SH48054 CAC CA-9 Wirraway

Review by David Harvey


The Wirraway (Aboriginal for 'Challenge' or "Challenger") was the first product of the new, privately owned Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC), and was a licence-built derivative of the North American NA-16 (known variously as the 'Texan' or 'Harvard'). In appearance, the most obvious differences are the D-shaped rudder on the Wirraway, and variations to the intake below the cowling. One NA-16-1A and one NA-16-2K (or NA-33) were imported as construction examples. These were serialled A20-1 and A20-2. Subsequent Wirraways were serialled A20-3 to A20-755 in an unbroken series.

The Wirraway differed from the U.S. trainer prototype in having an armed capability, with provision for two fixed forward machine guns of rifle calibre above the engine, and a flexible machine gun of similar calibre in the rear cockpit. Light bomb racks could be fitted under the wings.

It was a sign of the straits the RAAF was in at the time that a general purpose trainer should be built with these provisions, due to a lack of funding for purpose-built fighters and bombers. 755 were built between 1939 and mid-1946. They were built as variants CA-1, CA-3, CA-5, CA-7, CA-8, CA-9, CA-10 and CA-16, but were basically very similar. The CA-10 was a dive bomber design, with dive brakes, improved wing and capacity for a heavier load.

They filled various roles in addition to that of trainer, from 'hack' to combat aircraft. They were Rabaul's main air defence in early 1942, when eight took on a Japanese raid of 100 aircraft, the results being disastrous for the defenders. A Wirraway did manage to down a Zero in December that year, near Gona.

The RAAF's last Wirraway flight was in December 1958 at Point Cook, Victoria. They were replaced by Winjeels.

Information courtesy of Digger History Website.

The kit

The kit comes packaged in the usual Special Hobby box with all different components packaged separately. This packaging method definitely helps keep the damage down on the clear sprue as well as the resin and decals. There seemingly isn't a great deal to the kit with just three grey sprues, a clear sprue with the canopy and the resin engine and assorted other parts.

The kit is the usual production from Special Hobby in that there is numerous areas where flash is present and things like the tail planes are butt joined rather than have a locating lug. The other point to remember is that you will definitely require to test fit all parts with these kits! But none of these should be a problem for a moderately experienced modeller.

The box includes:

  • One Photo etched sheet for the seat belts, actuators, instrument panels (front and rear cockpits), grab handles for the cockpit and oleo 'scissors';
  • One acetate sheet for the instruments panels;
  • One clear sprue for the canopy, landing light covers and wing tip lights;
  • One sheet of markings;
  • Three light grey plastic sprues; and
  • One bag of resin containing the engine, two seats, machine gun barrels and assorted detail pieces.

Whilst having a discussion with Richard Hourigan recently he pointed out that the kit has a number of small faults that require fixing to make an 'accurate' Wirraway. A few of the areas Richard pointed out and a few I found are:

  • Part C6 - the floor troughs are not one piece on the real aircraft but several pieces. Can be cut up into sections or left as is.
  • The Propeller hub (A12) does not resemble any of the real aircraft hubs. Can be replaced or reshaped.
  • The fuselage tubing (C7/C8) is not correct for a Wirraway. Either redone or left as is.
  • Two tail wheels are provided (A10/F8), one is too small and the other is too large. Can be replaced from the spares box.
  • The radio's (C5/C4) are not deep enough for WWII era radio sets. Corrected by using plastic card to make a box and add it to the kit parts.
  • The rear seat is fixed when it should be able to turn around and face to the rear. Add a stand to the rear cockpit instead of the fixed bracket.
  • The gun ring is not included on the instructions for the rear cockpit. This is in fact included in the kit but is not mentioned (located between parts C15 and C18 - the half ring shaped item). The rear gun was found on the majority of Wirraway's fitted with the forward MG's.
  • The landing light lenses are not included. Can be scratch built or purchased.
  • The engine is a very nice representation of the real thing but requires extra detailing eg cables.
  • The wheel wells are basic representations of the real aircraft.
  • The cockpit colour is incorrect in the instructions as the vast majority were aluminum painted not Interior Green.
  • The antenna must is butt jointed. Will need to be secured in a more solid fashion for such a long antenna mast ie drilled and pinned.
  • The canopy comes in one piece so you will require to do some careful cutting to open up the cockpit.
  • The engine and cowling can't be mounted onto the aircraft as is, it needs a spacer between the rear of the engine and the firewall.
  • The exhausts also need a small piece of card to support them as they currently have no mounting point.

Whilst these may sound like serious work is required to make it an accurate representation, they are not!. Richard emphasis ed that they are all fixable or could be left as is. For information on what the areas should look like you can check out a walk around of a real Wirraway in the Walkarounds page. There is a very thorough set of images of all the areas mentioned as incorrect or requiring help to be found there.

There are also a number of good points that were brought out, they are:

  • Three different upper cowls - armed, unarmed 'humped' and a plain version.
  • The panel lines are very nicely scribed.
  • The cockpit combing is a very good representation.
  • The instrument panel is very good.
  • The correct pattern seat belts are included.
  • The markings are correct.
  • The shape of the aircraft is correct.
  • The engine is nicely detailed.

All of the points that Richard found will be brought out in a future 'in depth' review by Richard in a future edition of ModelArt Australia magazine.


The decals

You receive a single sheet of decals for the following aircraft:

  • CA-9 Wirraway A20-444 NV*J, 23 SQN RAAF, Lowood airbase, Queensland, 1943. Earth Brown / Foilage Green uppers and Sky Blue lowers.
  • CA-9 Wirraway A20-496 TM*, 23 SQN RAAF, Lowood airbase, Queensland, summer 1943. Earth Brown / Foilage Green uppers and Sky Blue lowers.
  • CA-9 Wirraway A20-572 QE*H, 4 SQN RAAF, Port Moresby, New Guinea, 1942/1943. Earth Brown / Foilage Green uppers and Sky Blue lowers.

These markings are printed by Avidesign and appear to be the correct colours for the aircraft. You also receive some CAC 'speed birds' and other stencil markings.


The instructions

The instructions are the usual Special Hobby set in that you receive an eight page booklet containing a brief history of the Wirraway, a parts breakdown and then six pages of construction diagrams. These construction diagrams appear straight-forward but as with all the SH kits you must test fit all parts and check positioning of the parts before applying glue.

The painting and markings sheet is full colour and is also relatively straightforward. The paint colours are listed in gunze Sangyo numbers but should be easily converted to your favorite paints.


Whilst this kit has been a long time coming for those interested in Australian aircraft it is a bit of a disappointment that so many small issues appeared in the kit with so much information and images available. But, they are small issues for the most part and can either be fixed or left alone for a reasonable representation of the Wirraway.

I do recommend this kit but suggest that you have some modelling experience under your belt before tackling it due to the limited run nature of the parts. Now lets wait for Red Roo or someone to bring out the aftermarket items for it!

Review sample courtesy of Special Hobby via Ed Russell.

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