The Mystery Airplane

Commonwealth (CAC) CA-13 Boomerang

 

February 1, 2020

Photo courtesy of Tom Lymburn

December Contest Photo: Commonwealth (CAC) CA-13 Boomerang

Formed in October 1936, with a new factory at Fishermen's Bend, in Melbourne, Australia, Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) gave Australia a much needed national facility for aircraft manufacture. With Wing Commander Lawrence Wackett as chief designer, CAC began manufacture of trainers for the RAAF. Its first major product was a modified version of the North American NA-16, called the Wirraway, of which 755 were built.

With access to modern fighter aircraft from Britain or the United States impossible due to the war against Japan, CAC developed a "panic fighter" using the 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radial mounted on an airframe using the wing center section and fuselage structure from the Wirraway. Called the Boomerang, the little fighter was well armed with two 20 mm cannon and four .303 machine guns in the wings. The prototype, which flew in May 1942, proved maneuverable, but slow compared to contemporary fighters. Assigned first to No. 2 OTU and making its combat debut in April 1943 with No. 84 Squadron, the Boomerang served in ground attack and army cooperation roles in New Guinea and Bougainville. The last of 250 manufactured was delivered in February 1945. At the war's end, most Boomerangs were scrapped.


A46-139, in this Oshkosh 1993 photo, was built from components of a No. 83 Squadron aircraft that suffered a forced landing in August 1944 and was struck off charge in November 1948 as scrap. It was displayed at the Toowoomba Aero Museum until arriving in the United States in 1984. Dennis Sanders and Dale Clarke built a replica CA-13 using T-6 components and the remains of A46-139. It first flew at Chino in July 1991 as N32CS. Now in the Netherlands, it is one of at least four Boomerangs restored to flying status.

I didn't fool anyone this month. Grant Southworth of Bloomer, Wisconsin, wins this time. As an unusual side light, the Boomerang never shot down an enemy aircraft. However, a much slower Wirraway trainer, flown by Pilot Officer J. S. Archer, did shoot down a Japanese Zero in December 1942!

 

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