Kit No. SH 72194
Decals: Three versions – all Royal Australian Air Force
Comments: Engraved panel lines, internal cockpit cage, resin engine and cowl
The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation A-20 Wirraway (aboriginal for “challenge”) was a World War II training and general purpose military aircraft manufactured in Australia between 1939 and 1946. The Wirraway was an Australian development of the North American NA-16 training aircraft, better known at the AT-6 Texan or SNJ. The Wirraway’s origin stems from a 1936 overseas evaluation mission of three Royal Australian Air Force officers led by Wing Commander Lawrence Wackett, charged with selecting an aircraft type for local production in Australia. They selected the North American NA-16, and production licences were subsequently obtained in 1937. The decision reportedly caused some consternation in the British Parliament, due to the fact that no British aircraft was selected.
During World War II, the Wirraway served as the basis for the design of Australia’s emergency fighter, the Boomerang. The Wirraway itself was also pressed into service as a fighter, reconnaissance and ground support aircraft, and trainer. The first Wirraways in combat were RAAF 24 Squadron aircraft sent to Rabaul, New Guinea to defend against the Japanese invasion in January 1942. In their first engagement over Rabaul on January 6, eight Wirraways intercepted over 100 Japanese bombers and fighters attacking the city, resulting in the destruction or severe damage of all but two of the Australian planes. This highlights the desperate situation the Australians faced in the early part of the Pacific War, and the reason the Wirraway was pressed into service against such long odds. At that stage, the Allies in general were grabbing whatever they could get their hands to throw at the Japanese.
Other units saw combat in Malaya, East India and Darwin, Australia, but the Wirraway achieved its greatest fame in the ground support and reconnaissance roles against the Japanese in New Guinea. There were many examples of Wirraways being pressed into air-to-air combat against Japanese fighters with disastrous results, but in one particularly famous encounter, on December 12, 1942, Pilot Officer J. S. Archer shot down a Japanese A6M Zero aircraft after he spotted it 1000 feet below him and dived on it, opening fire and sending the Zero hurtling into the sea. This is the only documented occasion that a Wirraway shot down another aircraft. From 1943 on, the Wirraway was restricted to training duties with the arrival of Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation’s new Boomerang fighter, and the American Curtiss P-40. The RAAF and Royal Australian Navy continued to fly the Wirraway long after the end of WWII. The type was finally retired from active service in 1959.
Special Hobby has produced a scaled-down version of its 1/48 scale Wirraway, with painstaking attention to detail. The kit comes in a single resealable clear plastic bag, with separate bags within for the resin parts, the decals, and the canopy. The latter bag will be much appreciated by modelers who have seen many canopies badly scratched up because they were rattling around loose inside the box of an otherwise mint, pristine kit. The kit has engraved panel lines and a highly detailed cockpit, including an internal cage, bucket seats, detailed instructor- and trainee-type control columns, rudder pedals, and engraved detail on the instrument panels. There are boxed-in wheel wells, a resin Pratt & Whitney radial engine, a resin cowl, a rear machine gun with a swivel mount, separate parts for the forward machine gun barrels in the nose, and a faithfully recreated chin air scoop for the radiator. The canopy is a two-piece affair with a separate part for the rear windscreen, an unnecessary part if the rear machine gun is used.
The decals are by Aviprint and appear to be of excellent quality. They provide markings for three different versions of the Wirraway, all with a similar paint scheme of an earth brown and foliage green camouflage pattern over sky blue undersides. First, is an A-20 Wirraway, code letters NV-J of RAAF 23 Squadron, Lowood airbase, Queensland, Australia, 1943.
This machine is of interest because although it appears on the rear illustration of the box in earth brown and green camouflage, its description reports that according to several sources in was used for sea patrols and painted in a camouflage scheme of Dark Ocean Blue and Dark Sea Grey upper surfaces. It also is supposed to have had a rather wavy division line between its upper and lower surfaces. Second is an A-20 Wirraway, code letters TM, also of RAAF 23 Squadron, Lowood airbase, Queensland, Summer 1943. Third is A-20 Wirraway, code letter QE-H, of RAAF 4 Squadron, based at Port Moresby, New Guinea, 1943.
An excellent kit and a welcome addition to the 1/72 scale universe. Highly recommended.