The Antennas of Pine Gap


Antennas are the most readily available and visible evidence of the existence, character, and size of signals intelligence facilities that operate or monitor space systems. Coupled with data on the timing of developments in US geosynchronous satellite programs, the timing of antenna installation now permits, for the first time, identification of the role and function of almost all antennas at Pine Gap. Documenting the development of the antenna systems of Pine Gap provides visual evidence of the profound changes in the base’s operations and its missions: a subject of political controversy in Australia for half a century. The antennas of Pine Gap are a powerful political symbol in Australia, representing either promise of enduring alliance protection or loss of national autonomy and nuclear threat to different audiences.

Since 1967, at least 46 antenna systems have been installed at Pine Gap, including 23 parabolic dish antennas covered by protective radomes and 23 uncovered antennas of assorted types. Four of those in radomes were subsequently dismantled (although three were replaced by other systems in radomes); nine without radomes also have been dismantled. Of the 33 antenna systems at the facility as of February 2016, 19 were in radomes and 14 were uncovered.


Desmond Ball is Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University (ANU). He was a Special Professor at the ANU’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre from 1987 to 2013, and he served as Head of the Centre from 1984 to 1991.

Bill Robinson writes the blog Lux Ex Umbra, which focuses on Canadian signals intelligence activities. He has been an active student of signals intelligence matters since the mid-1980s, and from 1986 to 2001 was on the staff of the Canadian peace research organization Project Ploughshares.

Richard Tanter is Senior Research Associate at the Nautilus Institute and Honorary Professor in the School of Political and Social Sciences at the University of Melbourne...


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