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KIT REVIEW


Special Hobby SH48054
CAC CA-9 Wirraway -- 1:48 Scale



Today, the Royal Australian Air Force fields one of the most capable air forces in the world.  However, the origins of the Australian aircraft manufacturing date back to just before WWII, with the Commonwealth Aircraft Company (CAC) developing the first Australian-produced airplane – the Wirraway, itself a derivation of the North American NA-16 (the common ancestor to both the T-6 Texan and the Wirraway).  In this re-release of their 2009 new-tool CA-9, the 1:48 scale Special Hobby multimedia kit has made its way to our review bench. Let’s take a look.        

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Prior to the mid-1930s, Australia lacked a domestic aircraft industry, partially owing its reliance on British-produced civil and military aircraft.  With the run-up to WWII, the availability of the exports for Australia began to dwindle while Japan continued the growth of its fighting forces.  In October 1936, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) was formed which had the goal of establishing a self-sufficient aircraft industry in Australia.  CAC wisely determined that it would begin by producing a license-built version of an existing single-engine armed advanced trainer.  The North American NA-16 was chosen for this effort.  CAC also changed a few features, with structural enhancements to the airframes to facilitate dive-bombing, and adding a second forward-firing machine gun.  The rear cockpit was also fitted with a flexible mount along with along with provisions for cameras and new radios.

On 27 March 1939, the first CA-1 Wirraway (meaning “Challenge” in the language of the Australian Aboriginal peoples) took to the air and thus began a production run of 755 airplanes.  The CA-3 variant was produced next, and the subsequent CA-5, CA-7, CA-8 and CA-9 were all virtually identical airplanes to the Dash-3, with only very minor differences between them.  The CA-16 was the only real departure from the original design and was modified to be the heaviest dive-bomber that the Wirraway could be.  

In opening phases of WWII in the Pacific, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN) employed the airplane in combat even though its strengths rested in serving as an advanced trainer.  In early 1942, a Wirraway intercepted Japanese seaplanes over New Britain and Wirraways defended Rabaul from over 100 Japanese bombers and fighters – though this valiant effort cost them nearly all of the Wirraways involved.  In December 1942, a Wirraway shot down its first (and only) Japanese Zero.  All of this was in light of the fact that the even before the war began, the Wirraway was obsolete, and as newer airplanes became available, Wirraways were shifted away from the front lines by mid-1943. 
     
Following the end of the war, the venerable Wirraway operated for over a decade as a trainer by the RAAF, the RAN Fleet Air Arm, and the Citizen Air Force.  During 1957, the last of the RAN Wirraways was retired and were replaced by the de Havilland Vampire.  The very last military flight of the Wirraway was in 1959, bringing to a close the rather notable, and perhaps somewhat unexpected, career of the CAC’s first production aircraft.

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Special Hobby’s 1:48 CA-9 Wirraway kit is a pretty straightforward multi-media aircraft kit.  Fifty-nine injection molded parts can be found on three sprues, nine clear parts on one sprue, 17 cast resin parts, and 31 photoetched metal parts on one fret.  The full color instructions guide the assembly over 13 steps, and the decal sheet provides markings for three airplanes:   

Strengths: It is always heartening to see kits of less common subject matter, and the CA-9 clearly fits into this category.  Special Hobby’s kit is the only 1:48 kit of the Wirraway, and compared to the small number of limited production 1:72 kits, this one clearly the best Wirraway produced to date in any scale.  Overall, the shape and size of the parts look to be accurate.  The surface panel line and fastener/rivet details are nicely recessed while other features are raised where they should be (e.g., sides of the fuselage).  The cockpit is rather complete in its structure and layout.

The resin and photoetched metal parts, however, really elevate this kit in terms of detail. The resin Wright 1340 radial engine is just beautifully made.  The other resin details, such as the seats, tailwheel, machine gun barrels, exhaust stacks, and various other small parts are far better than anything that could be injection-molded in plastic.  The photoetched metal seat harnesses and restraints, landing gear oleos, and instrument panels are excellent.  The decals were designed by DeadDesign and printed by AviPrint.  Colors look good and all appears to be in register.  Carrier film is thin and nicely restrained.    
    
Weaknesses: This is an earlier-generation Special Hobby kit from 2009, and it will remind you more of one of their previous MPM kits in some respects with the thickness of the pour gates attaching all parts to their sprues, a slightly rough surface texture, and a lack of locating pins or tabs.  Most of the small parts on Sprue C and a few others elsewhere, in fact, look to be affected by a little flash and some prominent seam lines that will require a bit more cleanup than other parts in the kit.  The canopy is a single piece, and if one wishes to open it up, they’ll need a razor saw.  Likewise, all the control surfaces are integrally molded, so if one wished to represent the airplane with dropped flaps or a deflected rudder, it’s razor saw time again.      

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Special Hobby’s CA-9 Wirraway is a neat kit in all respects and pretty simple in its parts breakdown to the point that it could probably be completed over a weekend, but due to its engineering features noted above, it won’t just fall together.  The resin and PE parts are great, and if someone want to make this their first plunge into multimedia kits, this would be just fine.  The MSRP of the kit might seem a little high, but the argument here comes in the form of the high value of the resin and PE parts contained in the kit.  There’s also aftermarket decals out there for the Wirraway, and from what I hear, there’s a great resin superdetail set for this kit produced by Red Roo Models.  And while the kit wheels are okay, I would recommend using the CMK resin wheels available separately.  However you choose to appoint your Wirraway, this kit should be an enjoyable and interesting build.  
 
Sincere thanks are owed to Special Hobby for the review sample. You visit them on the web at http://www.specialhobby.info/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/specialhobby

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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Just Released!

JET FIGHTERS
OF THE U. S. NAVY AND MARINE CORPS
PART 1: THE FIRST TEN YEARS
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Detail & Scale Special Edition Books

U. S. Navy and Marine Carrier-Based Aircraft of World War II
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Attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan Awakens a Sleeping Giant

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Colors & Markings Series



Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
F-14 Tomcats,
Part 1: Atlantic
Coast Squadrons
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Colors & Markings of the F-102
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Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
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Part 2: Pacific
Coast Squadrons

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