Place: Pine Gap (1966 - )

9 December 1966
Alternative Names
  • Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap
  • Joint Defence Space Research Facility


Pine Gap is the commonly used name for a satellite tracking station located at 23.799°S 133.737°E, approximately 18 kilometres south-west of Alice Springs in Central Australia and operated by both Australia and the United States. The Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap was established pursuant to an agreement between the US and Australian governments which came into effect on 9 December 1966. Operations commenced at the facility in 1970.

While activities at Pine Gap are secret, the base is known to be involved in numerous military satellite operations and has historically been a target for protests by a variety of groups.


In 1999, with the Australian Government refusing to give details to an Australian Senate committee on treaties, Intelligence expert Professor Des Ball from the Australian National University was called to give an outline of Pine Gap. According to Professor Ball, since its establishment Pine Gap had grown from the original two antennas to about eighteen in 1999.

Ball described the facility as the ground control and processing station for geosynchronous satellites engaged in signals intelligence collection, outlining four categories of signals collected:
- telemetry from advanced weapons development, such as ballistic missiles, used for arms control verification;
- signals from anti-missile and anti-aircraft radars;
- transmissions intended for communications satellites; and
- microwave emissions, such as long-distance telephone calls.

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Published resources


  • Department of External Affairs, Australian Treaty Series 1966 No 17: Agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Government of the United States of America relating to the Establishment of a Joint Defence Space Research Facility, Australian Government Publishing Service, 9 December 1966. Details
  • Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, Joint Standing Committee on Treaties Report 26: An Agreement to extend the period of operation of the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap, Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Australia, October 1999. Details