In April 1938, CAC obtained a license from the US company North-American to produce the two-seater trainer NA-16. On March 27th 1939, the first production model of the CA-1 came off the stocks at CAC. The aircraft was called the Wirraway, which in the language of the Australian Aborigenes means “Challenger”, and was designated Mk.1.
The Wirraway NA-16 differed from the prototype in its D-shaped elevators. Apart from this, it carried a fuselage battery of two synchronized machine guns, Vickers Class E, caliber .303 in (7.7 mm) and another pintle-mounted Vickers Class K of the same caliber in the observer’s cabin. In field conditions, a unit consisting of two paired Vickers Class K machine guns was sometimes mounted at this point. The aircraft was equipped with a radio transceiver. To enable the Wirraway to be used as a bomber, the structure of the wings and fin was reinforced. The Australians acquired a license to produce the engines. The Wirraway was fitted with a nine-cylinder radial air-cooled Pratt & Whitney R-1340 S1H1-G Wasp engine, rated at 600 h.p. at an altitude of 7000 feet (2135 m), and a three-bladed propeller.
The Wirraway was being built right up to the end of the war in several series. The first series CA-1 (Mk.I) was built from March 1939 to February 1940, to a total of 40 aircraft. After that, from February 1940 to June 1942, five more series in succession were built. In practice, they differed slightly from each other only in the shape of the carburetor air intake and were therefore given the military designation Wirraway Mk.II. The series were numbered CA-3 (60), CA-5 (32), CA-7 (100), CA-8 (200), CA-9 (188) (number of aircraft produced in brackets). The production peak was in 1942, when 270 aircraft were produced.
The reinforcement of the wing structure enabled the standard combat load to be increased to 678 kg. Thus, starting from June 1942, the most advanced Wirraway series, C-16 (Mk.III), went into production, which continued until the end of 1946. In total, 135 of them were produced. Furthermore, virtually all the remaining aircraft of other series were re-equipped and brought up to CA-16 standards. Thus, the total output of Wirraways throughout the war was 757 aircraft, a record for Australia.
Throughout 1942, Wirraways had to fight hard battles all along the front from the New Britain islands to the eastern tip of New Guinea. But once the Allied forces went over to more active offensive operations, the need to use Wirraways no longer existed.
The aircraft were transferred to training units, and after the war to serve as civil aircraft, in which role they continued until 1959.