CAC Wirraway Multirole Aircraft / Trainer
The CAC Wirraway was an indigenous Australian development of the North American NA-16 trainer platform.
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The CAC Wirraway ("Challenge" in the Woiwurrung native tongue) became one of Australia's primary trainer aircraft from 1939 onwards until being replaced by the CAC Winjeel in 1955. The type proved versatile enough to fulfill a number of roles including that of emergency fighter, dive bomber, trainer and reconnaissance aircraft, making her a true multirole, multi-faceted airframe. By the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, seven squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force were fielding Wirraways in their inventories.
In 1936, Australia sent three of her air force officers out of the country to find a suitable modern aircraft for localized license production. Lacking a respectable war-production infrastructure by the time of World War 2 and an ever-increasing Japanese presence throughout the Pacific, the Australians quickly settled on a pair of North American Aviation NA-16 trainers for evaluation and subsequent production as multirole platforms to fulfill a variety of needs. The North American NA-16 was the company's first true trainer aircraft and one that would ultimately be produced in an eye opening 17,000 examples by the end of her tenure.
The two examples were purchased from North American Aviation and became NA-16-1A (with fixed undercarriage) and NA-16-2K (retractable undercarriage) serving as the Australian program's prototypes. The NA-16-2K was eventually selected as the principle production model with a few subtle changes in design, these including a reinforced sub-structure consistent with the rigors of the bombing role and improved offensive/defensive capabilities by the inclusion of 2 x 7.7mm machine guns as opposed to the NA-16's sole gun. Production of the initial aircraft, designated in the Australian inventory as the "CA-1 Wirraway", was handled out of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) facility at Fisherman's Bend in Victoria. First flight of the Australian system was recorded on March 27th, 1939 and production followed. Like the airframe, the selected powerplant was also American in origin - essentially the license produced Australian version of the Pratt & Whitney R1340 Wasp radial piston engine. From 1939 to 1946, some 755 Wirraways were ultimately delivered from the CAC facility into service with the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy.
Externally, the Wirraway showcased an appearance not unlike her American sister. She sported low-wing monoplane assemblies with sweep back and curved wingtips, mounted well forward of amidships. Wings were attached to the oblong, rounded airframe. The engine was held in the forward most compartment and was of an air-fed radial type. The cockpit was held aft of the wings with adequate views from under the heavily framed "greenhouse-style canopy. The empennage was conventional and tapered off to form the base of the rounded vertical tail fin. Horizontal tailplanes were situated at the forward base of this single vertical fin. The undercarriage was of the "tail-dragging" arrangement dominated by the two single-wheeled main landing gear legs. While these twin assemblies retracted into the aircraft, the diminutive single-wheeled tail wheel did not and remained exposed whilst the aircraft was in flight. Crew accommodations amounted to two personnel made up of the pilot and an observer. Armament included a pair of 7.7mm Vickers GO machine guns while 2 x 250lb or 500lb bombs could be carried.