Lancelin Defence Training Area


Lancelin Defence Training Area is a coastal dune area north of Perth used as a naval gunnery range, air bombing range,  and for navy clearance diver explosives training, army engineer and other training. It has also been used for SAS and counter-terrorism training. The naval and air ranges have often been used by US and other armed forces. The sea area adjacent to the Lancelin Range is the Western Australia Exercise Area (WAXA) used by the RAN and allied naval elements for training purposes. In 2005 the RAN reported that personel based at HMAS Stirling in Perth are deployed to Lancelin “for NGS and demolitions training  between 15 and 20 times  a year for training by  Australian or visiting  warships and aircraft.” A 2006 Navy capability review foreshadowed reduced need for live firing at Lancelin and other ranges in the longterm “with improvements in automation, simulation, system built-in tests and significant developments in naval gunfire and missile system capability and reliability.”

AUSTCDT4 conducting explosives training at Lancelin bombing range, Sea Talk, Summer 2003

Tourism, Shire of Dandaragan

Government sources

‘Big Bang’ Theory is ‘Bee Happy’, Royal Australian Navy, 26 July 2010

The motto of ‘bee happy’ has a whole new meaning for HMAS Stirling’s Gunnery Department which regularly demonstrates its ‘big bang’ theory of five-inch guns and exploding armour-piercing shells at Lancelin Naval Gunfire Support Range. Situated approximately 200km north of Stirling, Lancelin Naval Gunfire Support Range is where Naval Gunnery Support has learnt to co-exist with the environment – particularly the honey bees that produce the ‘Bee Happy’ brand of organic honey which is part of a $9 billion export industry.

Lieut. Kimberly Healy, Stirling’s Gunnery Officer, said the Gunnery Department operate the range frequently throughout the year during exercises such as FCP and ASWEX as well as for pre-deployment workup training by FFHs deploying on Op Slipper. But the Navy would probably feel the sting of bee-keepers and possibly the bees themselves if it did not take environmental considerations into account when using the range which has been in use since 1956.

Lieut. Healy said Navy gets excellent value from Lancelin Naval Gunfire Support Range, which is the only gunnery range on the west coast where RAN warships can practice Naval Gunfire Support during exercises and WUPs before they deploy on operations to the Gulf. “The PWO sea week during ASWEX is another time we activate Lancelin Range for NGS, which can involve as many as five warships, and two submarines” she said.

The range, which covers 13,000 hectares, also has a demolitions area and bunker within the Lancelin impact area, used mainly by Australian Clearance Diving Team Four and occasionally the Army Engineers. The range itself is also used for a variety of purposes such as tactical explosive ordnance disposal as well as the demolition of obsolete ordnance. Counter-terrorism training and SAS Cadre courses are also conducted on the range.

Plan Blue 2006: Fundamental Inputs to Capabilities and Facilities, RAN

87. Ranges, Offshore Exercise Areas and Naval Waters. There remains a requirement to conduct realistic, at-sea exercises and weapons firings and shore based weapons firing training. Navy training must be conducted under the most realistic combat conditions possible. The Eastern Australia Exercise Area (EAXA), Western Australia Exercise Area (WAXA) and the North Australia Exercise Area (NAXA) will remain critical to the long-term delivery of Navy capability. Navy must develop long-term management plans for offshore exercise areas to ensure environmental compliance and the accommodation of civil users where necessary.

88. Beecroft, Lancelin, and Townsend Island ranges will remain critical to Navy. However, with improvements in automation, simulation, system built-in tests and significant developments in naval gunfire and missile system capability and reliability, the utilisation of land ranges may reduce in the long-term.

‘The Western Force’ Alias HMAS StirlingSea Talk (Royal Australian Navy), Summer 2005

The 15 units in the Stirling command element include regulation, maintenance of discipline and ceremony, providing Port Services Management, Helicopter Support Facility, Naval fuel installations, marine support, manning and activation of Lancelin Naval Gunfire Support (NGS) Range and the Navy Reserve Regional Pool-WA.

Stirling personnel activate and man Lancelin range, 180nm to the north of Garden Island, for NGS and demolitions training between 15 and 20 times a year for training by Australian or visiting warships and aircraft.

A lodger unit, Joint Operations Command (MCJOC-W), coordinates and manages the ranges and (Defence) Corporate Services and Infrastructure Group (CSIG) maintains them.

Big Bang Theory: This week Navy News takes a look behind the scenes at Lancelin Range, Navy News, August 26, 2004

Ammunition, explosives and the environment may seem like an unlikely combination but that is what Lancelin Naval Gunfire Support Range has managed to blend. Situated on one of the most beautiful coastlines in Australia, the range is approximately 150km north of Perth; about three and a half hours drive from HMAS Stirling. The range is half way between the town of Lancelin renowned for its fishing and perfect windsurfing conditions and the crayfishing community of Wedge Island.

LCDR Peter Radburn, HMAS Stirling’s Gunnery Officer said that the edge of the range, used by Defence since pre WWII, is 25 km north of Lancelin, with the southern tip of the impact area a further 5 km north.  This 30 kms to the impact area takes an hour to negotiate because of the sand dunes and rocky limestone outcrops. “The front of the range has 25 kms ocean frontage and the depth of the range goes back about 12 kms and tacked onto the back of that is a military exercise area,” LCDR Radburn explained. “The Navy owns an impact area approximately 8 kms wide across the front facing the beach and about 10 kms deep. “In there we have eight targets, six of which are gunnery targets, that is shore bombardment targets, and two which are aerial bombing targets.”

The ground along the coastline and the area at the back of the range consists of sand dunes while the middle of the range, where the bombardment and bombing occurs, is limestone and very low scrub.

The Navy has a demolitions area and bunker within the Lancelin impact area, used mainly by Australian Clearance Diving Team Four and occasionally the Army Engineers. But the range itself is used for a variety of purposes such as tactical explosive ordnance disposal as well as the demolition of obsolete ordnance. Counter-terrorism training and SAS Cadre courses are also conducted on the range. When the range is activated, approximately 16 support people deploy from Stirling.

US Carrier Undertakes Maintenance And Training In Fremantle, Department of Defence, Media Release, MECC 3/0309/01/2003

The Australian Government has approved a visit to Australia of the United States Navy Carrier Battle Group led by the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. A number of US Navy aircraft have relocated to RAAF Pearce so that they can maintain operational flying expertise while the carrier’s flight deck is out of service. This flying training will include use of the Lancelin Defence Training Area for bombing practice. While using the Lancelin Defence Training Area US Navy planes will comply with all ADF safety requirements. Live ordnance will not be used on the range. There will be no supersonic flights and low flying will be kept to a minimum.


Parliamentary sources

Parliament of Western Australia

Extract from Hansard [COUNCIL – Tuesday, 24 September 2002], p1407c-1415a.

HON DEE MARGETTS (Agricultural):

This matter is urgent for a number of reasons. Obviously, the international situation with the United Nations in relation to Iraq is at a very delicate stage, but this urgency motion concerns the impact on Western Australia of potential decisions or announcements that could be made this week. In the meantime, the United States military has made a bid to secure some commercial contracts for US Navy vessels to be maintained by the naval facilities of Western Australia at Fremantle, and the Western Australian Government and the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, I suppose driven by the Premier himself, and by what some people consider to be 30 pieces of silver. At the same time, we have seen a considerable increase in military activity in the existing military training area north of Lancelin, despite the fact that to everybody’s great relief it appears that the federal Government has ceased its wacky idea of acquiring an extra 36 000 hectares – a huge amount – to increase that
training area to enable the United States military and others to carry out bombing swathes and major sea-to-air bombing exercises. Training activities have nevertheless increased considerably. Part of what I wish to speak about today is what people in Western Australia are experiencing now and are likely to experience if this
Government considers that it really is a good idea to have a de facto US naval base located in Western Australia. My colleague Hon Jim Scott, if he has the chance, will speak about issues as they impact upon people in the Fremantle area, but I would like to give members an indication of what is now happening around the Lancelin
defence training area and how it is affecting people.

The letter I first read out was followed on 20 September with a letter from another constituent … The letter states –

Living in Lancelin for the last month or so has been like living in a war zone. A significant escalation in training activity by all three services has seen the town under virtual siege and a serious impact made on the quality of life in the area.

    • The SAS camped in town for weeks with their land operations vehicles parked or driving around town constantly.
    • On Saturday 14 September at 9.30 am a series of 17 large explosions which I believe were caused by Naval bombardment. The effect of these explosions, compounded by the prevailing  north-west wind had my home shaking and the windows rattling.
    • Also on 14 September an aircraft flew over my home at such a low altitude as to frighten my wife into hysterical uncontrollable crying as a result of the fright it gave her as she was in our back yard. I ran from inside the house believing a crash was imminent to see the aircraft flying north at an altitude of no higher than 100 feet.
    • On Thursday 19 September, 2002 my family was woken by huge explosions from the Naval Gunnery Range. These blasts shook my house and rattled the windows and crockery. I counted thirty four blasts between 0615 and 0632 hours, twenty five of which I would describe as the worst I have experienced in the eight and a half years I have lived in Lancelin. The situation was not compounded by wind direction in this instance as there was no wind.
    • At 1620 hrs and again at 1652 hrs on 19 September a C130 transporter flew over the Lancelin beachfront homes from north to south at extremely low altitude. Standing in my back yard looking over the roof of my single story home all I could see of these planes was the extreme tip of the tailplane. I am familiar with the height of these planes and their tail loading feature and would estimate their altitude at no more than 75 – 100 feet. This is an obscene disregard for the safety and  welfare of the people of Lancelin.

It appears that we are already under siege in Western Australia, even though Lancelin is not expanding at this stage. Lancelin is still considerably bigger than the current US defence training area in Puerto Rico that has been causing enormous social and environmental problems. I am concerned that not only has there been an immense escalation of bombing activities in an area that recently set up a gravitational wave centre at enormous public expense from the Commonwealth Government, but also it appears that the people from this area are being treated like mushrooms. I am outraged that we are being subjected to this siege.


Lancelin Defence Training Area,

The US has been interested in using the Lancelin Defence Training Area (DTA) for quite some time. In 1995 the commander of the US 7th Fleet Vice Admiral Archie Clemins inspected the Lancelin DTA with a view to its future use by US forces. Clemins told The West Australian that traditional US Training grounds around the world were disappearing and Australia was an attractive option. Vice-Admiral Clemins has spoken with Australian military officials about training here and personally inspected Lancelin during a recent visit to Perth. “One of the greatest things we lost in the Philippines were (bombing) ranges to train,” he said. “You have to have places to drop bombs, you have to have places to shoot live weapons, places to fly planes over that make noise, places where you can actually test and exercise your capabilities. “I think Australia in the future is going to be one of the places we’d like to exercise with the Australians, as well as with the US Navy. “You now have some of the finest ranges in the Western Pacific which we cannot get anywhere else. “

Defence has been training in the area since the 1940s and has been using the existing DTA for at least 30 years.

The current area used by the Department of Defence comprises:

  • The Royal Australian Navy Impact Area (RANIA) – 970 hectares of freehold land along the coast owned by the Department of Defence;
  • Naval Gunfire Support Range Danger Area (NGSRDA) – 11,853 hectares leased by the Department of Defence;
  • Bivouac Area (Bullfrog Well) – 40.47 ha owned by the Department of Defence; and
  • the Army Training Area – approximately 17,300 hectares on a permissive occupancy arrangement, of which 4,000 hectares overlap the Naval Danger Area.

Defence proposes to extend the Lancelin DTA by leasing from the State an additional area of land of approximately 36,500 hectares for a period of at least 50 years. The majority of the proposed extension is vacant Crown Land with the remainder being pastoral leases or freehold private property. The procedure for acquiring land within the extension and establishing a lease agreement with the State and matters relating to Native Title are being handled under separate processes.

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