HMAS Coonawarra – Wireless Transmitting Station

HMAS Coonawarra wireless transmitting station initially begun operating on 18 September 1939 and provided essential communications service in support of Allied operations in the South West Pacific regions.

The proposal that a new intercept station be built at Darwin first emerged in July 1965 when it became evident that the electrical noise from expanding local industry was an increasing threat to reliable reception at Coonawarra.

In May 1967, the recommendation that a new station be constructed in the Shoal Bay area of Darwin was agreed, and detailed planning commenced shortly after.

Cabinet approval for the new intercept and communications station was achieved in February 1970, with a provisional target of January 1973 for the commencement of operations. Though DSD were to be involved with the design of the new facility, it was to be a Navy project.

Cyclone Tracy, which devastated the Darwin area on 25 December 1974, resulted in major damage at Coonawarra and caused the closure of Sigint operations at this site. Serviceable equipment was transferred to the new station and limited Sigint operations commenced on 3 January 1975. This was despite the fact that the outer (lower frequency) ring of the antenna array had been destroyed by the cyclone. Within a very short time, the collection and processing capability had been expanded to pre-Tracy levels, and communications with DSD had been re-established.

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Acknowledgement of Country
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connections to land, sea and communities. We pay our respects to them, their cultures and their Elders; past, present and emerging. We also recognise Australia's First Peoples' enduring contribution to Australia's national security.

Authorised by the Australian Government, Canberra