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Aerospace Industry - Cold War

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. Major programs were the Avro Lincoln (73 built by GAF), de Havilland Vampire fighter and trainer (190 built by de Havilland Australia), Canberra bomber (48 built by GAF) and the Avon Sabre (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. De Havilland Australia designed the Drover light transport following World War II, and 20 of these three-engined aircraft were built between 1948 and 1952.

By 1950 Fishermen's Bend, Victoria, and the de Havilland works at Bankstown, NSW, were in various stages of retooling. De Havilland had nearly finished re equipping plant to produce Vampire jet fighters. CAC produced the CAC Sabre, with a more powerful Avon turbojet and twin 30mm cannons, the frame was 60% redesigned. The Australian version of this aircraft was powered by a licence-built Avon engine of higher thrust and bigger air flow. This necessitated a substantial local redesign of the fuselage. The prototype Avon-Sabre flew in August 1953 and production deliveries took place between August 1954 and December 1961. A total of 111 production aircraft were built.

CA-23 Jet FighterThe CAC CA-23 was drawn in 1949 to replace the Vampire jet aircraft. This very ambitious design featured dual seats, delta wings, conventional tails, 2 Avon engines and a top speed of 1.5 Mach. It never left the drawing board. The engines was however, used in the CAC Avon Sabre.

The Air Force introduced two new aircraft into service during the 1960s the American designed and built F-111C swing-wing bomber and the French designed Mirage fighter that was built at the Government Aircraft Factory. Both aircraft prompted many research projects.

The Mirage IIIE was also built under license in Australia and Switzerland. 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. While the Avon-powered Mirage IIIO built for the Australians didn't work out, the Australians did become interested in producing their own Mirage IIIEs, retaining the designation Mirage IIIO, sometimes informally rendered as the "III-Oz". The production Mirage IIIO retained the SNECMA Atar engine, the major difference between the IIIE and the IIIO being avionics fit. Two distinct versions of the RAAF Mirage were produced, the original III-O(F), a pure fighter version A3-1 to A3-50 inclusive. From A3-50 onwards they were manufactured as III-O (F/A) the main difference being the inclusion of a Cyrano IIB Doppler radar to allow for a ground attack capability.

The last independent Government Aircraft Factories development was the Nomad utility aircraft. Australian industry had maintained a capability of designing and developing less complex aircraft for military use, the best example being the Nomad produced by the Government Aircraft Factory. Its design started in 1969 and the first Nomad flew in 1971. Some 170 N22 and N24 Nomads were produced. In addition to civil applications this aircraft was produced for the Army in 1972, its excellent short take-off and landing characteristics from unprepared fields being of particular value. The RAAF acted as Airworthiness Authority and required a full wing fatigue test to be carried out to evaluate safe life estimates.

A useful primary training aircraft, the CT4, had also been purchased by the RAAF essentially from local sources. This aircraft, although manufactured by a New Zealand company, was derived in fact from the Victa Airtourer designed by H. A. Millicer, in Australia, and initially developed locally. It was a lack of commercial enterprise in Australia which caused the design to be acquired elsewhere.

Utilising the offset schemes introduced by the Australian Government in 1970 to provide export earnings against the costs of government procurement, CAC, GAF and Hawker de Havilland all participated in a variety of civil and military component programs which aimed to upgrade technical skills in Australia and provide ongoing work for the local Aerospace industry. In 1970 the industry took the first steps to move from being predominantly a producer of military aircraft for Australia to a producer of commercial aircraft structures and systems for the world market. Relationships were forged with Boeing, Airbus and other major manufacturers, and investments were made in new equipment and technologies to achieve competitiveness in a global market.

In the 1970s, the local industry had another opportunity to diversify with licence production of the Bell 206 helicopter. Although plans were made to produce a number of aircraft for civilian use, increasing costs and Defence cutbacks resulted in 53 Kiowa helicopters being built for use by the Army and Royal Australian Navy between 1973 and 1977.

Another major step in capability for local industry came with the production of the F/A-18 Hornet fighter. Selected to replace the Mirage III in RAAF service, the Hornet program required re-equipping of production facilities by CAC, GAF and HdH due to the increased complexity of systems and materials used in the aircraft. These upgrades provided Australian industry with the infrastructure and skills required in the work later carried out by Boeing Aerostructures Australia.

Much controversy surrounded the next major project carried out by the Australian aircraft industry. 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.

In 1984, the Australian Government became concerned about the problems, performance and prospects of its aerospace industry. A study was commissioned to provide an adequate data base for analysis and evaluation as part of the Government review of the industry. Information was obtained from available data sources, a mail survey of over 100 firms and visits to 20 enterprises. Some of the benefits of a domestic aerospace industry included defence, high technology, jobs, exports, national prestige and the promotion of Australia's industrial base. The conclusion recommended that on the basis of its defence benefits, the aerospace industry should receive a level ofsupport similar to that given to Australian manufacturing industry, with any extra support having to be justified by verifiable defence benefits.

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Page last modified: 27-03-2012 18:13:13 ZULU