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RAN Torpedo Factory/Establishment - Chronology

1942

Construction of the Torpedo Factory at Neutral Bay commenced.

1943

Construction completed.

1943-1945

Two experimental teams, one Australian and one American were engaged on developing homing torpedoes based on ideas submitted to the Australian Army Inventions Directorate by two prominent local inventors. One of these ideas was a wake-following torpedo (the "Wall" and "Ball" wake-seeking torpedo).

1944

On 24 February 1944 the first 18-inch Mark XV aerial-launched torpedo was succesfully tested at the Pittwater range. This was followed by succesful aircraft launch trials at Jervis Bay in July 1944.

Workshop at RAN Torpedo Establishment 1949

Upper Workshop, No. 2 Bay, RAN Torpedo Establishment, 1949 - Repair and Modification

1952

The first Australian manufactured Mark 9 torpedoes were successfully tested on 30 July 1952 at the factory's range at Pittwater. These torpedoes were to equip HMAS Tobruk and HMAS Anzac as well as the projected Daring class destroyers.

Torpedo being hoisted at the Pittwater range

Hoisting Recovered Torpedo at RAN Torpedo Range, Pittwater, 1949

1960

The amalgamation of the depot functions of the RAN Torpedo Establishment (RANTE) with those of the Guided Missile Unit (GMU) at RANAD Kingswood was canvassed by Navy Office:
"2. With the cessation of manufacture of torpedoes, the current task of the Depot involves maintenance of the following torpedoes:

(i) 21" Mark 8 for submarines.
(ii) 21" Mark 9 for Darings etc
(iii) 21" Mark 20(S) for submarines.
(iv) 18" Mark 30 for "Wessex" and "Gannet" aircraft.
(v) U.S.N. Mark 44 for "Wessex" aircraft and "Ikara"

...

7. I am to request therefore that you investigate and report on the feasibility of the transfer of the facilities to Kingswood. ..." (Navy Office letter 1426/202/68 of 18 October 1963)

This request did not lead to any significant changes.

1966

December: Committee appointed, to be chaired by CAPT B.J. Castles, RAN, "to examine the procedure for the maintenance, overhaul and repair of torpedoes and associated equipments ashore and to recommend to the Naval Board the the future policy to be followed to ensure the greatest efficiency in the supply of these weapons and equipment to the Fleet."

1968

The Castle Committee's deliberations seem to have been remarkably protracted; their initial recommendation in July 1968 was essentially "business as usual". However, reading between the lines, Navy Office politics resulted in a major reworking of the Committee's recommendations, which by October 1968 included (Navy Office letter 2-204-68 of 15 October 1968):

In the event, some of these recommendations were deferred. Navy Office letter of 21 November 1968 advised FOICEAA that:

1983

In 1983, RANTME was under pressure to surrender space to meet the needs of the Submarine Squadron; the following is from a paper examining how the end of life of the Mk8 torpedo would allow consolidation:

"One third of the current establishment of 140 is dedicated to the Mk8 Torpedo, including the Range personnel at Pittwater. The Mk8 group occupies half the workshop spaces at North Sydney. The high pressure air compressor, associated storage bank and dynamometer, which are the heart of Mk8 production, are located outside the main factory in an area in Building 2 marked for the expansion of the Submarine Training School.

Within the main factory of four assembly bays, the Mk8 refurbishment and preservation program occupies all of Bay No. 1, and the Mk8 Shape manufacture and turnaround uses half of Bay No. 2. This is in contrast to the Mk44 and Mk 46 Torpedoes, which combined use only the equivalent of a single bay, including a compactor stowage and a facility for repair of electronic test equipment. " (Senior Engineer minute TS 33-14-51 of 20 January 1983)

SMTM proposes relocation of Mk46 torpedo maintenance facilities from the North Sydney site to the Naval Air Station at Nowra from 1984, in connection with the proposal to construct the Jervis Bay Armament Depot.(SMTM minute KM24/1/1 of 5 August 1983)


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Robert Curran
borclaud @ tpg.com.au