I took this photograph of the autopilot controls inside the cockpit of a CF-100. There are a bunch of switches for the autopilot. Why does one have a label of "ATTACK" and what did turning it on/off do?

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ I have absolutely no reference and 100% guess on this: is it possible that "attack" means "angle of attack", not "drop bombs or file missiles" ? $\endgroup$
    – kevin
    Nov 15, 2016 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ It automatically guides the aircraft to an attack (target intercept) based on the flight computer inputs and radar. I can't find a really good source on it, but it has been around since the 1960's. See this Google Books Excerpt $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Nov 15, 2016 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Kevin File them under M for Missile? $\endgroup$
    – Sanchises
    Nov 15, 2016 at 17:08
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    $\begingroup$ Automatically guides the aircraft to a preset set of coordinates or a radar return? $\endgroup$ Nov 15, 2016 at 18:36

1 Answer 1


The [Avro Canada CF-100] Mk 4 had collision-course fire control, the new interception method in which the radar and autopilot interlinked to steer the aircraft automatically to launch the rockets in a salvo to pass through a "box" of sky at the same time as the hostile aircraft. It freed interceptors from the need to attack from behind, and in a side on interception gave a much better reflective target for the radar.


By coupling the radar to the autopilot, the autopilot would steer the aircraft for a firing solution toward where the [unguided] rockets would meet the target (the CF-100 was armed with Mighty Mouse).

own work

Come to think of it, it's the airborne version of a Torpedo Data Computer.

The [F4D Skyray]'s search radar would be used to locate an incoming bomber after initial vectors. The fire-control system would then direct the pilot on a collision course until it determined that the moment had come to fire a salvo of unguided 2.75-inch folding fin rockets. The pilot would then be free to break away. The collision course and rockets were necessary because there was not enough time to position the fighter for a classic attack with guns.

U.S. Naval Air Superiority: Development of Shipborne Jet Fighters - 1943-1962 p.143

A similar system was also used on the Douglas F4D Skyray, but it seems it was guidance only, i.e., no steering.

The Skyray text above hints as to why the CF-100 would also have a BREAKAWAY toggle switch.


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