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A Field Guide to the Newington Armory Explosive Ordnance Display


Building 39 at the Newington Armory contains a display of gun barrels, inert ammunition and guided weapons. This display is accessible to the public on organised tours conducted by the Sydney Olympic Park Authority.

This webpage provides information, and an historical context, for the items displayed, together with a photograph of each item or group of items. Almost all the items displayed have some connection with the former RAN Armament Depot Newington, now the Armory.

A listing of most weapons used by the Royal Australian Navy is available and contains links to further information and photographs.

1. The "Big Gun" Era

When the Newington Military Magazine opened in 1897 the "big gun" reigned supreme as the weapon of choice for both the army and the navy. Ammunition technology was in transition from the traditional gunpowder to more advanced propellants such as cordite, and shell fillings such as Lyddite. In 1913 the first flagship of the Royal Australian Navy fleet, HMAS Australia (I), mounted eight 12-inch calibre guns as well as sixteen 4-inch calibre and four 3-pounders. The 12-inch calibre guns were the largest ever used by the Australian navy. Today, its the largest gun is only 5-inch calibre, although these guns have the virtue of rapid rates of fire.

Projectile, 16-inch, Armour-piercing Capped (APC)

16-inch gun projectile

These projectiles were for the 16-inch Mark I guns of the Royal Navy’s Nelson-class battleships, and are a reminder of the close relationship between the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy during World War 2. The approximate weight of the projectiles, which were intended for the attack of heavily armoured battleships, is 930 kilograms. They primarily used kinetic energy to punch through armour plate, so the bursting charge was only 23 kilograms. The projectile was fitted with a soft steel cap to aid penetration, and over this was fixed a light steel conical cap to achieve the required ballistic profile in flight. Maximum range was about 36,000 metres. These projectiles found their way to RANAWED Byford in Western Australia during World War 2, probably in connection with HMS Nelson’s Indian Ocean deployment in mid-1945. Post-war they were converted to display items and for many years stood either side of RANAD Newington’s main gate.

Barrel Liner for Gun Mark 18 Mod 4

Gun barrel liner 5/54 calibre

Modern gun barrels are usually made in two parts, the outer barrel tube and an inner barrel liner. This liner is for the Mark 18 Mod 4 gun which, together with the Mark 42 Gun Mounting, comprises the 5-inch/54 calibre Gun Mark 42. Apart from the barrel, the other major component of the gun is the breech mechanism, by which the gun is loaded and fired.

"5-inch/54 calibre" means that the bore of the gun is nominally five inches (12.7 centimetres) in diameter, and the barrel length is 54 times the diameter, i.e. 270 inches (6.86 metres).

This gun equipped the now obsolete Royal Australian Navy’s Charles F. Adams-class (DDG) destroyers - HMAS Perth, Hobart and Brisbane.

Barrel 76mm/62 Calibre Mark 75 Gun

Gun barrel 76/62 calibre

This display is in 3 parts - the barrel tube, the replaceable barrel liner, and a typical round of ammunition - in this case, a blind (inert) loaded and plugged (BL&P) round.

"76mm/62 calibre" means that the bore of the gun is nominally 76 millimetres in diameter, and the barrel length is 62 times the diameter, i.e. 4.71 metres.

Barrel liner 76/62 gun

The Mark 75 Mod 0 Gun, of Italian origin (manufacturer Oto Melara), is a fully automated, remotely controlled gun mount which stows, aims and fires 76mm calibre ammunition. Automatic water cooling of the barrel allows sustained operation at high firing rates. The gun is primarily a defensive weapon against aircraft and missile threats, however, it can also be used effectively against surface and shore targets. It is operational on RAN Adelaide-class frigates.

Gun barrels were never stored at Newington, however they were stored at Spectacle Island and other harbour side locations.

2. The Rise of the Torpedo

After the battle of Tsushima, between Japan and Russia in 1905, the torpedo could not be ignored. A single torpedo could sink a ship, something a single gun projectile usually could not. Torpedoes could also be carried by small boats, and the threat of a massed torpedo boat attack could force a battle fleet to turn away from the action. HMAS Australia (I) was equipped with two submerged 18-inch torpedo tubes, but increasingly thereafter cruisers and destroyers mounted multiple torpedo tubes on the deck. During World War 2 the 21-inch Mark 9 torpedo was deployed on many Australian navy ships.

Torpedo 21-inch Mark 8 Mod 4

Torpedo Mk 8 Mod 4

This is the classic British anti-ship submarine torpedo of World War 2. In service from 1927, it had a range of 6,400 metres at a speed of 41 knots. Propelled by a semi-internal combustion engine, much of the torpedo’s length comprises a compressed air tank for air supply. A 365 kilogram warhead was initiated by contact with the target or by the target’s magnetic influence, although the latter mode was never reliable. It remained in service until the 1980s in the RAN’s Oberon-class submarines until replaced by the UGM-84 Harpoon missile. The similar Mark 9 torpedo was launched from surface ships.

Torpedoes were maintained at a torpedo depot on Garden Island until the RAN Torpedo Factory opened at Neutral Bay during World War 2. The warheads and other explosive components were stored at Newington although later moved to RANAD Kingswood. Torpedoes were mated with their warheads at RANAD Newington.

3. Countering the Aircraft Threat

World War 1 concentrated gun design on the problem of defending against aircraft attack. Existing guns could not elevate high enough to engage aircraft. The 1920s and 1930s saw the development of medium-calibre, quick-firing “high-angle” guns that fired projectiles that exploded after a pre-set time of flight. Also developed were a variety of small-calibre anti-aircraft guns, often with multiple barrels. The best known of these were the 2-pounder “Pom-pom”, the 40-mm Bofors and 20-mm Oerlikon guns. The radio proximity fuze (also known as the VT (variable time) fuze), developed during World War 2, gave Allied forces an edge in anti-aircraft gunnery in the last years of the war.

Gun Ammunition

Gun ammunition

This display shows some examples of complete rounds of naval gun ammunition, and some of its components. They include:

All of these components may be loaded into the gun as a fully assembled unit; this is called fixed ammunition. However this is only practicable up to a calibre of about 12 centimetres. For larger guns the projectile and propellant are loaded separately and this is known as separate loading ammunition.

Gun fuzes also perform the important safety function of ensuring that the projectile will not explode until it has left the barrel of the gun and travelled a safe distance from the firing ship.

4. The Mine - Hidden Killers

From the 1870s until 1922, Sydney Harbour was defended by the Submarine Mining Corps. Their mines were to be fired electrically by an observer onshore if enemy ships penetrated the harbour. The Newington Military Magazine had storage for the guncotton used in these mines. From World War 1 onwards sea mines, of both the floating and submerged varieties, were extensively used in naval warfare to control areas of sea or to attack shipping in areas where shipping routes converged. In both World Wars much of the Australian navy’s efforts were devoted to either minesweeping or mine laying.

Mine "M" Mark 5

Mine M Mk 5

“M” signifies a magnetic ground mine in British practice. From the mid 1950s to the late 1980s, the RAN used the British "M" Mk 5 ground mines deployed from submarines and surface combatants fitted with mine chutes. The "M" Mk 5 mine is an independent mine designed for use against submarines and surface craft. The mine could be fitted with either magnetic, acoustic or combined magnetic/acoustic firing assemblies determined by the application. The mine casing was a cylindrical steel tube 53.3 centimetres diameter and 2.06 metres long. The mine was manufactured in one section, which was sectioned internally into three sub-sections. The explosive section contained approximately 526 kilograms of TORPEX high explosive that was located in the middle of the mine, with a forward and aft instrument chamber.

The RAN has a long history of involvement with both mine laying and clearing. Between 1921 and 1961, mines were stored and maintained at the Mine Depot at Swan Island in Victoria. Since that time explosive mines have not been stocked, however training has continued using exercise mines as seen here.

5. The Guided Missile Arrives

During World War 2 battleships were superseded by aircraft carriers and submarines as the most capable types of naval vessel. Guns became less important, and the “big gun” disappeared from navies world-wide. This trend was accelerated by the introduction of guided missiles for anti-aircraft defence. In the early 1960s the Royal Australian Navy introduced the Seacat short-range anti-aircraft missile into service on the River-class destroyer escorts. Shortly afterwards the Tartar medium-range anti-aircraft missile was added to the inventory for the Charles F. Adams-class destroyers. The Tartar missile was subsequently superseded by the Standard missile which, in 2013, remains in service.

Seacat Missile

Seacat Missile

Seacat was a short range surface-to-air missile of UK origin designed to replace guns such as the 40/60 calibre Bofors gun. Its operational range was between 0.5 and 5 kilometres. Guidance was achieved by a human operator, using a binocular sight and joystick control. An expanding rod warhead was initiated by proximity to the target.

Seacat was fitted to the 6 River-class destroyer escorts (DE) that commissioned starting in 1961, the first of these being HMAS Parramatta. Seacat was the RAN’s introduction to guided missiles, leading to many changes in the Armament Supply Branch, such as the recruitment of engineers and technical staff. Seacat missiles were stored at RANAD Kingswood and maintained by its Guided Missile Unit, later the independent RAN Missile Maintenance Establishment. RANAD Newington was responsible for transport to ship side, and the maintenance of missile containers.

RIM-24 Tartar Missile

Tartar Missile

A surface-to-air missile of US origin with a range of 16 kilometres in early versions and 32 kilometres in later versions. Powered by a solid propellant rocket motor, the missile used radar illumination of the target aircraft by the firing ship to achieve guidance. Initiation of the 60 kilogram warhead sent an expanding circular metal rod at the target.

Tartar was introduced into RAN service for the first of 3 Charles F. Adams-class destroyers (DDG), HMAS Perth, in 1965.

Tartar missiles were stored at RANAD Kingswood and maintained by its Guided Missile Unit, later the independent RAN Missile Maintenance Establishment. RANAD Newington was responsible for transport to ship side, and the maintenance of missile containers and the transfer dollies used to transfer the missile from container to the ship’s launcher.

RIM-66 Standard Missile

Standard Missile

A surface-to-air missile of US origin with a range of 70 kilometres in early versions and 160 kilometres in later versions. The Standard missile replaced the Tartar missile in RAN service during the lifetime of the Charles F. Adams-class destroyers, and remains in service on the Adelaide-class frigates. Apart from extended range, Standard embodies improved guidance and a more effective warhead.

Standard missiles were stored at RANAD Kingswood and maintained by the RAN Missile Maintenance Establishment. RANAD Newington was responsible for transport to ship side, and the maintenance of missile containers and the transfer dollies used to transfer the missile from container to the ship’s launcher.

6. Cruise Missile

By the 1970s the anti-ship cruise missile replaced the gun as the preferred weapon for attacking enemy ships. In 1983 the first of the Australian navy’s Adelaide-class frigates came into service mounting the Harpoon cruise missile. Harpoon also equipped the Collins-class submarines and RAAF aircraft at the same time, and the weapon remains in service in 2013. Cruise missiles like Harpoon combine long-range, low altitude flight and all-weather capability with a large warhead. They are "fire and forget" weapons, not needing guidance from the launching ship once fired. Similar Exocet missiles destroyed several Royal Navy ships during the Falklands War.

AGM-84/RGM-84/UGM-84 Harpoon Missile

Harpoon Missile

A sea-skimming anti-ship missile of US origin, Harpoon can be launched from surface ships, submarines and aircraft. Harpoon is propelled by a turbo-jet engine in steady flight. A solid propellant booster is used to achieve launch when fired from surface ships and submarines. For submarine use, the missile is contained in a launching capsule. Range is in excess of 120 kilometres, and its 220 kilogram warhead functions on impact with the target ship.

Harpoon was also deployed by the RAAF. The missile on display is a Captive Carriage Weapon Simulator - used on aircraft for simulating maritime strike without carrying a live weapon or requiring release from the aircraft.

Harpoon missiles were stored at RANAD Kingswood and maintained by the RAN Missile Maintenance Establishment. RANAD Newington was responsible for transport to ship side, and the maintenance of transfer dollies used to transfer the missile from container to the ship’s launcher.

7. Countering the Submarine Menace

The outbreak of World War 1 found the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy with no effective means of attacking a submerged enemy submarine. The Type “D” depth charge, the first anti-submarine weapon to combine safety and effectiveness, became available in 1915. This type of depth charge became the commonest anti-submarine weapon until the end of World War 2. Depth charges were either rolled off the stern of a vessel or thrown about 40 metres to the side using a depth charge thrower. The explosive charge was set off by the pressure of seawater at a preset depth.

Depth Charge, Mark 11 Mod 3

Depth Charge Mk 11

This depth charge is a relatively modern variant of the Mark 11 depth charge first introduced into service during World War 2. It is designed for launch by aircraft and helicopters and is primarily for attacking submarines at shallow depth, where homing torpedoes are less effective. It weighs 145 kilograms and as it is a thin-cased weapon, most of the weight is in its explosive filling (about 80 kilograms). A hydrostatic pistol is used to initiate the depth charge at the pre-selected water depth. A tail is fitted to stabilise the charge whilst in the air.

Depth charges of various sorts were stored at Newington until about 1945, including in building 39, where this depth charge is now displayed.

8. Ahead Throwing Anti-submarine Weapons

By the end of World War 1 submarines could be detected using ASDIC (sonar). This allowed more sophisticated depth charge attacks to be launched, however depth charges couldn’t be thrown ahead of the attacking ship. During 1941 and 1942 two ahead throwing weapons were developed, the “Hedgehog” anti-submarine projector and “Squid” anti-submarine mortar. Hedgehog fired multiple mortar bombs from a spiked launcher that landed in a circular area about 250 metres ahead of the firing ship. Squid fired three larger projectiles from a 3-barrelled mortar and the depth at which they were set to explode was automatically relayed from the sonar system.

Projectile A/S Mortar

Projectile A/S Mortar

These are inert projectiles, for use in testing of anti-submarine mortars, or training in their use. Anti-submarine mortars were developed during World War 2 due to the relative ineffectiveness of depth charges. Their key advantage was that they could throw their projectiles well ahead of the launching ship. These particular projectiles were fired at low velocity from the triple-barrelled A/S Mortar Mark 10, at ranges up to 900 metres. They were filled with 94 kilograms of “Checkol”, an inert filler used in place of the Minol explosive of the explosive projectile. A cartridge similar to a gun cartridge was used to propel the projectiles from the mortar.

A production line for filling these projectiles was in operation at Newington in 1961. Projectiles were regularly fired inside Sydney Harbour for training or systems testing until the 1970s. On one occasion of stock shortages, projectiles were salvaged by Navy divers from the harbour bottom and refurbished for re-use.

Operation Checkol

Operation Checkol

9. The Homing Torpedo

After World War 2 the focus of anti-submarine weapons development was on electronic homing torpedoes. The US Navy developed the Mark 44 Torpedo during the 1950s. This was a light-weight torpedo that could be launched from surface ships or from aircraft or helicopters. The Mark 44 proved inadequate to counter faster and deeper-diving Soviet submarines. The Mark 46 Torpedo was then developed and entered service in the 1960s. The 1950s also saw the rise of the submarine as an anti-submarine weapon. In the 1960s Royal Australian Navy Oberon-class submarines were equipped with the wire-guided, homing 21-inch Mark 23 Torpedo.

Torpedo 21-inch Mark 23

Torpedo 21-inch Mk 23

The RAN Torpedo Establishment at Neutral Bay manufactured a number of torpedo types from World War 2 until 1960 when production of the 21-inch Mark 20 electronic homing torpedo was cancelled just as the first torpedo was completed. The Mark 23 torpedo, developed from the Mark 20, was subsequently acquired by the RAN for the Oberon-class submarines, and remained in service until replaced by the Mark 48 torpedo.

The Mark 23 was a wire-guided torpedo, propelled by an electric motor powered by a battery, and intended for attacking enemy submarines.

Torpedoes were maintained at the RAN Torpedo Establishment, with the warheads and other explosive components stored at RANAD Kingswood. Torpedoes were mated with their warheads at RANAD Newington.

Torpedo Mark 44 Mod 1

Torpedo Mk 44

A light-weight anti-submarine torpedo of US origin, able to be launched from surface ships and aircraft. It was also the payload for the Australian-designed and built Ikara anti-submarine missile. The torpedo was propelled by an electric motor powered by a sea water battery and had a range of about 5.5 kilometres to a depth of 900 metres. It was later replaced in most applications by the Mark 46 torpedo, although some were retained for aircraft launch against submarines in shallow water. First deployed with Ikara and the Charles F. Adams-class (DDG) destroyers in the 1960s, it was maintained at the RAN Torpedo Maintenance Establishment at Neutral Bay, whilst explosive components were stored at RANAD Kingswood.

These torpedoes were reusable after exercise firings, which utilised a recording head in lieu of a warhead. The displayed torpedo with the completely orange-coloured head is an exercise version, the other is a "warshot" replica.

10. Australia’s Ikara Missile

Around 1960 the Australian Government undertook the development and manufacture of a new weapon that delivered a Mark 44 Torpedo out to a range of 20 kilometres. Later versions utilised the more capable Mark 46 Torpedo, and were sold to some other navies, including those of the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Brazil. Ikara was phased out of Royal Australian Navy service in the 1990s with the retirement of the River-class destroyer escorts and Charles F. Adams-class destroyers. The FFG-class and FFH-class frigates now use helicopters to launch long-range attacks on submarines.

Ikara Missile Mark 5

Ikara Missile

The Ikara missile was designed and built in Australia as a replacement for the A/S Mortar Mark 10. Propelled by a solid propellant rocket motor, the missile in flight was controlled by guidance information transmitted from the launching ship, another ship in company or a helicopter equipped with a dunking sonar. On release, the torpedo descended to the water by parachute.

Ikara was developed by Australian Government defence organisations and contractors, and was sold to the Royal Navy, Royal New Zealand Navy and Brazilian Navy.

Ikara missiles were stored at RANAD Kingswood and maintained by its Guided Missile Unit, later the independent RAN Missile Maintenance Establishment. RANAD Newington was responsible for transport to ship side, and the maintenance of missile containers and handling equipment used to transfer missiles from container to the ship’s launcher.

11. Other Displays

Ammunition Unit Loads

Ammunition unit load

In earlier times many items such as shells, bombs and depth charges were stored and transported unpackaged. After World War 2 packaged ammunition became the norm and from the 1950s onwards these packages were palletised, or made into "unit loads", in Navy terminology. This made it easier to move the ammunition using forklift trucks and cranes.

This display includes unit loads of:



Fireworks are a well known example of pyrotechnics. In military usage, the term covers a wide variety of items. Their function, broadly speaking, is to provide a signal, either visual, audible or in some cases, in a form detectable only by specialised equipment, such as a radar or sonar set.

Pyrotechnics can also be classified according to how they are launched - from small, hand-held distress flares, through to more complex and larger aircraft and submarine launched flares, dye markers and sound signals.

Illuminating (star), white phosphorus ( marker) and radar echo shells for guns can also be considered as pyrotechnics although usually classified as gun ammunition.

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Robert Curran
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