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WOOMERA HISTORY
IP: 1.129.96.32


Can anybody help with this request ? Ken White sent me this info on Woomera. I sent it on to some friends. Dave Burns would like to know the originator or some one who could verify the information for Air Force History which is Dave's Job. Any clues ?
Unfortunately, Ken is unable to assist with the person of interest.










I trust that I am not stealing Laurie's thunder by replying to “all” and I only recognise a few of the names in the address list, but as I am now an “old fella” I couldn’t help but putting finger to the keyboard to relate a story that is possibly unknown to some/most of you “all”. And my story aims to show that “drone” technology is not all that new.

In 1956, following a three year apprenticeship at Wagga, I was posted to Woomera. Now Woomera had two airfields. The first was known as Tech Area, this was five miles from the Village where people lived, and all sorts of conventional (manned) aircraft were operated from here. The second was known as Evetts Field (named after a British general), this was some 30 miles from the village, and was the airfield from which unmanned aircraft were operated. Adjacent to Evetts Field was the fenced off high security area from which the anti-aircraft missiles were launched at the unmanned aircraft.

I was indeed fortunate to have been sent to work at Evetts Field. A small and very dedicated group of RAAF fellows travelled each working day from the Village to Evetts field. In 1956 they operated the Jindivik pilotless target aircraft (which now-a-days would be called a drone). Radio Techs looked after the 3cm and the 10cm on-board radar, plus the radio control system, plus the telemetery system. Instrument people looked after the auto-pilot system. A small number of Engine and Airframe people completed the team. RAAF pilots sat in a room with their backs to the airfield, viewed the telemetery instruments presented courtesy of more Rad Techs, and simply pressed buttons to “fly” the aircraft. Take- offs and landings were controlled by “visual” pilots out on the airstrip, one dead in-line with the axis of the strip for azimuth control and one off to the side for elevation control. The fellow dead in-line was known as Bats” and he had an escape slide for (very) quick exit just in case the aircraft did not in-fact become airborne......................and it was used on several occasions.

Woomera came into being in 1948 at the behest of the UK government who were developing ground to air and ship to air missiles post WW2 along with USA and the USSR. The forerunner to the Jindivik was a development manned aircraft named the PIKA , originally built in 1948. This was a hairy scary aircraft. To gain access for the pilot the nose section would be unbolted and swung out of the way, the pilot would then be seated, and the nose section swung back into position and bolted shut. The pilot had to land and the nose section unbolted before he could exit the aircraft. The test pilots were Fred Miles, a civilian; Joel Cuming: and Fred Knudsen (Knudsen broke his back in a PIKA landing).

Following the PIKA aircraft, GAF produced the Jindiviks(some 600 of them over the years). These were freighted to Evetts Field, and fitted withe the radar, radio control, telemetery, and auto-pilot. The system of operation of the Jindivik is described (briefly) in Google. The operators were RAAF pilots and in 1956 when I arrived there they were mostly ex-Korean war fellows, many with DFCs. Ray Trebilco was one of these operators at the time. Success followed success. The Jindiviks were proving themselves to be reliable . Wings were extended in order to attain higher altitude flight. Flairs were deployed to act as sources of infa-red (so that the missiles were attracted to the flares and not the Jindivik exhaust.)

Civilian scientific Officers flew into Woomera from WRE each Monday to Friday. They were the people who had developed the Jindivik systems; they were the people who nominated forthcoming events and trials. They were the people who inspired me to pursue an education . A relatively young FLTLT Tony Deitz and a relatively young FLTLT Geoff Monkley , both EngOs and both test pilots, came up from ARDU with Sabre jets to fire live air-to air missiles at the Jindiviks.

The Swedish government bought Jindivik aircraft some Australia, as did the UK government, as did the USA government. Small teams of RAAF fellows went to these countries to train the locals in the operation of the aircraft.

In the 1958/59 era, we started receiving Meteor aircraft in packing crates from the UK. These were followed by Canberra bombers. Again, with these aircraft, they were fitted out with radar, radio control, telemetery, and auto-pilot. Following a manned flight to test the systems, the pilot would exit, a lead weight placed in the aircraft in lieu, and they would be operated as unmanned aircraft.

Some very spectacular events happened from time-to-time. I once went on a Jindivik recovery trip to Nonning homestead, near Iron Knob, near Whyalla. This aircraft had flown till it ran out of fuel because it couldn’t be turned either left or right. Problem was that both of these commands had a common tone(or frequency) in the radio control system, and it had failed.
Following that event, and because it had travelled down toward habitated areas, a destroy receiver was fitted. Then in 1959, two target Meteors were flown at different heights and in different directions and four Bloodhound missiles were fired at them at three second intervals. Not the sort of stuff that the average bloke would see. Probably the most spectacular event occurred when the radio control receiver antenna was shot away from the tailplane of an unmanned Canberra bomber. This totally out-of-control aircraft performed all sorts of aerobatics, diving and just missing a Vinten camera post down range which my wife operated, and finally ploughing into the ground just several hundreds of metres away from her post.

Evetts Field was a wonderful and inspiring place to be . It was not in any way or form like an Air Force establishment. We had no flag poles, no parades, no nonsense: just work. Sometimes we would be there till 10PM or later in order to prepare a replacement aircraft. Early starts were common. We would drive the 30 miles from the Village to Evetts in “Blue Bombs”, which were International Utes. Leave–in–lieu books were locally operated. If you worked twenty extra hours during the week this would be entered and added to past totals. Consequentially, I would spent (say) three weeks in Woomera and then one week in Adelaide. There was 116 mile of dirt and bulldust between Woomera and Port Augusta (and another 200 miles to Adelaide), the road was littered with “gibbers” which played havoc with tyres. The Volkswagen was king in those days.

1961 saw me off to Butterworth and Ubon after those five years in Woomera. Again, extra leave and extra pay, as was the case in Woomera. Returning to Australia in 1963, and following a very long bout of correspondence study from Woomera and Butterworth, I then started out as a full-time student at RMIT..................and I note from the address list that a lot of you people also spent time at that institution.

Undoubtedly, my association with “drone” aircraft (as they are now called ) were the highlight of my life. After that , everything was somewhat of an anti-climax. .










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