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Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC)

CA-1 Wirraway
CA-2 Wackett Trainer
CA-3 Wirraway
CA-4 Woomera
CA-5 Wirraway
CA-6 Wackett Trainer
CA-7 Wirraway
CA-8 Wirraway
CA-9 Wirraway
CA-10Wirraway Bomber
CA-11 Woomera
CA-12 Boomerang
CA-13 Boomerang
CA-15 Kangaroo (Unofficial)
CA-16 Wirraway
CA-17 Mustang Mk.20
CA-18 Mustang Mk.21/Mk.22/Mk.23
CA-19 Boomerang
CA-20 Wirraway (for RAN)
CA-21 Mustang (2 Seater)
CA-22 Winjeel
CA-23 (Proposed Vampire Replacement)
CA-24 (Hawker P1081 - Not Confirmed)
CA-25 Winjeel
CA-26 Sabre 1
CA-27 Sabre Mk.30/Mk.31/Mk.32
CA-28 Ceres (Converted Wirraway)
CA-29 Mirage III
CA-30 Macchi MB-326
CA-31 Proposed Jet Trainer
CA-32 Kiowa
A-10 Wamira
F/A-18 Hornet
The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hawker de Havilland (HdH) Limited in 1985. In 1986 the company's name was changed to Hawker de Havilland Victoria Limited [HdH Vic], a Melbourne office of the Sydney-based company, then later to HdH Australia.

By the 1930s, leading Australian industrialists were beginning to arouse Government interest in the local production of aircraft, particularly for military use. By the mid-1930s, it had become clear that the British industry could not supply enough modern aircraft for Australia’s needs, and with the backing of BHP, Broken Hill Associated Smelters, GMH, ICI and the Orient Steam Navigation Company, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) was formed at Fishermans Bend in October 1936. In January 1937, after an international survey mission, the Australian Government ordered 40 North American NA-16 aircraft, later to be named Wirraway, from CAC. The first of these aircraft flew five months before the outbreak of WWII. A total of 755 of these aircraft were produced in Australia between 1939 and 1946 under a license agreement with North American. The agreement, which allowed the CAC to modify the design to meet the RAAF’s unique requirements, led to the establishment of the local aircraft industry. The Australian manufactured aircraft was given the Aboriginal name Wirraway, which means challenge, and was used by the RAAF in a wide variety of operational roles such as tactical reconnaissance, target marking, supply dropping, dive bombing, army support and, on occasions, as an interceptor fighter.

With the entry of Japan into WWII, the lack of modern aircraft within the RAAF inventory came sharply into focus. Distance prevented the adequate supply of operational aircraft from Britain and the USA, and work soon began on the design of an indigenous fighter aircraft. The result was the CAC Boomerang, which was derived from the Wirraway aircraft. 200 Boomerangs were built at Fishermans Bend, and used the Australian-built Twin Wasp engine as fitted to the Beaufort.

Shortcomings in the Boomerang aircraft and a need to upgrade saw the RAAF investigate a suitable advanced fighter aircraft for local production in early 1943. Eventually, the North American P-51 Mustang was selected for production by CAC. Due to personnel shortages, this project fell behind schedule, and the first aircraft were delivered to the RAAF only two months before the end of World War II.

Following World War II, aviation technology moved at a very rapid rate, with the introduction of the jet engine requiring new aircraft for the RAAF. By 1946, DAP had become the Government Aircraft Factories (GAF), and along with CAC and de Havilland Australia, all of the local companies were heavily involved with licence production of military aircraft for the RAAF.

CA-23 jet fighter designAs early as 1949 the RAAF began planning a replacement jet fighter for the locally-built CAC Mustang and DHA Vampire. Successive aircraft under consideration included the Grumman Panther; the Hawker P.1081; and the proposed CAC large, twin-jet, all-weather CA-23 fighter. In 1949 the Australian governement asked CAC to produce a Mach 1.5 fighter. The CA-23, with Rolls Royce Avon engines, looke like a twin engined Crusader but with a delta wing. In the event, Gloster Meteors were obtained in 1951, and Australian industry never made a supersonic plane.

Major programs included the Avon Sabre, with 111 built by CAC. In addition to licence production, a number of locally-designed and built aircraft were produced during this period. For the RAAF, the CAC Winjeel provided a modern replacement for the Tiger Moth trainer, and served between 1955 and 1975 as a training aircraft, and through to 1994 in the Forward Air Control role.

By the late 1950s, the Avon Sabre fighter was becoming outdated, and in 1960, the Dassault Mirage III was selected as the new fighter for the RAAF. In an indication of the future of the aircraft industry in Australia, responsibility for the Mirage program was divided, with GAF the prime contractor and responsible for construction of the fuselage and final assembly, and CAC manufacturing the wings, fin and engine.

During the 1960s, another of the RAAF’s early jets was due for replacement, this time the De Havilland Vampire trainer. By 1965, the Italian Macchi MB326H had been chosen for local production, this time as a collaborative effort between CAC, and Hawker de Havilland, the newly renamed de Havilland Australia. 97 Macchis served with the RAAF between 1967 and 2001, when the type was replaced by the BAE Systems Hawk 127.

By the late 1970s, structural problems with the Macchi trainer resulted in a study for the replacement of this aircraft and the CT4 basic trainer with a new type. In 1981, a consortium consisting of CAC, GAF and HdH had formed to design and produce a training aircraft to this requirement. After changes in specifications, the failure of a possible British order for the aircraft and the expenditure of approximately $70m, the Wamira project was cancelled at the end of 1985. In its place, the Pilatus PC-9 was ordered for the RAAF, and HdH, who by this time had taken over CAC, built 65 of the 67 PC-9s ordered by the RAAF. This project was to be the last time aircraft were produced under licence in Australia. Subsequent programs such as the Sikorsky Black Hawk and Seahawk helicopters were assembled by HdH and GAF respectively, from imported components with minor local modifications.

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Page last modified: 27-03-2012 18:12:58 ZULU