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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 13

I Colonial Origins

II First World War

III Between The World Wars

IV The Second World War

V Post-second World War
i The United Kingdom Australia Agreement
ii The ADSS
iii Decline of Imported Work
iv Background Research and Development of the Department of Supply
v Technology in the Armed Services

VI After The Joint Project

VII Science And Decisions At The Top

VIII Armed Services Technology

IX New Tasks And Projects

X Transfer Of Research And Development

XI Acknowledgement



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Technology in the Armed Services

Each of the Armed Services acquired Scientific Advisers as the impact of modern technological development of operational equipments became apparent. Their function was to interpret these developments in the light of Australian requirements and, where appropriate, enlist the help of defence scientists in clarifying them.

The Royal Australian Navy became particularly interested in submarine detection and mine detection and actively investigated the structure of southern oceans, discovering thermal and other effects which modified its requirements for sonar performance, and allowed it to lay down details of modification of its own sonar equipment.

Australian involvement in the Korean war provided some motivation for the Army to reintroduce industry to participation in equipment development[59] and, for the first time, a range of general purpose military vehicles was designed and produced with features specified by the Army. The maintenance by the Army of its own design establishment proved an effective element in forming links with industry. It also maintained close links with United Kingdom defence authorities and, by mutual arrangement, engaged in the development of a light mortar and in improvement of the Owen machine carbine. Adaptation of the Belgian 7.62 mm rifle required wide-ranging investigations of alternative materials for both rifle and ammunition. Industry was also encouraged to develop new communications equipments which incorporated the new transistor; in fact Australia's earliest essay into defence technological collaboration with the United States came in 1965, with agreement to assist in developing an advanced trunk field communications system. The requirement was to develop a system to carry voice, teletype data and facsimile traffic. The latest concepts in digital technology were to be employed.

The Weapons Research Establishment was commissioned to develop sub-systems to convert analogue speech signals into digital form and to combine four different digital streams into one. The Standard Telephone and Cables Co. collaborated in designing a multiplex system; the Plessey Co. investigated reception of high quality aerial reconnaissance pictures; Amalgamated Wireless of Australasia considered development of an electronically steerable directional antenna for use on a moving vehicle; Fairchild received a contract to develop a solid state imaging array, and Defence Standards Laboratories investigated electro-deposition printing techniques.

Some of the pitfalls of international collaboration involving commercial interests were realised when projects progressed towards a point of decision about manufacture of the integrated communication system. Commercial considerations led the United States to withdraw from the Mallard Project in 1970, leaving Australia with insufficient grounds for continuing. The knowledge and experience gained, however, proved valuable some years later when the Army embarked on the process of modernising its tactical communications.

The Royal Australian Air Force had established a Special Duties Performance Flight in 1941: this Unit was expanded in the post-war period to become the Aircraft Research and Development Unit[60] which operated with scientific and technical support from ARL. Much of the information concerning the nature and frequency of occurrence of flight loads which contributed to fatigue damage of aircraft was obtained in planned instrumented flights by the Unit. Flights over Darwin revealed unusually low temperatures at high altitude which, in the earlier jet-fighters operated by the RAAF caused engine instability and 'flame-out' in the engine combustors. ARL devised a unique oxygen injection system which gave relief.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Aeronautical Research Laboratories; Amalagamated Wireless Australia (A.W.A.); Army; Australia. Department of Supply; Defence Standards Laboratories; Plessey Aust. Pty Ltd; Project Mallard; R.A.A.F. Aircraft Research and Development Unit; R.A.A.F. Special Duties Performance Flight; Royal Australian Navy; Standard Telephones and Cables (S.T.C.); Weapons Research Establishment (W.R.E.)

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 953 - 954, Online Edition 2000
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