Book Review
CAC Boomerang
Airframe Album 3 The CAC Boomerang
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by: Matt Odom [ SCRODES ]


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.

The book

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.
Highs: An extremely comprehensive title on a subject that can be difficult to reference
Lows: None, I really can't think of anything else I would have liked to have seen within the covers of this title.
Verdict: If you're at all interested in the venerable CAC Boomerang, then this title is a must buy.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  PUBLISHED: Aug 01, 2013
  NATIONALITY: Australia

About Matt Odom (Scrodes)

Copyright ©2021 text by Matt Odom [ SCRODES ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


Great review Matt, thanks for putting it together for us. I have 5 different 1/48 Boomerang kits in the stash, and a dream to build them all at the same time and do a comprehensive build log here on Aeroscale. Hmmmmm, one day, maybe. I will certainly be investing in this book before I launch into the styrene and resin and white metal jungle ! Cheers, D
AUG 01, 2013 - 05:27 PM
UPDATE - For anyone interested, the build article for the Montex kit is now available as a free download on their website.
AUG 06, 2013 - 09:02 AM
Thanks for the link Matt, the thirty-tooth scale kit has been on my wish list for ages now and it is great to see that Alley Cat have taken up where Montex stopped. Cheers, D
AUG 06, 2013 - 11:31 AM
Thanks Reg - I own a copy of the Montex kit, and I think I'll pick up one of the Alley Cat examples, I need to build one in foliage green and a second one in green and brown over sky....that's right - NEED. Or so I'll tell the wife.
AUG 06, 2013 - 02:04 PM
Mr Scrodes - I know it is a while since you published your review but I have just seen it and it's completely at odds with what the book is actually worth. The photos are very good but the text makes it one of the worst reference books I have ever seen. I have only recently obtained a copy of this Valiant Wings publication and feel that it is necessary to jump in here and provide a few personal comments on the quality of this publication. At first glance it offers great promise from the detail provided in the various photographs, including reproductions from the original Boomerang Overhaul and Repair Manual, wartime photos of Boomerangs during active service and current detail photos of various CAC Boomerang restorations. However this is where my support for this publication ends. It's not just a matter of a few typos (one example of this is reference to the town of Gove in the Northern Territory as Grove) but many of the stated facts or information provided is purely incorrect or fictional. There is hardly a page in this publication that escapes this affliction in some form or another. Critical review by a well esteemed Boomerang restorer located in southern Australia was offered prior to printing, but this had been refused by the author on the grounds that he didn't have time to wait an extra week or two. The unfortunate result now is a printed document (i.e. this book entitled The CAC Boomerang by Richard Franks) which has been distributed worldwide loaded with errors and incorrect statements regarding the CAC Boomerang. Regardless of whether or not corrections are published on some website somewhere, it is too late now... the hard copies are out there. The horse has bolted. If you really do feel the need to buy one of these books, do so for the picture reference only without relying on the captions or text.
OCT 26, 2013 - 04:46 PM
Hi John, Would you like to submit a contrasting review? We're completely open to differing points of view, and as long as you can substantiate your criticisms, we'll be happy to publish them. By the way, welcome to Aeroscale. Hope you enjoy it here
OCT 26, 2013 - 06:57 PM

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