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CAC Wackett

Australia (1941)

Detailing the development and operational history of the CAC Wackett Basic Trainer.

 Entry last updated on 3/20/2016; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©

  CAC Wackett  
Picture of CAC Wackett Basic Trainer

The CAC Wackett trainer became the first aircraft design of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation of Australia.

The CAC Wackett was an indigenously designed and developed dedicated basic trainer for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) during World War 2. CAC was perhaps best known for its CAC "Boomerang" fighter, which followed the Wackett into service, allowing an aero industry to be established in Australia during a particularly dangerous and volatile period for the country. The expansion of the Japanese in the Pacific was a real and ever-growing threat to Australian sovereignty and less foreign reliance on military goods would prove beneficial in the long run. The Wackett eventually served Australia, the Netherlands and Indonesia before seeing formal retirement and a second life in the post-war years under private ownership and as crop dusting platforms.

The Royal Australian Air Force delivered Specification 3/38 in 1938 seeking a dedicated training platform for new generations of Australian pilots. The type would have to be a cost-effective solution utilizing basic construction practices and feature tandem seating for two - student and instructor. Additionally, as the aircraft would be wholly-constructed in Australia, it would have to keep to a simply approach to utilize the industrial capabilities of the nation - ultimately relying on use of some steel, wood and fabric throughout its construction.

Australia entered World War 2 on September 3rd, 1939, declaring war on Germany days after its brazen invasion of Poland. Ultimately, the war would commit nearly 1 million Aussies in which over 27,000 would be killed. Australian forces fought across both Europe and North Africa alongside Britain and Commonwealth forces while, closer to home, it was also forced to help contain - and ultimately defeat - the Empire of Japan with an alliance including the United States and Britain. Australia proved a stout fighting force, particularly in the early going of the Pacific campaign - before the arrival of the United States in 1942 - when Australian shores were under direct threat from the Japanese.

Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, established since 1936 with the purpose of producing both aero engines and airframes, delivered its submission in the form of the CA-2. The design was developed around a tubular fuselage with steel understructure while wood was used to produce the skeleton of the wings. Fabric then covered the empennage while metal skin was used in the forward section. The crew sat in tandem as requested, under a heavily-framed canopy offering good views from either position. The nose section was rather short which allowed for improved forward views compared to contemporaries of the time. Wings were low-mounted appendages and the undercarriage was fixed with single-wheeled main legs and a single-wheeled tail leg.
With the CAC facility itself undergoing construction into late 1938, production of two prototype airframes was not completed until the following September of 1939. One prototype was fitted with the de Havilland "Gipsy Major" liquid-cooled inline piston engine - the same as powering the famous de Havilland Tiger Moth trainer of 1932 - and the other was completed with the de Havilland "Gipsy Six" liquid-cooled inline piston engine, powering aircraft such as the de Havilland Dragon Rapide airliner of 1934. First flight was recorded on September 19th, 1939 with the Gipsy Major-powered mount. The second prototype took to the air in November.

Testing yielded sub-par performance from the Gipsy Major-powered form and the following Gipsy Six-modified variant offered little more. As such, the decision was made to fit the type with the American-made Warner Aircraft Corporation "Scarab" radial piston engine series to power the finalized line. The initial prototypes were then re-engined in Scarab form and testing continued. Ultimately, the Royal Australian Air Force accepted the CAC design under the designation of CA-6 "Wackett" and a formal production order was signed - the aircraft entering service in March of 1941. By this time, the situation across the Pacific had grown to dangerous levels as Australia fell more and more under threat from the Japanese. It was not until the Americans formally entered the war after December 7th - the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor - that Australia could rely on extensive outside help. While the British Royal Navy was in action in the Pacific already, it was also trying to survive the German offensives in Europe.

Early production of Wacketts was hampered by shortages of both engines and propellers allowing engineers to revise the design before serial output solidified the airframe. CAC eventually produced some 200 Wacketts to serve as basic trainers for the RAAF with the last example delivered in April of 1942.

Wacketts managed an operational existence throughout the war though with dwindling numbers amidst a growing stable of other capable trainers arriving from overseas in number. This allowed many to be relegated to reserve and then storage until, after the war (1945), thirty examples were sold to the Netherlands for service in the Dutch East Indies. Still others made their way into private hands and the civilian sector. The Dutch airframes were then passed on to the newly established nation of Indonesia, independent of Dutch rule as of 1949.

World War 2 served to evolve Australia along several major fronts including industry. Prior to the war, it held no true heavy industrial base and this was grown in short order once the war forced growth. The Australian military also benefitted from the conflict in that it was allowed to be grown beyond its then-current form. Programs such as the Wackett and Boomerang only served to provide a self-reliance on military products and prove Australia as a modernized country.
CAC Wackett Specifications
National Flag Graphic
Year: 1941
Type: Basic Trainer
Manufacturer(s): Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) - Australia
Production: 202
Supported Mission Types
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Airborne Early Warning
Electronic Warfare
Aerial Tanker
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Special Forces
Crew: 2
Length: 25.98 ft (7.92 m)
Width: 37.01 ft (11.28 m)
Height: 9.84 ft (3.00 m)
Empty Weight: 1,909 lb (866 kg)
MTOW: 2,590 lb (1,175 kg)

Installed Power
1 x Warner Aircraft Corporation Scarab radial piston engine developing 175 horsepower.

Standard Day Performance
Maximum Speed: 115 mph (185 kph; 100 kts)
Maximum Range: 425 mi (684 km; 369 nm)


Operators List
Australia; Netherlands East Indies; Indonesia

Series Model Variants
• CA-2 - Prototype Designation; two examples produced.
• CA-6 - Production Model Designation; 200 examples produced.