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Australia follows up it's own Boomerang

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Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-14 Gidgee - No.5 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, 1945

When Joseph Lyons led the United Australia Party to a landslide victory at the 1931 Australian General Election to become the Australian Prime Minister he also served as the country's treasurer until 1935 overseeing Australia's recovery from the Great Depression. "Honest Joe" Lyons was a masterful political campaigner and his personal popularity was a major factor in the government's re-election in 1934 (albeit a coalition Government between the United Australia Party and the Country Party). In early 1935 he met Essington Lewis, the Chief General Manager of Broken Hill Proprietary, who had visited Europe and who had formed the view that war was highly probable. Lewis expressed his concern at the lack of manufacturing capabilities in Australia and suggested that miltary aircraft might not be available from Britain during wartime. Prime Minister Lyons was receptive to the lobbying campaign led by Lewis to establish a modern aircraft industry and the Australian government required little persuasion and encouraged negotiations between a number of Australian companies which would soon lead to the formation of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) in October 1936 and by September 1937 a new factory had been completed at Fishermen's Bend, Port Melbourne. Whilst the company would initially pursue the development and production of the CAC Wirraway (a licence-built version of the North American NA-16) the firm would soon be presented with demands for the large-scale production of military aircraft to re-equip the Royal Australian Air Force.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 created an urgent review of Australia's defences and, in particular, Australia's air defences were found to be a perilous position with just small numbers of CAC Wirraway general purpose aircraft and aging Brewster F2A Buffalo fighters available to the RAAF to defend the mainland. Although Britain and America possessed considerable aircraft manufacturing capacity their output was destined for their own air forces who were by now both engaged in battle. Furthermore, even where capacity was available the delivery of fighter aircraft would involve them being crated and shipped over long distances in wartime conditions. Australia's new Prime Minister, John Curtin, met with Lawrence Wackett (CAC's Manager and Chief Designer) to examine the possibility of designing and building an indigenous fighter aircraft. Wackett proposed a two-step solution of an interim design that would use elements of aircraft that were already being produced in Australia and a later design for a new high performance fighter designed from scratch. The CA-12 interim design would become the tough and nimble CAC Boomerang for which Wackett had decided to use the airframe of the CAC Wirraway as a starting point as this had the advantage of requiring little additional tooling and would therefore reduce the design time and lead to the earliest possible depolyment. Within weeks, the Australian War Cabinet authorised an order for 105 CAC Boomerang aircraft off the drawing board.

For the new fighter design (now designated CA-14) Wackett schemed a neat single-engined, low-wing monoplane with an all-metal, semi-monocoque fuselage and graceful, evenly-tapered wings. To power the CA-14 Wackett and his design team selected the promising Alison V-1350 - a liquid-cooled inverted-vee 12-cylinder piston engine rated at 1,350 hp at 7,500 ft altitude with 2,600 rpm and featuring a mechanical direct fuel injection system using small pistons driven off the crankshaft. When compared to the Merlin installation on the Spitfire and Hurricane, the lowered inverted engine installation improved visibility for the pilot and also improved access to the cylinder heads and exhaust manifolds for the ground crew. Armament consisted of two synchronized .50 caliber (12.7 mm) AN/M2 Browning machine guns set in the upper fuselage decking fed by ammunition boxes positioned behind the engine bulkhead and with a further .50 caliber AN/M2 Browning machine gun in each wing. Pilots would later comment favourably that the 'four gun' installation was a good compromise between lightness and firepower and sufficent when used against most Japanese aircraft. For the new CA-14 design, and in keeping with the aboriginal theme, CAC chose the name of Gidgee - a lethal quartz-tipped spear. Development continued through the first half of 1942 and shortly after the first flight of the interim CAC Boomerang in May 1942 the Royal Australian Air Force approved the CA-14 design concept proposal and issued design specification 6/42 for work to commence on two prototypes and, subject to a successful test flight programme, a production order for 250 aircraft. The first Gidgee prototype was rolled out in February 1943 but the first flight would have to wait another two months following delays with the Alison V-1350. Finally on April 25th, 1943 CAC Test Pilot, Jim Schofield, flew the prototype Gidgee and this was soon followed by the second prototype just two days later flown by CAC's Ken Frewin.

By the middle of 1943 there were many USAAF fighter squadrons now deployed in northern Australia operating a mixture of P-39 and P-40 fighters and the RAAF had also begun to receive P-40's of their own. With the first three Boomerang squadrons having also become operational the RAAF reduced their order to 125 Gidgee aircraft and the programme lost some of it's urgency so it was not until August 1944 that No.5 Squadron of the RAAF became operational at Toogoolawah before being deployed to Piva Airfield at Torokina on Bougainville in November 1944. No.4 Squadron became the second Gidgee squadron in February 1945 deploying to Morotai and then to the island of Labuan to support Australian ground forces in the Borneo campaign. The third and final Gidgee squadron was No.77 Squadron who re-equipped with the type at Morotai in April 1945 conducting ground-attack sorties over the Dutch East Indies before redeploying to Labuan to support the 9th Australian Division in North Borneo until hostilities ended in August 1945. All three Gidgee squadrons deployed to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force with No.4 and No.5 squadrons returning to Australia in 1948 and No.77 squadron was about to return to Australia in June 1950 when the Korean War broke out. Flying from Iwakuni in Japan, No.77 squadron joined United Nations forces supporting South Korea flying escort and patrol sorties until April 1951 when it converted to the Gloster Meteor.









Skin Credit: Charles

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Clever Spinners, very clever, loved the backstory, and this paintscheme is always pleasing to my eyes. Very good work, congratulations!

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