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CAC Woomera (A23)

Multirole Aircraft / Light Bomber / Reconnaissance / Dive Bomber / Torpedo Bomber

Australia | 1941

"The RAAF order for 105 CAC Woomera bombers was cancelled due to large surpluses of war goods incoming from Britain and the US by 1944."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 08/30/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
The CAC A23 "Woomera" was a short-lived dive bomber/torpedo bomber of Australian design during World War 2. The push of Japanese forces into the Pacific naturally placed the nation of Australia in direct and immediate danger though the country found itself without the internal means to produce for a war time economy. As such, Australia relied heavily on British and American support throughout the war, awaiting deliveries and receiving assistance in setting up a war time infrastructure. However, much of these early war years were spent developing several indigenous military weapons while foreign deliveries were inevitably delayed, tied up by needs of the host country. One such indigenously-design product became the Woomera, a twin-engined bombing platform intended to stock the ranks of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) when initial deliveries of British warplanes were rerouted for other requirements of the Empire.

It was originally expected in 1939 that the Australians would benefit from local production of British Bristol Beauforts. The Beaufort was a conventional bomber designed for the torpedo bombing role, the aircraft appearing in 1939 and being built in 2,129 examples before the end of production. However, progress was slow and the war in Europe took on a rather serious note for the British mainland in the summer of 1940. German airpower was fixed on dismantling Britain through an air war - the Battle of Britain - to prepare the way for a grand invasion of the island through Hitler's Operation Sea Lion. As such, any war-quality material and natural resource was committed to the defense of the island and this left the Australians with little to go on.

About the time the Australian government had elected to purchase the Bristol Beaufort for local production, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) began work on a competing design intended to best the British design and secure the lucrative defense contract therein. CAC put forth a similar-minded two-engine design crewed by three personnel (pilot, bomber/navigator and rear gunner) and developed on a low-monoplane wing assembly. The aircraft was envisioned to double as both the requisite torpedo bomber and as a dive bomber in the traditional sense with perhaps reconnaissance and light bombing as second qualities. As such, the aircraft would have to be quite robust for the rigors of both roles. One of the interesting design elements of this new aircraft was in its sealed wings which served to hold stores of fuel in an effort to make for a lighter aircraft (as opposed to those beginning use of self-sealing fuel tanks). Another facet of the design was its use of nacelle-mounted remote-controlled turret barbettes (each fitting 2 x .303 machine guns) intended to counter rear trailing aircraft (aiming from the rear cockpit position via a periscope). Power was supplied by a pair of Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R-1830-S3CS radial piston engines - one installation to each wing and produced under a local CAC license. The crew sat under a greenhouse canopy in a centerline arrangement. The aircraft was offensively armed with 4 x .303 caliber machine guns in the nose and could carry drop bombs and torpedoes or a mix of the two. External fuel tanks for extended ranges could also be fielded. The undercarriage consisted of two double-wheeled main landing gear legs and a small single-wheeled tailwheel.

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While initial Australian government interest in the CAC design was minimal, the change of events in Europe forced their attention to the new aircraft and a contract of 50,000 pounds was awarded to the concern for development in June of 1940. A mockup was then unveiled later that year. This spawned the CA-4 prototype which went airborne for the first time in September of 1941 with the serial A23-1001. Further testing ensued, proving the CAC product quite sound and consistent with the available Allied designs of the time. The Australian government ordered 105 examples of the promising aircraft in early 1942, interestingly without consulting the RAAF prior. Production was slated for early 1943 while the RAAF received the A23-001 prototype for evaluation throughout 1942. However, the CA-4 prototype was eventually lost to accident - an explosion caused by an onboard fire - in January of 1943.

Design work on a new type commenced and the basic CA-4 served to create the newer CA-11 (A23-1) prototype. The aircraft was similar to the original in most respects though it incorporated an all-new tail unit, a lengthened canopy and a revised rear gunner's station. This version went airborne in June of 1944. The aircraft was once again powered by Pratt & Whitney radial piston engines (originally R-1830 Twin Wasp engines of 1,200 horsepower but then upgraded to R-2000 Twin Wasp engines of 1,300 horsepower) and sported a crew of three. Maximum speed was a reported 282 miles per hour with a range of 2,225 miles. Her service ceiling was 23,500 feet with a 2,090 feet per minute rate-of-climb. Primary armament was slightly revised from the CA-4 prototype and included 2 x .303 caliber machine guns and 2 x 20mm cannons in the nose assembly. The four-gun turret barbettes remained as did their remote-controlled nature. Bomb and torpedo ordnance was all mounted under the wings and under the fuselage - the engine nacelles doubling as bomb bays.

The CA-11 prototype was handed over to the RAAF in November of 1944 but, by this time, war surplus from both Britain and United States were available in quantity for Allied forces thus negating the need for an indigenously designed aircraft. The original government contract for 105 CA-11 aircraft was formally reduced to 20 and then ultimately cancelled outright, bringing an end to the endeavor. For the light bombing/reconnaissance role, the Australian government elected to take on stores of North American P-51 Mustang fighters which could be used in a myriad of battlefield roles. The second prototype went on to experience unwanted press of its own when it was involved in a mid-air engine explosion - killing two of its three crew. The aircraft remains were later recovered and used for scrap.

Design of the Woomera aircraft is credited to Wing Commander L.J. Wackett. The name Woomera itself originates from the Aboriginal throwing stick used for launching spears. This stick allows the spear to travel further and with increased force.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the CAC Woomera CA-11 Multirole Aircraft / Light Bomber / Reconnaissance / Dive Bomber / Torpedo Bomber.
2 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C3-G Twin Wasp 14-cylinder two-row radial piston engine delivering 1,200 horsepower each.
282 mph
454 kph | 245 kts
Max Speed
23,507 ft
7,165 m | 4 miles
Service Ceiling
2,225 miles
3,580 km | 1,933 nm
Operational Range
2,090 ft/min
637 m/min
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the CAC Woomera CA-11 Multirole Aircraft / Light Bomber / Reconnaissance / Dive Bomber / Torpedo Bomber.
39.6 ft
12.07 m
O/A Length
59.2 ft
(18.05 m)
O/A Width
18.1 ft
(5.53 m)
O/A Height
12,782 lb
(5,798 kg)
Empty Weight
22,932 lb
(10,402 kg)
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the CAC Woomera (A23) Multirole Aircraft / Light Bomber / Reconnaissance / Dive Bomber / Torpedo Bomber .
CA-4 Prototype:
4 x .303 caliber Browning machine guns in nose
4 x .303 caliber Browning machine guns in rear-facing remote-controlled engine nacelle barbettes.

CA-11 Prototype:
2 x .303 Browning machine guns in nose
2 x 20mm Hispano Mk II cannons in nose
4 x .303 caliber Browning machine guns in rear-facing remote-controlled engine nacelle barbettes.

4 x 250lb bombs OR 2 x 500lb bombs
2 x torpedoes with 4 x 25lb bombs
1 x torpedo with 1 x external fuel tank
Notable series variants as part of the CAC Woomera (A23) family line.
CA-4 - Prototype Designation; lost to accident in mid-air explosion; single example produced.
CA-11 "Woomera" - Revised prototype with 2 x 20mm cannons and 2 x 7.7mm machine guns in nose; single example produced.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the CAC Woomera (A23). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 2 Units

Contractor(s): Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) - Australia
National flag of Australia

[ Australia ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (282mph).

Graph Average of 225 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
1 / 1
Image of the CAC Woomera (A23)
Right side view of the CAC Woomera CA-4 prototype

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The CAC Woomera (A23) Multirole Aircraft / Light Bomber / Reconnaissance / Dive Bomber / Torpedo Bomber appears in the following collections:
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