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British Aerospace Australia

The history of BAE Systems Australia can be traced back to the early 1950s.

British Aerospace - Australia

British Aerospace Australia logo
The history of BAE Systems Australia can be traced back to the testing of the first generation air defence missile systems in the wastelands of South Australia’s Woomera Desert in the early 1950s.

The company, which was spawned in the fierce rivalry of two highly competitive English aerospace companies, is today at the forefront of Australia’s military electronics engineering and systems research and produces a wide range of security and defence-related products.

It all started in 1953 when two support teams from the United Kingdom, one from the Bristol Aeroplane Company and the other from the English Electric Company, arrived in Adelaide to conduct early guided missile trials at the Woomera Test Range.  The Bristol Aeroplane Company was developing its Bloodhound missile whilst The English Electric Company was running trials on The Thunderbird Missile System.  Both were high-altitude surface-to-air missile defence systems which would later enter service with the British Armed Forces.

The teams established their base of operations at the Anglo-Australian Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury, about 15 miles north of Adelaide with testing carried out at Woomera.  The two teams took up residence in adjoining buildings at a former Second World War munitions storage complex.

Bristol BAC Bloodhound
Bloodhound (at an exhibition near Edinburgh)

The Bloodhound and Thunderbird trials progressed in close parallel despite being highly competitive. 

Both teams enjoyed an excellent safety record with no injuries occurring during the testing stages - the tests were not without moments of high drama however, especially when occasionally a rogue missile would turn back towards the test site!

By the time the Bloodhound and Thunderbird trials had been completed both the Bristol Aeroplane Company and English Electric had been merged into British Aircraft Corporation.  Research and development trials continued at Woomera on the Rapier, a low-level anti-aircraft system and later, the Seawolf ship-to-air missile.  Seawolf was the last weapons system the company developed at Woomera.

In 1977, under the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act, British Aircraft Corporation was nationalised along with the Hawker Siddeley Group and Scottish Aviation to form British Aerospace.

Subsequently operations in Australia were renamed British Aerospace Australia and exist today as BAE Systems Australia.


1953 Bristol Aeroplane Company / English Electric Company               
1963 British Aircraft Corporation Australia
1977 British Aerospace Australia
1999 BAE Systems

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