Because of political and cultural ties between the United Kingdom and Australia, British manufacturers were the main source of RAAF aircraft. However, the British aircraft industry had long been hard-pressed to meet the needs of the RAF. Although United States companies had enormous aircraft manufacturing capacity, their output was destined for US air units. When new aircraft built overseas did become available, they would be shipped long distances in wartime conditions, with consequent delays and losses. While USAAF fighters damaged during service in Australia, such as the Curtiss Kittyhawk (P-40) and Bell Airacobra (P-39/P-400), could be rebuilt by Australian workshops and loaned to RAAF units they were not available in sufficient numbers either.
CAC examined the possibility of designing and building fighters. The main challenge was the fact that fighter aircraft had never been built in Australia. Only two military aircraft were in production at the time: the Bristol Beaufort twin-engined bomber and the CAC Wirraway, a single-engine armed trainer/ground attack aircraft, based on the North American Harvard. While the Beaufort was not a suitable basis for a single-engine fighter, its 1,200 horsepower (890 kW) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp engines were made under license at the CAC plant in Lidcombe, Sydney and also powered the Grumman Wildcat fighters used by the U.S. Navy. Consequently, the Twin Wasp was a logical choice for a stop-gap fighter design. The Harvard had already become the basis of the North American NA-50 (P-64) fighter (which had already seen action with the Peruvian Air Force). The Wirraway likewise provided a starting point for the Boomerang's airframe.
Like the latest fighters at the time, planning for the Boomerang included automatic cannons. As no such weapons were manufactured locally, a British-made Hispano-Suiza 20 mm which an Australian airman had collected as a souvenir in the Middle East was reverse engineered.
History courtesy of Wikipedia
Believing in full disclosure, I’ll start by admitting that I have some strange affliction for the CAC Boomerang and I was so delighted when Valiant Wings announced the latest title in their Airframe Album series that I pre-ordered this latest title from the Airframe Album series and I eagerly anticipated its arrival – so perhaps I’m not entirely unbiased, but stick with me as I walk you through one of the most impressive titles I have had a chance to lay my hands on. Now, I do have some other reference material on this obscure Australian fighter – but the pickings are relatively slim and to be honest, not overly helpful from a modeller’s perspective or even from a general interest sake.
As modellers we all have our favourite reference series – our guilty pleasures, the series that we always purchase despite the subjects being ones that we already have an endless section of reference material. Personally I’ve always been a big fan of the In Detail & Scale series when I need a thoroughly detailed and logical walkthrough for my next modelling project but it seems to me the new releases in this series have tapered off a bit and despite having a consistent quality, the subjects tend to be a little more mainstream than what I’m looking for. Fortunately for us lately there’s been a large influx of new series of reference material. The hard part is figuring out which references suit our needs as modellers and which ones pique our interest in terms of military history.
This is exactly where I feel the new releases from Valiant Wings falls perfectly into the fold. It’s hard to write a review for the latest title from the Airframe Album series without getting excited. It’s very much a niche offering – you’d have to know about the Boomerang in order to take interest in it, and surely there’s no better way to gain enthusiasm for this pugnacious little fighter than to read this book.
The most critical component to any reference book is a logical, easy to access layout. I have to say that the layout here is so well thought out that it makes it difficult not to read from start to finish – something I’m sure I haven’t done with a proper reference book in ages. Starting with the stunning artwork that adorns the front cover, to the selection of nose art illustrated on the rear of the publishing – there’s always something to look forward to and to keep you turning the pages.
The book starts with a comprehensive but not overwhelming introduction to the Boomerang, giving you just enough information to have an appreciation for it, without deterring you from reading right through. Next up is the technical description of the aircraft –Period photos, photos of unrestored and restored airframes are paired brilliantly with schematics and drawings to introduce you all of the various components of the aircraft and the differences between the variants. The technical description is broken down into 8 logical groups, which makes finding the photo you’re looking for at the time you’re looking for it a cinch.
The following chapter is probably the next most important to us who build – it covers the evolution of the Boomerang. This chapter is presented in a beautifully thought out format; each variant is depicted in three dimensional drawings, an additional drawing showing a side profile and then notes explaining the changes to that particular variant and some period photos to completely illustrate the visual difference from one mark to another.
Predictably this title then progresses on to camouflage and markings – of particular interest on a subject like the Boomerang where there are a large number of wartime photos in which a paint scheme looks indistinguishable from one that is entirely different, for example there are some photos in which an airframe which is known to have been painted in a camouflaged green and brown topside looks like it’s a solid foliage green or vice versa. There is also some excellent information and discussion on the actual colours used for camouflage, markings etc. – we all know how contentious this issue can be, but all the arguments are presented logically and well thought out. There is a full two page colour spread on the stenciling seen on the airframe of a Boomerang. I can’t remember another title having done this before – but on such an obscure subject, it is a wonderful resource – not only can we be frustrated by not having the stencils on our models, but we can identify the different hatches and make an educated guess as to the different types of stains or leaks emanating from each. This meaty chapter is rounded out with 30 colour profiles. These become increasingly more valuable now that aftermarket custom masks are becoming so readily obtainable – it’s often my favourite step of planning a build; picking out an airframe to model which isn’t included in any marking sheet or decal package.
Chapter 4 is entirely dedicated to listing the surviving airframes complete with airframe number, current location and status along with many photos of the airframes in various states of restoration and airworthiness. Not necessarily the first time I’ve seen this included in a reference book – but definitely the most complete and informative.
The final chapter entitled The Big Boomerang is a complete review of the 1/32nd scale Montex Boomerang kit (now Alleycat). Having this kit in my stash I was pleased to read through this – but even more delighted to read that a full build feature of this kit will be available on the Valiant Wings webpage as of August 1st – now THAT is incredible!
Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly ask for more from this book, I hit the appendices. The appendices are broken down into five parts. Part I is a list of Boomerang kits. The list includes some of the box art, type of model (injection moulded, limited run, resin etc) I had no idea that there had been so many kits released – and I’m pretty good at keeping my finger on the pulse (I actually already have three Boomerang models to build!) Part II and III round out this out nicely with a list of aftermarket parts and decals available. Part IV is a comprehensive list of every CA-12/13/19 airframe built and as much information as you could want for each. The very last page of this Airframe Album is the bibliography – which serves to highlight other Boomerang references. Especially handy for a subject like this where any reference material is hard to find – let alone a library’s worth.
Which brings me full circle to the point I was trying to make in the first place – I wont dare say that this is the perfect reference book, but it is very comprehensive and I sincerely can’t think of a single thing that I would have liked to have seen that wasn’t included. Generally we all know what to expect from a reference book – but it’s a delightful surprise when they include material we hadn’t even thought to ask for which also proves useful in knowing more about the type we’re researching and further inspires us to build.
So it comes as no surprise at this point that I wholeheartedly recommend this title. Mere months ago I never would have thought that one of the best books I own would be on a subject like the CAC Boomerang – but I’m even more delighted now that I have the book in my hands than I was when I saw the title announced. I will definitely be picking up as many titles in the Airframe Album series as I can based entirely on the impression that this book has left on me. Very, very well done – kudos to Richard Franks and the folks at Valiant Wings.