Woomera Test Range
The RAAF Woomera Test Range (previously known as the Woomera Test Facility, the Woomera Rocket Range, and the Long Range Weapons Establishment, Woomera) is a weapons testing range operated by the Royal Australian Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
The Royal Australian Air Force is the air force branch of the Australian Defence Force. The RAAF was formed in March 1921. It continues the traditions of the Australian Flying Corps , which was formed on 22 October 1912. The RAAF has taken part in many of the 20th century's major conflicts...

 (RAAF) Aerospace Operational Support Group
Aerospace Operational Support Group RAAF
The Aerospace Operational Support Group is a support group of the Australian Defence Force based at RAAF Base Edinburgh.-External links:*...

. The facility is located in South Australia, 500 kilometres (310.7 mi) north-west of Adelaide, and is the largest land-based weapons test facility in the world. The testing facilities are supported by the town of Woomera, South Australia
Woomera, South Australia
The town, or village, of Woomera is located in the south east corner of the Woomera Prohibited Area ; colloquially known as the Woomera Rocket Range...

. The testing range is identified as off-limits by the Woomera Prohibited Area and the Woomera Restricted Airspace.


Germany's use of V-1 flying bombs and V-2 rocket
V-2 rocket
The V-2 rocket , technical name Aggregat-4 , was a ballistic missile that was developed at the beginning of the Second World War in Germany, specifically targeted at London and later Antwerp. The liquid-propellant rocket was the world's first long-range combat-ballistic missile and first known...

s during World War II prompted the British to establish their own rocket testing program. However, the density of population in the United Kingdom made testing risky, so the British turned to Australia, asking for a site with a long testing corridor containing minimal population. The two nations joined in the Australian-Anglo Joint Project, a Commonwealth weapons design and test program established in 1946. Surveying of sites for the test range and its supporting township
Woomera, South Australia
The town, or village, of Woomera is located in the south east corner of the Woomera Prohibited Area ; colloquially known as the Woomera Rocket Range...

 were carried out by Len Beadell
Len Beadell
Leonard Beadell OAM BEM FIEMS was a surveyor, roadbuilder , bushman, artist and author, responsible for opening up the last remaining isolated desert areas of central Australia from 1947 to 1963. Len is sometimes called "the last true Australian explorer"...

 during 1947 in South Australia
South Australia
South Australia is a state of Australia in the southern central part of the country. It covers some of the most arid parts of the continent; with a total land area of , it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories.South Australia shares borders with all of the mainland...

's Far North. Australia was responsible for providing the testing facilities, support personnel, and most of the funding, while the United Kingdom supplied most of the scientific equipment and personnel, and in addition to its financial contribution, paid for the weapons being used. The name of the facility, and the supporting town of Woomera
Woomera, South Australia
The town, or village, of Woomera is located in the south east corner of the Woomera Prohibited Area ; colloquially known as the Woomera Rocket Range...

, came from the Aboriginal spear-throwing device
Woomera (spear-thrower)
A woomera is an Australian Aboriginal spear-throwing device used for when there is a greater distance to be overcome. It is highly efficient and made of wood. Similar to an atlatl, it enables a spear to travel much further than by arm strength alone...

. At its peak, the range had an area of 270000 sqkm, most of which was in South Australia, but included a satellite range in north-west Western Australia, but was later scaled back to a total area of 127000 sqkm; still the largest land-based weapons test range in the world.

Facilities at Salisbury, South Australia
Salisbury, South Australia
Salisbury is a northern suburb in Adelaide, South Australia. It is the seat of the City of Salisbury, and in the South Australian Legislative Assembly electoral district of Ramsay and the Australian House of Representatives divisions of Wakefield and Port Adelaide...

 supported the design and testing of many weapons trialled at Woomera. Weapons designed by the Joint Project and tested at Woomera include the Sea Wolf, Rapier, Sea Dart, and Bloodhound surface-to-air missiles, the Blue Steel nuclear stand-off missile, the Malkara anti-tank missile, the Ikara
Ikara (missile)
The Ikara missile was an Australian ship-launched anti-submarine missile, named after an Australian Aboriginal word for "throwing stick". It launched an acoustic torpedo to a range of , allowing fast-reaction attacks against submarines at ranges that would otherwise require the launching ship to...

 anti-submarine missile, and the GAF Jindivik
GAF Jindivik
The GAF Jindivik is a target drone produced by the Australian Government Aircraft Factory . The name is from an Aboriginal Australian word meaning the hunted one. Two manned prototypes, were built as GAF Pikas as a proof of concept to test the aerodynamics, engine and radio control systems,...

 drone aircraft. Missile testing commenced in 1949. The Joint Project ran until 1980; the winding back of the Blue Streak ballistic missile project during the 1960s and the lack of British interest in testing Australian-designed weapons led the British to withdraw from the program.

After the cancellation of the Joint Project, the range was effectively abandoned by the Australian government, although the land remained in government hands. The town of Woomera, which was originally established to support the testing facilities, instead turned to supporting the nearby joint Australia-United States ground station for space-based surveillance, Nurrungar
Joint Defense Facility Nurrungar
Joint Defence Facility Nurrungar , located on the edge of Island Lagoon, approximately 15 km south of Woomera, South Australia was a facility operated jointly by the Australian Department of Defence and the United States Air Force from 1969 through 1999...

. The surveillance facility closed in 1999, around the same time the Defence Science and Technology Organisation
Defence Science and Technology Organisation
The Defence Science and Technology Organisation is a branch of the Australian Department of Defence which researches and develops technologies for use in the Australian defence industry....

 and the RAAF's Aircraft Research and Development Unit
Aircraft Research and Development Unit RAAF
The Royal Australian Air Force's Aircraft Research and Development Unit was responsible for the test and evaluation of aircraft and weapons used by the RAAF. The ARDU was first established as the Special Duties and Performance Flight in 1941. ARDU also operated the Woomera Test Facility located...

 identified the old testing range's potential, particularly as it was one of the few sites in the world where over-the-horizon weapons testing was feasible. The range is currently used for Australian Defence Force
Australian Defence Force
The Australian Defence Force is the military organisation responsible for the defence of Australia. It consists of the Royal Australian Navy , Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force and a number of 'tri-service' units...

 trials of missiles and aircraft weapons, and access is leased to foreign militaries and private companies for their own testing of weapons systems, rockets, and drone aircraft. As of the end of 2009, there were up to ten different tests occurring on the range daily, and bookings for access had been made as far in advance as 2023. The increase in interest from other parties prompted the Australian government to mark $500 million in funding for Woomera in May 2009, to update tracking systems and other infrastructure.

In June 2010, the Japanese space probe Hayabusa
was an unmanned spacecraft developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to return a sample of material from a small near-Earth asteroid named 25143 Itokawa to Earth for further analysis....

 landed on the Woomera test range after visiting the asteroid 25143 Itokawa
25143 Itokawa
25143 Itokawa is an Apollo and Mars-crosser asteroid. It was the first asteroid to be the target of a sample return mission, the Japanese space probe Hayabusa.-Discovery and naming:...



The Woomera range has also been used for rocketry. During the 1950s, the Black Knight
Black Knight (rocket)
Black Knight was a British launch vehicle to test and verify the design of a re-entry vehicle for the Blue Streak missile.The United Kingdom's first indigenous rocketry project, Black Knight was manufactured by Saunders-Roe on the Isle of Wight, had its engines tested at The Needles and was...

 rocket (as a component of Blue Streak) was tested at the range. The first rocket launch occurred in 1957, and continued until the last satellite launch in 1981. Although initially allowed to lapse after the cancellation of the Joint Project, the use of the range for rocket research has increased. In 2002, the University of Queensland
University of Queensland
The University of Queensland, also known as UQ, is a public university located in state of Queensland, Australia. Founded in 1909, it is the oldest and largest university in Queensland and the fifth oldest in the nation...

 launched a rocket carrying the HyShot
HyShot is a research project of The University of Queensland, Australia Centre for Hypersonics, to demonstrate the possibility of supersonic combustion under flight conditions and compare the results of shock tunnel experiments.- Overview :...

 engine: the first successful flight of a hypersonic scramjet
A scramjet is a variant of a ramjet airbreathing jet engine in which combustion takes place in supersonic airflow...

 engine. After NASA's facilities at Cape Canaveral
Cape Canaveral
Cape Canaveral, from the Spanish Cabo Cañaveral, is a headland in Brevard County, Florida, United States, near the center of the state's Atlantic coast. Known as Cape Kennedy from 1963 to 1973, it lies east of Merritt Island, separated from it by the Banana River.It is part of a region known as the...

, Woomera has the highest quantity and rate of rocket launches in the world.

See also

  • British nuclear tests at Maralinga
    British nuclear tests at Maralinga
    British nuclear tests at Maralinga occurred between 1955 and 1963 at the Maralinga site, part of the Woomera Prohibited Area, in South Australia. A total of seven major nuclear tests were performed, with approximate yields ranging from 1 to 27 kilotons of TNT equivalent...

    , a series of seven nuclear tests conducted within the Woomera area between 1955 and 1963.
  • RAAF Woomera Airfield, the airfield supporting the Woomera Test Range.
  • Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre
    Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre
    The Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre was an Australian immigration detention facility near the village of Woomera in South Australia. It was opened in November 1999 in response to an increase in unauthorised arrivals, which had exceeded the capacity of other detention facilities...

    , a detention centre opened nearby in 1999 and operated until 2003. The facility was redesignated Camp Rapier, and used to accommodate Defence personnel working at the Woomera Test Range.

External links

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