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Formed in October 1936, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation had completed over 430 Wirraways, and nearly 90 Wackett Trainers, when in December 1941 Japanese forces attached the US Navy at Pearl Harbour.
Although already at war with Germany in Europe, the entry of Japan in the Pacific brought the threat of invasion directly to Australia, which had little in the way of modern aircraft based at home.
Three days after the attack, Fred David, Chief Engineer at CAC, sketched a drawing of a single seat fighter, using the most powerful engine available in production in Australia, and using as many Wirraway components as possible to allow for rapid production. On 21 December 1941, detailed design began, and by 29 May 1942 the first aircraft had test flown, a staggering period of little of 22 weeks.
Fred David, as a German Jew, had previously worked for Heinkel in Germany, and later the Japanese Aircraft Company before fleeing Japan as a refugee as it established military links with Nazi Germany. As such Fred David was considered officially as an “unfriendly” alien, and was required to report to the police every fortnight.
It is ironic that development of Australia’s “stop gap” fighter was due to the efforts of a man technically treated as the “enemy”.
A total of 250 Boomerangs were built by CAC, and due to the later availability of fighter aircraft from the UK and USA, the Boomerang was not required to face the technically superior Japanese fighters at high altitude. Instead it was employed in Army co-operation duties where its manoeuverability at low level and 20mm Cannon made it ideal for strafing and target marking.
The Museum’s example was delivered in January 1943 and served with No 83 Squadron, being written off in 1945. It’s remains were discovered in Queensland in 1986 by Hawker de Havilland Victoria, who acquired it, and later donated it to the Museum in 1994.
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