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Category: Air support/WW2/Allied

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 Boomerang Fighter and Ground Support aircraft

Boomerang A46-30

Photo: Darryl Gibbs, at Clyde North Aerial Preservation Group site

When Japan entered World War II in December 1941, the RAAF did not possess a single fighter aircraft for home defence and, consequently, a decision was hurriedly made to produce a local fighter as a stop-gap measure to meet the threatened Japanese onslaught. Fortunately, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation already had plans in hand for an interceptor aircraft, and this promising design was ordered into production on February 2 1942. 

Thus, Australia's first single-seat fighter came from an organisation headed by Lawrence Wackett, who was also responsible for the country's first indigenous fighter, the two-seat Wackett Warrigal Mk II of 1930.

Named the Boomerang, the new fighter was designed as an interceptor with a high rate of climb and good manoeuvrability. To obtain the best performance, the aircraft was fitted with the most powerful engine in Australia - the 1,200 hp Twin Wasp which was in production for the DAP Bristol Beaufort. Airframe construction was accelerated by incorporating many Wirraway components, and production proceeded so well that the first aircraft progressed from drawing board to test flight in less than four months.

Test pilot Ken Frewin flew A46-1 on May 29 1942, and subsequent tests revealed that the Boomerang had a lively performance, good handling qualities, and was an effective gun-platform for its cannons and machine-guns. As production progressed, many improvements and modifications were incorporated, and the various standard versions were grouped under three CAC designations: CA-12, CA-13 and CA-19. In addition, a high performance prototype, the CA-14 was built with a turbo-supercharger. 

This same aircraft was later streamlined and fitted with a square-cut tail assembly and became the CA-14A. Altogether, 250 Boomerangs were built and the various versions included 105 CA-12s, (A46-1/105), 95 CA-13s (A46-106/200), 49 CA-19s (A46-201/249), whilst the sole CA-14/CA-14A was numbered in the prototype range as A46-1001.

The RAAF accepted the first Boomerang, A46-1, on July 15 1942, and the last aircraft, A46-249 was delivered on February 1 1945. Initial pilot conversion was carried out with No 2 Operational Training Unit (OTU) at Mildura, and these pilots formed the first operational units, Nos 83, 84 and 85 Sqns. 

The first enemy contact was made on May 16 1943, when Boomerangs from No 84 Sqn intercepted and drove off three Betty bombers. For many months, the Boomerangs successfully carried out many similar sorties until, eventually, they were replaced by Kittyhawks and Spitfires. 

Relegated to the army co-operation role with Nos 4 and 5 Sqn the Boomerangs soon established a high reputation for effective strikes throughout New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Borneo; particularly so in co-ordinated operations with RNZAF Corsairs.

The operational effectiveness of the Boomerang was due largely to the extensive evaluation program carried out by No 1 APU under Sqn Ldr J.H. Harper. In particular, test flying on the supercharged CA-14A, A46-1001 developed this version into an effective high altitude interceptor. Also, it is interesting to record that a Boomerang at No 1 APU was modified to take two seats; the second position was placed inside the fuselage behind the pilot and was used by an observer to record instrument and performance data.

(CAC CA-12 Boomerang)

DESCRIPTION: Single-seat interceptor and ground attack fighter. Metal and wood construction.

POWER PLANT: One 1,200 hp CAC licence built Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp R1830.

DIMENSIONS: Span, 36 ft; length, 26 ft 9 ins; height, 9 ft. 7 ins.

WEIGHTS: Empty, 5,373 lb; loaded 7,699 lb.

PERFORMANCE: Max speed, 305 mph at 15,000 ft. Initial rate of climb, 2,940 ft/min. Service ceiling 29,000 ft.

ARMAMENT: Two 20 mm Hispano or CAC manufactured cannons. Four 0.303 Browning machine-guns. Bombs could be substituted when the large drop tank was not carried.

details from RAAF Museum


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