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Issue 3 2016 Defence
Gordon Frazer and Dr Allan
Paull discuss operational
procedures before the launch.
Photos: Corporal Bill Solomou
“The expertise that this program has gener-
ated in Australia basically comes down to one
statement: ‘We know how to fly hypersonically.’ ”
The Woomera Test Range’s commanding
officer, Wing Commander Noel Corbet, says
HIFiRE 5b is the first rocket launch in six years
at Woomera and its success is testimony to Air
Force’s new Air Warfare Centre.
“Innovation is a key component of our Air
Warfare Centre,” Noel says.
“Having the ability to test an innovative
hypersonic vehicle on the world’s largest
ground-based test range in Woomera illustrates
the breadth of the activities possible within the
Noel says his role as range manager of the
launch was to ensure all set procedures, notifica-
tions and reporting were followed properly on
“If I, or any of the launch team, becomes
aware of any safety issues we can call an abort
to the launch,” he says.
“The collaboration of a diverse team from
five different countries working with one
common goal in a safe and effective manner
is a challenge. Safety at the launch and down
range through the evacuation and cooperation
of pastoralists, Indigenous groups and mining
personnel is a key part of ensuring the safety
of the trial. From our perspective there is no
demarcation between ADF and APS. We are
part of one team.”
Allan says the trial was 100 per cent success-
ful. “The flight itself was perfect, the countdown
was perfect and the execution from the Air War-
fare Centre was perfect,” he says. “This was one
of those trials, when everything went right.”
All went according to plan, with lift-off at
10.12am local (South Australian) time after a
flawless countdown of five-and-a-half hours.
The rocket landed hundreds of kilometres
down range, reaching the target speed of more
than Mach 7.
The telemetry system worked flawlessly,
with high-quality flight data collected through-
out the flight. Telemetry analysts from the Aus-
tralian Maritime Warfare Centre (AMWC) were
positioned at the former nuclear test facility in
Located about 500 kilometres east of the
Woomera launch location, the team deployed
the Mobile Missile Telemetry Range, which
includes two large tracking antennas, generators
and a wide array of telemetry equipment.
Noel says the AMWC provided critical data
not accessible from Woomera because of the
extended distance of the HIFiRE 5b trajectory.
Flying Officer Trevor Ovens, an armament
engineer posted to AMWC, enjoyed the trial,
describing it as “a rarely visited piece of history
and, overall, a very rewarding experience”.
Trevor says the team’s success was largely
due to experience as AMWC has supported
numerous trials with the Air Force’s Woomera
personnel over the years.
He says other elements fundamental to the
success of the trial were the support of No. 20
Squadron from the local RAAF base, as well as
additional deployed Air Force elements, includ-
ing No.1 Combat Communications Squadron
and No.2 Expeditionary Health Squadron.
“The team from No.1 Combat Communica-
tions Squadron assisted in the first successful
live streaming of the launch from Woomera
Training Range back to RAAF Base Edinburgh
as an innovation element to the trial,” he says.
“In conjunction with setting up the mobile
hospital, ADF buses were organised to evac-
uate about 110 people from a mine within the
Woomera Prohibited Area during the launch.
“Air Force personnel conducted major road
blocks, ensuring no unauthorised personnel
entered the established safety zone.”
The Chief Defence Scientist, Dr Alex Zelin-
sky, says the success of the test launch is a step
towards the realisation of hypersonic flight.
“It is a game-changing technology identified
in the 2016 Defence White Paper and could
revolutionise global air travel, providing cost-
effective access to space,” he says.
“HAVING THE ABILITY TO TEST
AN INNOVATIVE HYPERSONIC
VEHICLE ON THE WORLD’S LARGEST
GROUND-BASED TEST RANGE
IN WOOMERA ILLUSTRATES THE
BREADTH OF THE ACTIVITIES
POSSIBLE WITHIN THE CENTRE.”
WOOMERA TEST RANGE’S COMMANDING
OFFICER, WING COMMANDER NOEL CORBET
Technology Group, in
the payload control room
for the HIFiRE 5b hypersonic trial at the
Woomera Test Range in South Australia.
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