What you never knew about top-secret facility.

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From employing hundreds of Aussies to playing a key role in the US defence missile shield. Pine Gap’s secrets are slowly starting to emerge. It is considered one of the country’s most secretive and strategically important sites. But unless you work at Pine Gap, or have spent decades researching what really goes on here, your knowledge about it is probably fairly limited. And forget taking a tour to learn more about it because you’re not even getting close to seeing inside.

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the facility which has conjured up its share of supporters and critics.  It maintains as big a presence in Central Australia as Uluru. Except Uluru is open to tourism and Pine Gap only to a select 1000 or so workers.

But how much do we really know about this significant site?  Most Australians really don’t know all that much about it.  It remains one of the most important intelligence facilities outside of the United States today.


Run by both Australia and the United States, its official name is the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap.  Located about 20km from Alice Springs, the site is considered strategically vital by both the US and Australian governments.

In short, Pine Gap collects a huge amount of data from signals intelligence as well as providing information on early warning of ballistic missile launches.

It basically acts as a satellite tracking station and its remote location makes intercepting signals emitted from within more difficult to decipher.


The site conjures up images of secrecy and power and has attracted the odd conspiracy theory or two. But contrary to some ideas, it has nothing to do with flying saucers, nor does it contain dozens of elaborate tunnels.


The one thing researchers know does exist is the huge amount of PC power inside the facility. The floor space of the site’s computer room, or operations building, has grown massively since the 1970s and now takes up a room the size of the entire playing field of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.  It has grown from 400sq m to 20,000 sq m in less than 50 years.


Pine Gap employs around 1000 people.  Australians are “completely enmeshed into the management structure at the station”.  Almost half of the workers are locals, which includes government personnel, operations workers, AFP Protective Services officers, as well as Australian contractors.


It makes a critical contribution to the security interests of Australia and the United States, delivering information on intelligence priorities such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and military and weapons developments, while contributing to the verification of arms control and disarmament agreements.


To learn more about this complex visit our museum at 1 Bent Street, Concord on Saturday, 2nd November at 1:30 for 2:00 pm start to hear David Rosenberg tell us more. See poster under “Guest Speakers” in side column for full details. Please feel free to forward this on to anyone you think might be interested.


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