For many South Australians, seeing a AP-3C Orion, or more recently a P-8A Poseidon, fly over Glenelg beach on maritime patrol training missions is an iconic representation of the strong connection the Air Force has with the state.

South Australian ties to the Air Force in Australia are well entrenched, beginning with Sir Richard Williams—dubbed the ‘Father of the RAAF’—born in Moonta on the state’s York Peninsula in the late 1800s.

Williams was the first military pilot trained in Australia, and went on to command Australian and British fighter units in World War I. An advocate for an independent Air Force, Williams played a crucial role in the establishment of the RAAF and became its first Chief of the Air Staff in 1922.

Reflecting on this rich history, Defence SA Chief Executive Richard Price said South Australia has always played a critical role in air warfare, surveillance and intelligence for our nation.

“South Australia honours the decades of operations by the RAAF’s maritime patrol group and other units that have served and continue to serve our nation with distinction,” said Mr Price.

“South Australia is a hub of Defence activity, and we are known for having of some of the country’s most advanced defence and space precincts and world-class infrastructure.

“This, along with our fierce commitment to new ideas, development of cutting-edge technology, advanced research capability and highly skilled workforce means South Australia will continue to support RAAF operations in our state, as well as those of the broader Defence Force.

“We are proud to be the Defence State, and equally proud to celebrate with the RAAF in its one-hundredth year,” he said.

Home to more than 6,500 personnel and their families, South Australia’s Edinburgh Defence Precinct is the state’s largest Defence establishment encompassing RAAF Base Edinburgh, Defence Science and Technology Group, Edinburgh Parks and the Woomera Range Complex, which is the largest land-based test range in the western world.

Since the 1970s, the number of units and defence organisations at the Precinct have steadily increased and since 2010 this has included Army ground forces who were relocated to be stationed at this burgeoning Defence precinct.

Over the last decade the Precinct has become a crucial intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance hub for the Australian Defence Force, with the establishment of the Air Warfare Centre, Jindalee Operational Radar Network, space capabilities, 92 Wing and 1 remote sensor residing in Adelaide.

RAAF Base Edinburgh will also be home to Australia’s new MQ-4C Triton, MC-55A Peregrine and MQ-9B Sky Guardian unmanned aerial vehicles, complementing the nation’s P-8A Poseidon aircraft for maritime surveillance.

Executive Director of Defence and Space at Defence SA Reg Carruthers (a previous Commander of Aerospace Operational Support Group) remembers well the day he strapped in for his final flight in an Aircraft Research and Development Unit F/A-18 Hornet from RAAF Base Edinburgh and across the South Australian coast, as he reflects on the decades of growth in the RAAF’s aerospace and space capability.

“From the 1968 arrival of the first P3 Orion at RAAF Base Edinburgh to the current fleet of 14 P-8A Poseidon aircraft currently being maintained at the site, we’re now seeing fifth-generation aircraft patrol our country’s shores,” Mr Carruthers said.

“RAAF Base Edinburgh has undergone major renovations over the years, solidifying its place as the home of maritime patrol.

“We’ve also seen landmark developments in space-derived intelligence in South Australia from the launch of WRESAT 1 in 1967 from the Woomera Range Complex to the State Government announcement that a locally-manufactured small satellite will be launched into lower Earth orbit in 2022.

“The RAAF has played a significant role in South Australia’s history. Not only is the Air Force a part of South Australia’s fabric, so too are the men and women undertaking the training, testing, research and operations for the RAAF in our state, as well as their families.”

South Australia has a long and proud partnership with the Air Force and in their centenary year, when not even the sky is the limit, we have only glimpsed into what future collaborations have in store for The Defence State.


  1. Six MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles will be based at RAAF Base Edinburgh. Image courtesy of Northrop Grumman.