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OPINION Bill Walton, Volant XF-4b

New Canadian Fighter
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Lost in all the hubbub of US aircraft giant Boeing applying for and receiving punitive duties on Bombardier’s C series passenger jet was the news item regarding a Bombardier subsidiary’s entry into the fighter jet business. Pilotless prototypes of the  Volant XF-4a have been flying for more than six years, however, the larger single-seat manned fighter has now made its appearance in the skies near Valcourt, QC (near the birthplace of Joseph-Armand Bombardier).

Finally, there is an explanation for the long delay in making a decision regarding the replacement of our aging jet fighters: Harper and Trudeau were waiting until our own fighter passed its test flights. This has nothing to do with a similar inability in deciding how to replace our even older naval vessels and don’t even mention the tanks. The only thing we have been doing is making LAVs – but then we sell them to the bad guys. Go figure.

In typical Canadian fashion, it was the small entrepreneur who came up with the idea for a new fighter. Remember Gerald Bull and the Space Gun he tried to sell to Saddam? Fortunately, no one assassinated Joseph-Armand and he lived into retirement, spending many of his last days making balsawood models of his airplane.

Detailed drawings found in J-A’s workshop at his retirement home in Three Pines in the Eastern Townships, show that Armand was thinking about a flying machine early in his career. His initial drawings looked very much like the fictional flying saucers of yore but as his study of aerodynamics taught him, that model needed refinements. His success with the snowmobile may have been a distraction but his notes indicate that he had a working model of the first Volant ready just about the time Dief the Chief cancelled the Avro Arrow. One might guess that Armand was discouraged by the lack of interest in a purely Canadienne fighter that caused him to shelve the project but it may also have been the early problems with the Rotax snowmobile engines stalling at altitude that ended his Volant experiment.

The new Volant is a vector-ducted fanjet design using the C series PW1500G  engine. While this engine could propel the Volant at supersonic speeds the XF-4b is a sub-sonic fighter. Its round shape (much like J-A’s drawings) presents a visually confusing image as opposing fighters cannot tell which direction the Volant is flying: indeed, the Volant can change directions so quickly that the aircraft’s computer takes over until the pilot can regain consciousness. The aircraft has no flat surfaces and is almost stealth to long-range radar. The paint is deflective and reflective rendering the craft difficult to see. The Volant’s sub-sonic speeds (it can stop on a Bluenose dime and hover in whisper mode) may at first thought to be a disadvantage but in test flights against the aging CF-18’s the Volant was very, very difficult to engage.

While the prototype Volant temporarily carries the same armament and defensive components as the CF-18 (parts salvaged from defunct Hornets), the plans are to arm the Volant with one Hellfire type air-to-surface missile and two laser-particle beam guns (now on trial in the Arctic where the green beams can be mistaken for northern lights).

Volant FX Inc., a subsidiary of Bombardier, makes no bones about receiving generous grant funding from both Provincial and Federal governments. Their primary sales target is the CF through DND, however, they will sell to any NATO country including the US of A – a punitive duty on sales to the USA will be set at 500% but may increase after the NAFTA renegotiations. Already there have been attempted takeover offers from Wall Street, however, 55 % of the shares in Volant are held by the aforementioned governments, and this assures the fighter will remain Canadienne (airplanes and ships are ‘female’ in English parlance).

A spokesperson for DND who wished to remain anonymous said there will be a delay in the purchasing decision for the Super Hornets as they test the Volant XF-4b. This has nothing to do with the current dispute between Boeing and Bombardier. I was assured that the relationship between M. Trudeau and M. Trump remained as cordial and phony as ever. Has Justin told our NAFTA team to play hardball with the softwood lumber issue? Not Likely. We’re too timid to apply a countervailing duty on American hardwood. For instance, we could make it illegal for American baseball teams to bring their hardwood bats into Canada – make them use our maple bats.

Avro Arrow enthusiasts have petitioned Volant to name the new fighter the Flèche II but the head office in Three Pines has yet to respond. If you see what appears to be an XF-4b in the sky, try to get a picture and share it on Facebook. Sorry, the resolution on my cell for the above photo is barely acceptable, but I did take it through the security fence.

Okay, so this was fake news. It would have been nice though to have kept our Arrow technology alive and maybe even be building our own fighter jets here in Canada (if we must have them). Just saying . . .