If we can build big ships…

…why can’t we build airplanes too? The Federal Government Wednesday announced that Irving Shipbuilding and Seaspan Marine would split $33 Billion in ship construction contracts. This is great, not outsourcing to some other country to meet our defensive needs for the next 30 years. My question is why can’t we build our own airplanes and helicopters too?

Avro CF105 Arrow Mk.1 – Department of National Defense photo

We did build our own airplanes. Not just the Arrow, but 692 CF-100 Canucks… 692!!! Throughout the 20th Century there were many things we built ourselves for our military, either designed by Canadians or built under license by Canadian companies.

So the question is, WHY don’t we build more things ourselves? For many years it was argued that we didn`t have enough volume(read orders) to do it ourselves; or that we should join in with our allies and share costs (read economies of scale). It was argued that some of the skills required we may not have(not proven).

When the Avro Arrow project was cancelled in 1959, many of the engineers that worked for Avro were hired by Nasa. The Mercury and Apollo Space programs were designed in part by Canadians. Furthermore engineers from Avro also went to work for McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed and others, designing everything from Delta-Wing fighters to stealth bombers.

That was in the 20th Century. Look at computers now, what can be designed, modeled and built because of them. Laser precision construction, ultra-fine tolerances, microscopic milling.

So why do we need an F35 fighter jet? Why can’t we design our own jets?