About the Woomera Prohibited Area

The Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) is a globally unique military testing range. It covers nearly 124,000 square kilometres in north-west South Australia, approximately 450 kilometres NNW of Adelaide. It is the largest land testing range in the world. The majority of the WPA is South Australian Crown land and is covered by pastoral leases and mining tenements granted by the South Australian Government.

The WPA is a Prohibited Area regulated by the Defence Act 1903,  Defence Force Regulations 1952 and the WPA Rule 2014 and is a Defence premise used for the testing of war materiel under the control of the Royal Australian Air Force. The WPA is an important Defence capability and testing and evaluation asset that plays a significant role in Australia’s national security.

The WPA is also highly prospective and the South Australian Government and Geoscience Australia have assessed that over the next decade about $35 billion worth of  iron ore, gold and other mineral resources are potentially exploitable from within the WPA. 

The WPA comprises extensive lands north of the Indian Pacific railway, from north of Watson in the south-west up to its north-west corner in the Great Victoria Desert (that stretches across the SA-WA border), across to Coober Pedy, and west of Roxby Downs down to Woomera in the south-east.

History

Woomera was declared a prohibited area in 1947. The Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) was established as a long-range weapons testing facility by the United Kingdom and Australia under the Anglo-Australian Joint Project, which wound down during the 1970s. The WPA’s size (124 000 km2), remote location and quiet electromagnetic environment make it an ideal test and evaluation site for Australia and its allies and partners.

The use of the WPA by Defence declined during the 1980s and 1990s and it was opened up to non-Defence users including the resources sector. Changes in the strategic environment since the late 1990s have resulted in an increasing requirement for access to WPA facilities for the testing and evaluation of weapons systems. The range is now, in parts, in near constant use. As a declared prohibited area, access to the WPA for non-Defence use requires Commonwealth approval and is based on the proviso that Defence activities would not be unduly compromised.

Imagery

File imagery is available from the Defence Image Gallery.

Media releases