsion proposal (interesting by frightening), and I joined him to evaluate some US aircraft. We compared Bonaventure's capabilities with data from the Douglas A4D, Grumman F11F, North American Fury and Northrup N.156 (later developed into the CF-5).
Later in 1964, an A4E flight characteristics evaluation of some 8 hours was conducted by Dave Tate and Joe Sosnkowski at the Douglas facility in Palmdale, California. Following theses flights, in 1965, carrier suitability trials were flown by two USN pilots aboard Bonaventure. The results concluded that the A4E was acceptable for service use aboard Bonaventure under the operating conditions tested."

quoted from page 93 of "Certified Serviceable Swordfish to Sea King, The Technical Story of Canadian Naval Aviation by Those Who Made It So."
Written by Captain Rolfe G. Monteith CD, R.C.N. (Ret'd), edited by Peter Charlton and Michael Whitby.
Copyright 1995, CHATH Book Project,
ISBN 0-9699595-0-8
The book tells the story of RCN aircraft maintenance from the prospective of Air Engineering Officers.

Somewhere else I read that A4E could launch a full load with only 10 knots of wind across the flight deck of Bonaventure.
 

uk 75

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Thanks everyone. I am finding this fascinating and certainly fleshes out my limited knowledge of Canada in relation to NATO.
At school.and university I had access to board wargames which were popular in the 1970s.
Two such games have a Canadian flavour.
This game came with a full article about Canadian politics but also its military.
The second game was a very simple ship vs ship enounter between NATO and the Sovs produced by a Canadian firm.
A decade later I found myself as a civil servant attached for a couple of years to the British mission at NATO HQ in Brussels. During the annual staff exercise (Wintex) I bought a copy of another Canadian boardgame
It was interesting using the simple map and counters in the game to follow the bigger version on the wall in our office. CAST of course featured.
 
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riggerrob

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Dear uk 75,
Your lack of knowledge about Canadian politics and military affairs is nothing unusual.
Don't feel bad because the Canadian public was kept in the dark about most military activities and serving soldiers knew only slightly more.
My knowledge has accumulated since I was born in Quebec (1957), served in the Canadian Armed Forces (1974 to 1987) and read extensively ever since.
For example, I did not know that nuclear weapons were stationed in Canada until the day I jogged past a bomb dump guarded by USAF Air Police.
 

GK Dundas

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A couple years ago during a late night conversation among some friends. Someone suggested that if the navy could have actually gotten it's act together. It might have been able to acquire a large part of it's wish list. Not every thing of course but a fair bit.
However that would have required the various heads of the branches of the navy to behave like responsible and reasonable adults as opposed to spoiled 4 year olds.
This would have included a Director of Naval Aviation who viewed getting an Essex class carrier as an interim step to his eventual goal of a mini version of the Enterprise complete with nuclear propulsion!
Destroyer types who were convinced that that in spite of all evidence to the contrary that all we needed were an all destroyer/frigate fleet.
That doesn't even cover the army and the air force all of which were living in their own private little universes.
and the we had the department's civil servants...
 

Apophenia

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riggerrob: You grew up in the cauldron! Plenty of souverainistes will have cheered on the exodus of les Anglais and allophones. Then, if I've got this right, Quebec moves from being favoured for votes to needing preferential treatment to survive economically. (If that's not the case, it is hard to understand many Canadian trade practices of the past quarter century).

CH-124s: Interesting about anticipated export of further UAC-assembled Sea Kings. Any idea who they had in mind for customers? Mind you, I'm also reminded of the Halifax class 20 years later. The FFHs would basically pay for themselves. First, guaranteed export customer was Saudi Arabia, the second was ... oh wait, none of that ever happened ;p

Interesting stuff about aircraft evaluated for potential Bonaventure use - especially the A4E and F11F.

GK Dundas: Spot on. "If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat." The relationship between bureaucracy and service is essentially confrontational even if we might wish it different. Thus, to get their "act together", the top job for DND planning and procurement officers is outplaying MNDs, DMs, ADMs, and PSPC officials at their own game.

The citizenry are kept in the dark through habit and by preference (NDHQ wasn't called the 'Puzzle Palace' for nothing). By and large, the former are fine with that. They don't have the time or inclination to learn the details. Rather, the public expects the Brass to be SMEs who know what to procure and to always get it right. A tough row to hoe for the Chiefs ... but who ever said top command positions would be easy?
 

RavenOne

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Did Canada ever consider the A4 Skyhawk for its carrier aviation and Norway reinforcement role (instead of F5)? Would have been able to operate with USN/USMC.

Well Top Aces,(formerly Discovery Air Defense when it was under the umbrella), operate fleet of ex IDF/AF A-4N in the contract aggressor role alongside the Alpha Jet, IAI Westwind etc. Top Aces has contracted with NATO, based out of Wittmund in Germany.

Here are my photos of their A-4N on static at ILa Berlin 2016.

cheers

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riggerrob

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riggerrob: You grew up in the cauldron! Plenty of souverainistes will have cheered on the exodus of les Anglais and allophones. ....

Yes, souverainistes really "shot themselves in the foot" on that issue!
Hah!
Hah!
Their attitude was "we have been oppressed for 'X' hundred years, so now it is our turn to oppress others."
They started by chasing off their hated "anglais" overlords. But they failed to project that those hated "anglais" overlords controlled the major banks and corporations which quietly moved "big money" and corporate headquarters from Montreal to Toronto. Montreal soon became the SECOND largest city in Canada.
Hah!
Hah!
Even more amusing was souveraintistes' attitudes towards immigration. As "habitant" birth rates dropped - during the 1960s - they tried to attract immigrants from other Catholic, former French colonies. Lots of North Africans applied (Sengal, Chad, Algeria, Morocco, etc.) for immigration visas. These potential immigrants were Catholic and they spoke french, but HORROR OF HORRORS; they were black!!!
Hah!
Hah!
Quebec even set up their own, distinct Quebec immigration ministry.
The irony of habitant attitudes is that when I visited my home town (Lennoxville, Quebec) last year, there were few remaining anglophones my age. Half of the remaining anglophones were in retirement homes, but the streets were teeming with dark-skinned Somalis, Afghans and refugees from a dozen Middle-Eastern Wars!
Hah!
Hah!
 

GK Dundas

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I keep thinking of about the various projects that the navy projected for the late sixties . And the ironic thing.thing was that they basically building towards the naval side of the Infamous CAST.brigade.
I wonder if anyone in the Government ever looked back and realised that it might have actually be doable.
hindsight .heh!
 
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