1940 - 1984        

Royal Air Force Aberporth

Recording the History  -  Recalling the Memories.

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A Brief History of RAE Aberporth

Page awaiting more updates. Other pages are accessible.

     I am also seeking help with more information, photograph’s, stories etc,  relating to the history of both the RAF and RAE sites. If you can help, please contact me via Email or at Mikes Shop in Chancery Lane, Cardigan.

This (left),was the FPS16 Radar Building in the late 1960’s Two AN-FPS16’s were  used in the accurate tracking of missiles and targets. In the case of the Bloodhound missile, no chances  could be  taken in losing track of it in flight  over the Irish Sea, so a C-Band Transponder was installed in the PIP (Pressurised Instrumentation Package) in the missile warhead bay. The Transponder, used at Woomera and made in Australia, ensured constant lock at whatever the task missile was asked to do.

  The FPS 16’s were sold back to the USA over a decade ago, (similar to photo left) and a new ultra modern tracking radar called MOTR  installed on the main RAE site back from the launchers. Left of the MET Offices. (Photo below)

      MOTR is capable of tracking multiple targets at the same time. Hence the name,  Multiple Object Tracking Radar

This was part of Doppler and Communications in the late 1960’s.     

John Armstrong  seated.

      The S300 Radar used during RAE  trials as well as RAF Western Radar, covering the Irish Sea and  Western Air Lanes. In the 1960’s and 1970’s. Such a large radar now being obsolete, it has been replaced by a much smaller Radar on a concrete tower.

     This was the Telemetry section and Timing Systems centre  in the late 1960’s.

 Late Bill “Curly” Birchenough       facing the equipment.

A Jindivik  Pilotless Drone.  Based RAE Llanbedr,  N. Wales.   (Llanbedr Closed Recently.)


RAE CHRISTMAS DINNER. Circa 1948 to 1950

   Do You Recognise anyone?

                 Can you supply a name?

So far we have only Dennis Wetherall identified.

Can YOU pick him out?

   Part of RAE Aberporth’s  MOTR.     Multiple Object Tracking Radar.

    Full information on Wikipedia.


By 1.S. Dyer:


The Establishment opened in 1939, when the first building work on the site also began. An Army Camp already existed on adjoining land, and the Range was in use for artillery gun firings. In early 1940 the Projectile Development Establishment was evacuated from Fort Halstead in Kent to Aberporth, to continue work on small diameter solid fuelled rockets. The year 1945 marked the introduction of liquid fuelled missiles to the Range, and one of these early guided missiles successfully shot down a pilotless target aircraft for the first time at Aberporth in 1954.

By the early 1960s rapid development had taken place, bringing additional Range facilities and many new missile projects to the Range. Since then, development has continued steadily, in keeping with the ever—increasing complexity of trials requirements.3


RAE Aberporth is situated in an area of considerable natural beauty, seven miles from the market town of Cardigan and almost equidistant between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth. Carmarthen supplies the most useful railway station, 30 miles from Aberporth. The Range is situated towards the southern end of Cardigan Bay and is the largest of four establishments comprising the present—day RAE Ranges Division, for which the Superintendent of Ranges at Aberporth is responsible. An RAE staff of about 600 is employed, a large proportion of whom are local people, though other personnel based in the Establishment attached to the three Services, private industry and the Department of the Environment make up a total complement of roughly 1000. The Range includes a Royal Navy trials organization and works closely with the Royal Air Force, Aberporth stationed in the Range area.

 1939 to 1947

A rocket firing range on the west Wales coast was first considered in 1937 and a site at Towyn Farm, Gwbert, on the river Teifi estuary initially chosen after much investigation in the locality. There were difficulties in securing this land, however, and an alternative site was then obtained on the land of Pennar Isaf farm, Parcllyn, Aberporth. The declaration of war in 1939 speeded construction work and the first building foundations were cut between March and September 1939. Mr. Gwilym George, a local man, claims to have been the first workman on the site, then employed as foreman by the building contractors, Mowlem Ltd., and still works in the Establishment in the capacity of Range Warden.

The first firings (of guns) were made from Aberporth by the Honourable Artillery Company RA in June 1939. An army camp already existed here at that time, occupying what is now the Range Head Area, but in early 1940 the Projectile Development Establishment, Fort Halstead, Kent, was evacuated to the new Range at Aberporth because of its vulnerability to enemy action at Fort Halstead. Work was being done by PDE at that time on 2 inch and 3 inch rockets and ‘Lord Haw—Haw’, the renegade Englishman turned German propagandist was heard to remark in one of his famous radio broadcasts of the time that he would cause the double track road leading to Fort Halstead to become a single— track road if work continued there! The move from Fort llalstead to Aberporth was later accomplished at three days’ notice by rail and road transport. On arrival, only one permanent building was ready and the overflow of staff and equipment had to be accommodated in the Bridgend Foundry, Cardigan which was used as a workshop, and Cilwendeg Mansion, Boncath, Pembrokeshire, a few miles from Aberporth, used as headquarters and office accommodation. Director PDE at that time was Dr. (later Sir Alwyn) Crow, and William Blackman was the first Superintendent Aberporth in 1941. By inference, the work ‘development’ in the title ‘Projectile Development Establishment’ was significant in that, from 1940, no less than six Ph Ds were engaged on various development projects whilst the Range itself progressed as a separate entity.

In the very early days, the small solid propellant rockets under develo— ment could only be fired singly. The fuelling of charges into these was successfully mechanised for the first time by a machine designed and built at Aberporth which, it’ is believed, still exists at RPE Westcott today. These small rockets were soon developed for ripple firing in clusters of up to 30 or more from multiple ‘battery’ type launchers. Some early wartime ideas were remarkable for their ingenuity, if not their success, and included the FAN (Fast Aerial Mine) which consisted of a 2 in rocket carrying a canister filled with wire coiled around the inner section of the canister, with a small parachute attached to one end and a bomb to the other. The wire unwound from the canister during the flight of the rocket, to eventually be left hanging in space from its parachute, dangling the bomb like some nightmarish fishing line awaiting a bite — the intended quarry being any enemy aircraft which might snag the wire and cause the bomb to swing up and explode on contact with the airframe. An early victim of these trials was a local electricity supply line and much of the district lost all power supplies for a while. Another, uncomfortable sounding device, was the ‘explosive mattress’. Intended to neutralise minefields, this apparatus was to be carried by a rocket to land on a minefield where it would detonate enough mines to clear a swathe through the area.

After Dunkirk in 1940, Army personnel joined the range staff and took over the firing of rockets, which had previously been done by civilian personnel. R.J. Buller, later to become Superintendent RAE Aberporth first arrived in the Establishment during 1940 with Bolton—King who was concerned with photo—electric fuse development. In 1943, Z Battery Royal Artillery arrived at Aberporth under the command of Major Duncan Sandys; and the Major’s father—in—law, Mr. (later Sir) Winston Churchill, visited the Establishment soon afterwards to view firings.

 He was, perhaps, one of the first of a long series of ‘VIP’ visitors to the Range which continues to the present day. Nowadays, many representatives of foreign governments also visit Aberporth through interest in various British missile systems and Range techniques.

Range instrumentation in the early 1940's was almost non—existent, though one or two kinetheodolites were in use and permanent observation posts for these and the other kinetheodolites and high speed cameras which followed in ensuing years, were built as and when required. Drogue targets towed by aircraft flown from both Aberporth and Llanbedr airfields were in use in these early years.

After 1942, bigger rockets began to appear. The 10 in ‘Uncle Tom’ was a notable success which became the best tankbuster of the war and later became known in the Far East as the ‘Dust Bin Head’; used there to clear out Japanese bunkers.

Recovery trials initiated by Aberporth were done by teams sent to Pendine, Carmarthenshire, as the large area of sand and mud flats there at low tide proved convenient for the purpose. Some recoveries after firing were also made from the sea at Aberporth using grappling hooks. At Ynys Las, near Borth, Cardiganshire, on the River Dovey estuary, teams from Aberporth set up static prolectors to fire against armour plate targets in order to prove the armour piercing capabilities of rocket warheads.

A strange building known as ‘the Dragon’ had by now been erected at Aberporth, in which static firings of various rocket motors took place. Its walls were three feet thick, and it had a ‘self—lifting’ roof. A firing was quite a frightening experience, for then the Dragon really did breathe fire through the ‘laws’ of its pressure—raised roof.

Towards 1944, a peak number of military and civilian personnel were employed at Aberporth. There was a Ranges Section of about 110 civilians, for example, in addition to a large workshops staff with an overflow still accommodated in the Bridgend Foundry, Cardigan. A team of mathematicians forming the nucleus of the present day Data Centre had arrived and were based at Cilwendeg Mansion, Boncath.

The ripple firing technique for ship-borne 2in rockets was now developing and a rolling platform was sited at North Battery for this purpose. This installation had no pitch movement and after being used a few times was abandoned as unsatisfactory. Range Safety disciplines were relatively undeveloped in those days, and the Establishment’s Blacksmith, a sizeable character known to all as ‘Zulu’, once laid a 3 in rocket which he thought was empty, on his forge. The ‘empty’ canister abruptly took off and whooshed around his smithy. Miraculously, no—one was injured.

A chemical laboratory was established during 1944 (this was later closed down when PDE staff finally left the Establishment) and a few photographers had by now joined the staff.

The end of the war in Europe in 1945 saw the beginning of an exodus of scientific and other staff from Aberporth. Some, originally from Fort Halstead, returned there, other scientific personnel moved to the newly forming Guided Projectile Establishment at Westcott, while some moved on to atomic weapons research.

At the end of the war, guided weapons were being developed by several separate organizations for each of the three Services. The Ministry of Aircraft Production was developing the precursor of the later ‘Blue Sky’ air-to-air guided weapon at RAE Farnborough, and the Ministry of Supply was developing a ground-to-air beam riding missile (LOPGAP) at GPE Westcott, ARDE Malvern, AGE Teddington and ASRDE Christchurch. These establishments had separate responsibilities for propulsion, guidance, control and telemetry systems to be used in this project. There were also plans at this time to turn Aberporth, which had up to now been an outstation of PDE Fort Haistead and Royal Arsenal Woolwich, into an outpost of GPE Westcott. The Ministries of Aircraft Production and Supply were amalgamated under Supply, and much debate ensued to decide how and where guided weapon development should continue. RAE guided weapon effort was based at Bramshot and Farnborough and headed by

George Gardiner then, (succeeded by Ron Smelt, who was in turn succeeded by Morien Morgan (later Sir Morien)). H.A. Popham and others had built up a tracking organization in the Scilly Isles in relation to the Wallace Supersonic Model experiment, and Popham canvassed hard to develop a Range there, later to be quietened by the offer to run Aberporth.

Towards the end of the war some research had been done into long range ballistic missiles and data had been prepared to produce a ram-jet missile called ‘Athodyd’. This was first fired from North Battery by a man called Palmer (otherwise known as ‘Paraffin Joe’), and was not a particularly successful vehicle. One early firing made a violent shift in course, resulting in a land impact near the coastal village of Llangrannog. This missile was connected with the later RTV 1 programme, and at this time a number of different liquid fuel systems were under consideration for RTV 1 rockets.

The year 1946 saw the development at Aberporth of LOPGAP (liquid oxygen propelled guided anti-aircraft projectile) later to be known as RTV I. This had a tandem boost motor, and dummy missiles were first fired in a programme to check boost separation. Later versions known as ‘hot’ rounds had live rocket motors filled with liquid oxygen and alcohol. Altogether, the various versions of RTV I provided a trials programme which extended over many years, with several types of liquid fuels for the vehicle being considered at various times. When pure alcohol was in use, it is said that HM Customs and Excise Officers cast suspicious eyes on Aberporth and paid periodic visits, to make sure none was being improperly consumed or illegally ‘exported’ into space!

Prior to 1946, kinetheodolites had been operated by Army personnel, but in March 1946 the decision was taken to recruit civilians to operate these instruments and compute trajectory data. The kinetheodolites then in use were Akerley 2 man operated instruments which had to be lifted by hand from their storage huts at observation posts and installed on concrete pillars before a trial. After a firing, operators would work out trajectories using the bearing obtained and long parallel graphs. The plotting was done on long refectory tables, placed end to end. A Type 584 caravan~mounted tracking radar was now in use providing some rough data, and later, Type 584 radars provided trajectory information as a back—up to the kines. Missiles at this time were fired parallel to the coast from the North Battery for ease of tracking, but this practice created safety problems and as missile development proceeded, all missiles began to be fired out to sea.

H.A. Popham arrived as new Officer-in-Charge (he later became Superintendent) in 1947, and RAE Farnborough then assumed responsibility for Aberporth under the Ministry of Supply. The locally recruited industrial staff raised sighs of relief at this ‘take-over bid’, as it had been feared that the Establishment would close down after the war, and other employment in the area then (as now) was almost non-existent. Popham nevertheless had the unpleasant task of dealing with 40 redundancies.

                                                                           1948 to1956

At the beginning of 1948 the Establishment was very much in a state of flux with inward and outward movements of personnel, and some work being done for both the Guided Projectile Establishment, Westcott, and PDE Fort Halstead. The Establishment was now known as Guided Weapons Trials Wing, RAE Aberporth, reporting to RAE Farnborough under the aegis of the Ministry of Supply. Sir Morien Morgan, GB, later to become Director RAE, was based at Farnborough in this period and visited Aberporth from time to time. Most of the staff then had PDE and old Ministry of Supply allegiances. ARDE had been using the workshops as an annexe to Fort Halstead workshops, making components for the British Atomic Bomb - GPE had set up a small Trials Wing Workshop, too. Popham’s chief initial job was to prevent the Establishment being stripped bare by its previous owners; machine tools, instruments stores and even complete huts were disappearing on convoys of lorries to Woolwich and Fort Halstead. Some of the staff were destined to go also to these places and were naturally interested in getting equipment they wanted to their future places of work. With the help of the DD(E) Popham was able to arrest this process and also slow down the loss of potentially valuable staff. Another awkward ‘leftovert in the form of old German rocketry existed. During tours of Germany after the war, British parties had picked out anything they thought strange or interesting and had these items sent to Aberporth for future investigation. No-one knew exactly what might be contained in some of these devices, nor how safe or stable they might be. There were some 500 tons of miscellaneous explosive devices to get rid of, and the Army was persuaded to move and dispose of a fair amount - but some of the material worried them and they refused to touch it. Eventually Popham’s staff lowered it bit by bit over the cliffs and destroyed it. The resulting loud explosions, unfortunately, raised the wrath of local farmers. From 1948 onwards, a period of intense development set in and a new team spirit and a sense of camaraderie sprang up. No matter what one’s grade or position, everyone turned out to help at a firing, with the Senior Draughtsman of the time manning an Arriflex camera, for example, which was then a new piece of range equipment. Ten minutes before every trial four big diesel generators had to be run up to provide extra power supplies in case normal land line supplies failed or proved inadequate, as they often did. Although very efficient, the Range had a ‘Heath Robinson’ aspect at this time. Masses of external wiring could be found festooning various items of Range equipment, with exposed uniselectors. The Range Facilities Section was known as ‘the Maternity Lab.’, because to enter meant stepping over masses of - sheaves of wires to provide external power supplies to rockets.

With the advent of potentially dangerous liquid rocket motor fuels, more attention was now being paid to safety in general, and the Surgery had to be up-dated with new equipment and staff and Surgerymen trained to deal with extensive burns and to administer ether and morphine. Two elderly gentlemen were selected for training as Surgerymen. At that time, the Establishment’s crane driver had a pet cat, which had injured its leg in a rabbit trap (laid by one of the many ex-poachers on the industrial staff) to such an extent that its owner thought it should be put down. He took it to the Surgery where the two attendants agreed to end its suffering. The crane driver could not bring himself to witness his pet’s demise and said he would call back in half an hour for the corpse, which he did-only to find his cat limping around the Surgery- men’s inert bodies on the floor! The cat, it seems, had put up a good fight, during the process of which it managed to avoid the full effect of the ether fumes and cause them to be transferred to its assailants!

In early 1948, one Experimental Officer, one Scientific Assistant, one Laboratory Assistant and one Mechanic, comprised the staff of a new Instrumentation Section. They had one Type 584 tracking radar, one 3 Mk 4 tracking radar (predecessor of the later 3 Mk 7) and one 4 Mk 6 radar used for surveillance purposes. For velocity measurements they used a primitive Doppler system consisting of an RAF R/T transmitter type T 1131 plus a receiver and a recorder sited in a radar van. A Nissen hut was also in use as an Operations Room, equipped with a very simple Range Sequencer Unit using ripple switches to select various channels for firing pulses etc.

In 1948, Engineering Workshops began to experiment with the manufacture of plastic and fibre-glass articles. Polystyrene soon came into use, an extruding machine was improvised, and thereafter many kinds of small plastic components were home-made. Under Popham, the accent was very much on ‘do-it-yourself’. Everyone was young and the many facets of rapid development were thoroughly enjoyed by all in his team.

1948 also saw the first steps towards true guided missile firings in the form of the later RTV IE rounds guided by a modified Type 584 radar system.


       The first missiles fired from Aberporth using the then new wrap-round boost technique were the early wooden-winged versions of Seas lug, fired in 1948. They were originally designed to be guided by jets of steam issuing from four orifices at the tail of the missile, where tail fins are normally located. After the first firings from North Battery they were later fired from the then newly developed Eastern Launcher Apron in the present Rangehead area. From 1948 to 1949 onwards, RTV 2, GPV and CTV missile firing programmes developed, together with firings of the National Gas Turbine Establishment’s Ramjet test vehicle. These were all vehicles designed to test various components and guidance, control and propulsion systems. Aircraft bomb dropping trials were also being carried out at this time, and continued up to a much later date.

Balloons of the wartime ‘barrage’ type were used from about 1949 to carry static radar targets in the form of large aluminium spheres attached to the balloon anchorage cable. These balloons were based in the explosive magazines area near the edge of the cliffs and transferred to an RAF air-sea rescue launch which carried them out to sea where they could be anchored to moored buoys for firing trials. Balloon targets had their drawbacks, one disadvantage being that the anchorage cable was sometimes cut by a missile, leaving an uncontrollable balloon drifting away dragging a length of cable which could cause severe damage if the balloon drifted low enough over land. Fighter Command had to be asked on several occasions to despatch an aircraft to shoot down a runaway balloon, much to the delight of the pilots, but the classic incident happened when a telephone call was routed direct from the British Embassy in Rome to the Officer-in-Charge of ballooning at Aberporth to advise that ‘‘one of your balloons has arrived here!’’ There was an early requirement to develop missile self-destruct systems for range safety purposes, and the first type of break-up system to be used was a pre-set time clock type in conjunction with an explosive charge, later followed by a gyro device which broke up the missile, if it deviated from a predetermined flight path.

By 1950 the present Naval Trials Site, then (and still) known as CRP was being planned, to be finally completed and commissioned in late 1952. The letters ‘CRP’ stood for Clausen Rolling Platform, which consisted of a section of a ship contained in a concrete basin which could be pumped full of sea-water. The ship was attached to the sides of the basin by articulated steel arms connected to urger gear, by which means the installation could be rocked and rolled to simulate a ship at sea. A triple launcher for Seaslug missiles was fixed to the deck, and hardened sailors are known to have become seasick aboard the contraption! This installation was later used only as a stationary platform for Seaslug firings, and now serves, in modified form, as a preparation and instrumentation area for the current Seawolf missiles.

In 1951 a development programme began, to bring the present Western Launcher Area into being and to construct a new Operations Building and new Instrumentation buildings to house the telemetry, Doppler, and Range Central Timing Unit systems, the 584 tracking radars, and also to construct new Laboratory-Workshop/office accommodation units. The present day building housing Doppler, telemetry and CTU equipment was designed by Major Richards, a professional engineer stationed at Aberporth from early PDE days. It was an interesting innovation at Aberporth, because a Mezzanine (or duct) floor to take all cabling runs was incorporated in the construction.

0In the early 1950's, a current problem was that missiles often had to be kept on their launchers for days at a time while various test operations were carried out. It was difficult to protect them against the weather and H.A. Popham had the idea of constructing huge 40 ft diameter plastic ‘bubbles’ which could be filled with air and used to cover the whole rocket-launcher assembly. The plan was to fire the rocket through the bubble, which was regarded as expendable when its purpose had been served. Four of these bubbles were made and experimented with. One was erected on a specially prepared concrete base and Mr. Chapman Pincher, a former member of RAE staff and then science correspondent for the Daily Express was invited to come and see it. Unfortunately, in the early morning hours of the day of his visit, a force 10 gale blew up and by 0845 hours the ‘South-sea bubble’ had disappeared. Mr Pincher was hurriedly steered away to view the new Clausen Rolling Platform! The bubble development programme also seems to have vanished with that gale!

Considerable progress was now being made in the development of data analysis and instrumentation systems. A Data Link system was brought into being by E.S. Mallett of Bramshot, who is the present time ilead of I & R Department. Films could now be read to greater accuracy and the readings transferred to punched cards. The Data Link system allowed this information to be transmitted over Post Office lines to Farnborough where cards were punched and fed into a DEUCE computer, whence processed information was re-transmitted to Aberporth.

     The first telemetry systems, introduced almost simultaneously between late 1950 and early 1951, were the SRDE and Mk I RAE systems. The latter was later to become known as RAE sub-miniature telemetry and nowadays very similar equipment is known as the 465 telemetry system. SRDE telemetry was only used on RTV I missiles and specially designed for this purpose. Sub-miniature systems were required for the newer missiles now coming along, and these systems were tested in small test vehicles and in RTV 2, a larger version of RTV 1, used to check out propulsion, control and guidance systems later used in Seaslug and guidance receiver parts for use in what is now Thunderbird.

In 1951 a new Operations Room was set up (and later transferred to a purpose-built building in the Western Launcher area in the mid-1950's) which had the effect of drawing together various items of operational control equipment and operations personnel previously dispersed in different buildings, including the ‘Taj Mahal’ Launcher Control Post built soon after H.A. Popham’s arrival. Two Type 584 and one Type 3 Mk 7 tracking radars were now available together with Type 4 Mk 7 and Type 14 Mk 9 surveillance radars. Information from the radar displays was fed into the new Operations Room for range surveillance and air control purposes. The 3 Mk 7 radar was most unreliable, the method of recording being to photograph magslip dials, which gave unsatisfactory results. A converted and much-modified 3 14k 7 radar system was used in the 1950's as the basis of a “Missile Tracking System”, which required the assistance of a beacon installed in a missile to ‘lock on’ for tracking purposes. Two MTS sets were required for fixing positions, each set measuring the azimuth and elevation of a 6 cms oscillator which was located in the missile. Although big and clumsy and needing much space and heavy power supplies, the MTS system was used for a number of years, being finally superseded by other equipment around 1960. With 584 radars some progress was made, and special cathode ray tube displays were produced and photographed, though this meant manual reading which was laborious and time consuming. Information obtained was never very good because the 584s were designed to track aircraft and the speed of missiles coupled with the small echoing areas presented, made difficulties. 584s remained in use until very recently, and although they still could not provide very accurate data they had value as a back-up system for In-Flight Safety purposes. Other means of obtaining missile position data was, and is, by the use of kinetheodolites, and in more recent years with the aid of the Multi-station Doppler system, which involves CW radio transmission from the Rangehead, a missile-borne transponder and reception stations deployed along a 45 mile baseline. Doppler shifted frequencies are recorded on duplicated magnetic tape, for subsequent automatic evaluation in Data Centre to yield flight-path trajectory information. A new Range Sequencer unit was built in 1951 and range timing then provided by an Australian built timer, while a new PAR inter-communication system was also introduced to replace the simple ARDENTE system which had been in earlier use from about 1947.

The first Doppler used was a reflection system requiring no enhancement from the missile, but separating missiles required a system to measure missile velocity without confusion with Doppler returns from boost motors. About 1950-1951 a new Doppler transmitter was installed incorporating two receivers. At this time there also arose a need for better methods of control over missile destruction, reliance up to now having been placed entirely on clock or gyro operated devices for break-up purposes. The earliest Doppler breakup was a tone command system on Doppler transmitters received by the missile transponder and used to command the self-destruct explosive charge. This was used for several years.

RTV 1 E, F and Q (warhead) rounds were being fired in 1952. ‘E’ rounds were the first true guided missiles and in November of that year the first Firefly target aircraft arrived at RAE Llanbedr. Mk 8 and later Mk 9 Firefly aircraft provided early targets for RTV 1 firings. Other missiles being fired around this time included the Bristol Aircraft Company’s XTV and English Electric Company’s Red Shoes (test vehicles for Bloodhound and Thunderbird respectively). Some recovery trials with the large GPV liquid fuelled missile sponsored by Short Brothers & Harland Ltd. were attempted about this time. An RAE air-sea rescue launch acted as Range Working Ship for this purpose, and its main deck was barely large enough to accommodate the recovered missiles. GPV recovery rounds were supported in the water by air bags released from hatches in the missile by explosive bolt systems, which also released marker buoys in a similar fashion. Some of these recoveries were accomplished satisfactorily, but were generally very expensive in manpower, equipment, and Range time. The author had his own share of sea-sickness while engaged on these trials, stuck in the stern of the launch and half-choked by diesel fumes from the exhaust. Even the mackerel fishing was unproductive and provided no ‘perks’ for the hard-working crew!

During 1952 the development of special tracking mounts for high speed camera operation was put in hand at Aberporth, to replace the existing tripod mounts which were ergonomically poor. Some development had already been done in Farnborough by Instrumentation Department but staff at Aberporth finally produced an ‘overhead’ tracking mount where the camera was mounted above the operator’s head with the operator looking through binoculars to turn the whole assembly. This accomplishment signalled the beginning of the development of really good camera mounts culminating in the ‘simplified’ tracking mount which had the camera mounted alongside the operator instead of over his head. The overhead mount had presented problems through the positioning of the axis of rotation which were finally solved in the design of the simplified mount, in general use throughout the Ranges organization at the present time.

In 1952 Ordnance Survey authorities were called in to do a primary triangulation survey on all Observation Posts (with OP ‘0’ as origin). A Range Grid System was then devised which is used to the present day.

MTV missiles were fired during 1953 with nitric acid and methanol motors and twelve wrap-round Demon boosts. These missiles made a terrific thump as they took off and one of the first to be fired is remembered because it suffered from an erratic burning motor which left a brown smoke trial like a string of sausages across the sky, with the connecting links in the chain representing the cut-out periods of the motor. The first Red Shoes missiles had liquid motors too, using HTP, but the fuel tanks did not seem to be made very well and used to leak, causing smoke to issue from the missile while it was still on the launcher and in the firing sequence. Several had to be jettisoned by the Launcher Officer during their 10 minute firing sequences, and often blew up spectacularly as soon as they left the launcher. This missile later used a solid propellant system.

One of the early air targets contemplated for use about 1953 was made by the French Nord Aviation Company. Similar in appearance to the wartime ‘Doodlebug’, like that vehicle it had to be launched from a trailer. This target posed many Range Safety and other problems, and was never used.

Around 1953, The Bristol Building, designed and supplied by the Bristol Aircraft Company, (BAC) was erected specifically to house Trials Teams from industries which had Ministry of Supply contracts in the guided weapons field.

It is today used for the same basic purpose, and also provides Preparation Room facilities for the Royal Air Force Bloodhound Firing Unit based on the Range.

         (This was the recently demolished "Building 247" mentioned on BHFU pages on rafaberporth.org.uk.)

    1954 saw the first Firefly target aircraft, flown from Llanbedr, shot down by an RTV 1 Q round. On the optical side a special camera with a 100 in lens had been developed for this trial. Focal length was 8 ft 4 in and the apparatus was mounted in a 10 ft long x 1 ft square section box with the lens at one end and the camera at the other, the whole being enclosed in a 10 ft diameter 10 ft high fibre-glass clad steel structure. Much world-wide publicity was given to the success of this trial and the still photographs of the missile strike were most impressive, being carried on the front pages of all the daily newspapers of the time as effective propaganda. It was whispered, though, in RAE circles, that the Firefly was more aimed at the missile than the missile at the aircraft and that impact was perhaps due more to a piece of remote-control precision flying than to the wonders of our newly-developed missile guidance system! It is, after all, a national characteristic to decry our own successes.

Other optical lenses in use at this time were Booth telephoto, 36 in telephoto developed during the war and a 50 in lens obtained from German reparations. Development in the optical field soon became more rapid and 80 in Delft and eventually Canon lenses came into use with focal lengths of about 2 metres. This made the object being tracked appear larger but at the same time the need for long range optics was decreasing and at the present time on the Range, the maximum focal length used is still 2 metres, and one could say that optical development for our purposes now appears to have turned full circle. In 1953, photographic processing was being done on a Vinten machine running at 30 ft per minute fed by chemicals stored in a room above. Results, however, were variable and a bigger Vinten machine was installed, followed by a Debrie D 26 double sided high speed machine with an output of about 2400 ft of film an hour. Two buildings had to be joined together to accommodate the new machines, new drainage etc. laid, and the whole job was planned and executed locally - the ‘feel’ of the time, as already mentioned, was very much ‘do-it-yourself’. Film processing control was gradually improved by proper sensitometric and chemical analytical control of the developing solutions, and silver from the hypo solution was also periodically recovered and sold. Aberporth was now beginning to process film for the whole Ranges organization, and exposure techniques at the ranges therefore had to be standardised. Processing at RAE Aberporth was eventually controlled absolutely by quite complex chemical analytical and sensitometric means, and film processing facilities for 35 mm or wider film and sheet records now cater for the several million feet of film which are processed yearly.

          Present day high speed cameras have been largely developed from Service cameras, particularly RAF. Originally 16 mm GSAP (gun synchronisation cameras) were used for launcher information, and subsequently Vintens, fitted with larger and larger lenses up to 80 in. Modern high speed cine cameras provide attitude and other behaviour data, generally running at up to 250 frames per second, and ultra high-speed cameras are now available which offer much higher frame speeds.

H.A. Popham left the Establishment in 1956 to loin A & AEE Boscombe Down. This ended the ‘Time of the Fixers’, as the years between 1948 and 1956 had become known. R.J. Buller now took over as Superintendent. A new Operations Building was completed in 1956 in the Western Launcher area, and a new ‘Wurlitzer’ (Range Sequencer Unit) with 100 information channels supplied by Dennis Ferranti Meters Ltd. A Data Exchange system was built at the same time. This facility allows information from any radar to be routed to any plotting table and to ‘slave’ certain other items of range equipment, such as telemetry reception aerials. Development of plotting tables had ranged from the first heavy cast iron Admiralty type to EMI and Dobbie Mclnnes horizontal tables; later, Milgo tables and finally vertical Van—plotter types were to come into use. All these had twin pen facilities producing a 30 x 30 record format.                                                           

1957  to 1973

During 1957 attempts were made to fire Skylark Meteorological Research rockets from Aberporth. Ballistic wind measurements had to be taken shortly before the rocket could be fired, which was a very complicated procedure affected by up-draughts from cliffs etc. It took a long time and wind conditions were liable to change throughout the period of measurement up to the point of firing. Winds had to be measured at 100 ft intervals up to 1000 ft and a vast programme took place with the co-operation of the Meteorological Office at Aberporth. Special measuring instruments were made locally, but the measuring procedure could not be perfected at that time so as to take account of all Range Safety requirements. Firing of Skylark from Aberporth had therefore to be finally abandoned although these missiles were successfully fired from other ranges outside the RAE organization, with less stringent safety requirements due to their location.

This year also saw the beginnings of more advanced Air—to—Air and Air—to— Surface weapons trials. ‘Blue Boar’ - an embryo television guided bomb -came along, and development proceeded with trials started at earlier dates, such as  ‘Fireflash’, a beam riding air-to-air missile (formerly known as tBlue Sky’) and ‘Firestreak’ (previously ‘Blue Jay’), an infrared homing weapon.

Data Centre moved to a new building in 1957, obtained more equipment and took over telemetry data computations. Calibration charts were now provided by trials sponsors and ‘raw’ readings from films converted to representative channel values to produce plots. An IBM 1620 computer was later obtained and all trials results could then, for the first time, be computed at Aberporth for local analysis. This meant that data previously sent to DEUCE by Data Link could be dealt with at Aberporth instead. Currently, the computer used in Data Centre is an IBM 1130 model, rented by the Establishment. Tracking radars supply range, azimuth and elevation, with time, on magnetic tape which provides direct computer input for trajectory calculation. There is a Honeywell (NEP) tape input, and 7 and 9 track computer compatible magnetic tape and punched card inputs are also used. Outputs are provided in the form of 7 and 9 track computer compatible magnetic tape, punched cards and a printed record. The results of many programmes are stored in standard form, and subsequent programmes can use these as basic data. Results from high speed and target aircraft cameras are presented by Data Centre in tabular form whilst manual film readers provide a punched card output showing the angular position of an object tracked by kinetheodolites. Special reading screens are used to deal with film from target aircraft cameras, which have wide-angle lenses (1420 or 1860). A magnified display can be used to read standard 16 mm and 35 mm film which gives relative position and angular data on punched cards, with a typewriter output. Data Centre’s contemporary Doppler Reduction Automatic Processing Equipment (DRAPE) deals with analogue input magnetic tape, played through with a variable frequency oscillation. The doppler shifted oscillations are frequency multiplied by a factor of 10, cycles are automatically counted over intervals of 0.05 seconds, and the counts recorded on digital magnetic tape. Such data from three receiving stations, when coupled with a position fix, provides one possible computer solution for derivation of trajectory.

Late 1959 brought a series of ‘Sidewinder’ trials against Firefly targets by aircraft from RN Yeovilton, engaged in a NATO exercise. Four Fireflies were ‘killed’ over a 10 day period. The latter part of the development phase of ‘Blue Steel’ - the stand-off bomb for use by Vulcan aircraft -was also taking place in 1959 with the guided version. These trials involved the Range in large-scale exercises to produce plots of shipping in st. George’s Channel before release of ‘Blue Steel’ could be safely accomplished.

         About 1960 the WREBUS missile break-up system was introduced. Attempts had been made to replace clock and gyro break-ups by a Doppler break-up system with override clock in case of transmitter failure, but this suffered from interference from local television transmitters, which sometimes caused premature destruction of missiles. The WREBUS system is currently in use and fitted to Thunderbird, Bloodhound, Martel and some Naval missiles. WREBUS operates by radiating a ‘prohibit’ signal to the missile which energises a relay to prevent its self-destruction. To break up a missile the ‘prohibit’ signal is replaced by a ‘command’ signal which is unlikely to be blocked by interference. This operates another relay which causes self-destruction of the missile. The ground equipment is duplicated, so that in the event of a main transmitter failure the reserve system can be operated in a time short enough to prevent the missile being destroyed through loss of the ‘prohibit’ signal.

Another form of self-destruction, developed in recent years, is the ‘guidance cut’ system which is now used in a large number of missiles. Missile guidance signals are interrupted by range equipment operating a relay which cuts guidance transmitters. The missile detects loss of guidance and the self-destruction charge is thus initiated. This method is used in the contemporary Seaslug, Seawolf, Sea Dart and Rapier missiles. Normally the position of a missile is detected against ‘destruct’ boundaries by radar, and large missiles are followed by radar on plotting tables. Should a missile violate the destruct boundary the In Flight Safety Officer commands self-destruct by pressing a button which either switches off guidance or operates WREBUS, depending on the system in use. In addition, missile flight is observed through visual destruct barriers called ‘goal posts’ and again if it deviates from the destruct boundaries the visual observer operates break-up. This calls for a quick reaction time on the operator’s part and with some modern high performance missiles it is not a practical proposition. To overcome these difficulties missile flight can be monitored by an infrared system which, should a missile violate pre-set boundaries, will detect its energy and operate self-destruct. This is the primary system for Seawolf with the visual system used a back-up, and may also be introduced for Rapier in the near future.

Type 584 radars, by now modified and re-installed in a new radar building on the Western Launcher Area, were complemented by two American FF5 16 Precision Tracking Radars in 1961. These are similar to the radars used by the

 United States of America Agencies for world-wide satellite tracking and provide digitised outputs on magnetic tape for subsequent data processing plus real time outputs for various purposes. The FF5 16 radars provide far more accurate information than was hitherto available, together with a reduced reading time, and allow a greater volume of data to be more readily obtained. Information from all tracking radars can be fed to plotting tables etc. for control and In Flight Safety purposes. Three tracking radars are currently available and all can produce Cartesian analogue data on plotting tables for display and record purposes. The Marconi S300 air surveillance radar also introduced in the early 1960's has proved invaluable and has a much longer range than the earlier 4 Mk 7 and 14 Mk 9 sets. It covers a range of about 200 miles from Aberporth up to any altitude likely to be attained by aircraft in this area. Since February 1969 this facility has been shared by Western Radar (a National Air Traffic Control Services unit) to monitor civil and military air traffic movements and provide a control service for Concorde flights. Western Radar personnel are accommodated in the Operations Building as a Lodger Unit. Sea surveillance of the Cardigan Bay Range is nowadays achieved by a Decca AWS-1 radar situated at the north end of the bay, Bupplemented by coverage from Aberporth ‘in—shore’ and 'off—shores' surveillance radars.

During 1962 and 1963, BRAMBLE was developed. Telemetry information could now be recorded on magnetic tape with a time code to permit automatic selection of any data for processing. This provides the input to BRAMBLE, which is a special purpose analogue to digital converter recasting data in digital form for subsequent computer analysis. At the present time, a synchronising channel in the basic data allows any or all of the data channels to be de-multiplexed. Five channels may be displayed on a pen recorder. Preferred outputs are on 7 and 9 track computer compatible magnetic tape but others including punched cards are available. Currently, telemetry senders are used to measure many on-board parameters during missile trials, and three British systems are in use. Comprehensive reception and recording arrangements are provided, data being recorded on magnetic tape. Receivers and magnetic tape recorders are duplicated. The information obtained is replayed to produce photographic records, automatically evaluated by data processing equipment, or supplied direct to the Range user, as required.

       In September 1962 R.J. Buller was appointed to the new post of Superintendent of Ranges under R.W. Pye of RAE Instrumentation and Ranges Department, Bramshot.

1963 saw all film from the other RAE ranges being sent to Aberporth for processing and all data analysis for these ranges being done here. Askania Kinetheodolites, which had been in use for some time and are still in use at the present day, were beginning to be modified from the original operating speed of 4 frames per second to 5 frames per second and later some were brought up to 10 frames per second. Kine timing pulses in the early days were provided by a tuning fork system which was not very accurate, but nowadays all Kinetheodolites are locked together by the Range Central Timing Unit and run by land lines instead of the earlier radio link system. E.S. Mallett of I & R Department was responsible for development of the Century Coded Timing System in current use, which originally resulted from a need for very precise timing for satellite work. This modern Central Timing Unit achieves time correlation between operational events and the different data acquired. Various timing pulse waveforms are derived by division from an accurate master crystal oscillator, and suitable timing waveforms transmitted to every instrumentation recorder, whilst unique events markers are fed into the Central Timing Unit and recorded there against the timing waveforms, enabling correlation to be effected. Most outputs include a pulse-width coding pattern giving unique identification of any instant of time with GMT to within 1 millisecond. A multi-channel event printer records timing of all events for instant examination during trials.

‘Red Top’ air-to-air missiles, a later version of the former ‘Blue Jay’ came on Range in 1963-64, involving supersonic interceptions of Jindivik target aircraft by Lightning aircraft. These trials called for a complex setting—up technique for safety traces, because the Lightning’s limited endurance made it necessary for the whole trials system to be ‘right first time’. This highlighted the years of work on Range operation techniques at Aberporth, which had also led directly to the introduction of the new Range facilities - FPS 16 and  S300 radars, in 1961.

In 1966 requirements began to arise to place instrumentation on targets moored at sea. There had been simple raft type targets and buoys at sea before this time for bombing and other trials, and the first instrumentation put aboard marine targets consisted of remote controlled cameras of the target aircraft GW 2 type with a 1420 field of view. These were fitted in clusters of three, to cover all angles of approach in a hemisphere of sky above the target. A simple change of angle technique was used for computation purposes, involving the missile being plotted across a graph from the finished film. With a known missile velocity, the nearest miss distance could then be calculated. Targets of this type have been used for Martel trials, and associated with them, remote controlled smoke generator systems were developed. These were placed at intervals from the target, and also immediately in front of it as information points and target marker. This was necessary since Martel depends on a television guidance technique and was developed for overland use. The contrasting featurelessness of the sea surface made it essential to have some form of information buoys, and smoke markers proved ideal for the purpose.

At this time a radar augmented target for the Sea Dart missile was also under development, incorporating a target illuminating radar so that radar reflection off the target would be picked up by the missile receiver to bring the missile on target. Miss distance cameras were also fitted on this target. Early development trials carried out on a Motor Fishing Vessel were fraught with many difficulties because this was a very complex system to develop. One purely physical problem was to mount the 1O.5 cwt structure on a buoy. The target itself stood 13 ft high and the top bristled with telecommand and telemetry aerials. It was eventually secured to the buoy with considerable difficulty with the aid of the ‘Uplifter’, a moorings vessel from Pembroke Dock. Range staff went to sea with the target, often in bad weather, and on several occasions worked the clock round in attempts to make the system perform as intended. Their efforts were finally rewarded, and the first Sea Dart missile fired against this target scored a hit.

In November 1967, the Range acquired the full time services of a stern loading ex-fishing trawler, the Motor Vessel Hector Gull, as a Range Working Ship to carry out various duties associated with trials, marine target moorings, and Range Safety. The stern of the vessel was modified to provide a ‘stern dock’ facility for ease of handling the standard type of buoy used on the Range and the ship was renamed ‘Dolwen’, after one of the two small beaches at Aberporth. ‘The Last Days of Dolwen’ also happens to have been the rather melancholy-sounding title of a film about Welsh life made some 25 years ago.

        It is to be hoped that the name carries no Druidic curse, as the Range ship ‘Doiwen’ was more or less gutted by fire, while at sea, on 18 December 1972. Her crew had to abandon ship immediately when the fire was first discovered in the engine-room, and the vessel is now salvaged and awaiting possible reconstruction. The duties of Range working ship are currently being temporarily performed by other vessels. Ships from the Admiralty Surface Vessels fleet can also be obtained to provide additional marine assistance, as necessary. Marine targets currently in use include the hulk of an ex-Royal Navy Frigate - HMS Venus  - which is towed on Range when required, and other types of targets which vary considerably in appearance, construction, and application.

Over the last few years, the defence programmes of friendly foreign nations have led some of these countries to show great interest in the trials organization and range facilities at Aberporth, and several have wished to model their own ranges on our example, or use certain of our trials facilities. A notable success in this respect was a series of trials conducted by the Federal Republic of Germany at Aberporth a few years ago, which brough in some £400000  - with the promise of more to come in the future. A useful, if small, ‘invisible export’ to set against Defence expenditure. P.C. Akass, Superintendent of Ranges at the time of these trials, worked with untiring energy and determination in an endeavour to secure a new future role for Ranges Division in conducting trials for foreign ‘customers

At the present time, an efficient aerial target service is provided by RAE Llanbedr (until 1968 under the direction of the present Superintendent of Ranges, C.W. Rhodes) which had steadily developed over the years. As an air-sea Range, Aberporth now caters for surfacetoair, surface-to-surface, air-to surface and air-to-air missile trials, together with a wide variety of airborne instrumentation and other non-firing trials. The specialist services of the Establishment in technical advice, engineering development and manufacture and data processing also serve the needs of the other RAE Ranges Establishments. Results or by-products of trials work performed here and at other RAE Establishments may often have civil as well as military applications and advice has been given from Aberporth to medical authorities on sub-miniature telemetry techniques, for example, whilst there are other instances where instrumentation methods and equipment devised for defence purposes have a part to play in supporting aspects of national industrial and other development. Some other examples of scientific and technical development at Aberporth in recent years, fitting in with the overall evolution of the facilities described in the foregoing text are as follows:

(a) Cloud height indicator

Knowledge of cloud base height is often critical in a decision to permit a trial, and a system which measures range, at particular elevation angles, has been produced. A searchlight type unit transmits electronic light flash pulses in a narrow beam, and range can be deduced by measuring the time delay between transmission and the reception of reflected light from the cloud. Slant range is reckoned from returns shown on a display.

(b) Kinetheodolite and camera control units

Modern solid-state circuit elements have been used extensively in a complete systems redesign of the actuation, synchronisation and timing units of optical recording equipment, and all Ranges have been re-equipped with more compact and reliable units.

(c) Measurement of sea surface characteristics

Sea surface characteristics, knowledge of which may be essential to the conduct of a trial, have been determined by processing telemetered data from a group of probes fitted with electrodes placed in any desired sea area. These probes were stabilised by special marine moorings and capable of transmitting wave-height information continuously.

(d) Fixed calibration light at sea

A requirement arose very recently to position a reference light at sea, some 3 metres off the coast near the Naval Trials Site. Engineering Group designed and constructed a steel girder tower to carry this equipment which was launched into the water and towed out to the required position with the aid of hollow steel floats which formed a base for the tower. On arrival at the required position, the air was expelled from the floats. With the tower now in a vertical plane, sea water was allowed to enter the float chambers to replace the air, and the base of the tower sunk into the sea bed. The tower is now permanently positioned, with its light projecting 3 metres above the highest wave and tide height and a marine cable has been run from shore to tower to provide power supplies. This whole project cost only £2500 and took the exceptionally short period of 2.5 months from conception to installation.

      Full facilities exist at Aberporth for the preparation and storage of ground launched missiles, and at all stages in preparation and firing there is special emphasis on safety considerations. Air launched missiles and their carrying aircraft which make use of the Range are prepared at other establishments or airfields under basically similar preparation conditions to those at Aberporth and Royal Navy vessels use the Range for missile trials.

A Range Controller co-ordinates all trials, assisted by Ground and Air Controllers and an ‘In-Flight’ Safety Officer. Extensive inter-communication and R/T systems permit the exchange of trials information and the passing of instructions to aircraft and ships engaged in trials. All communications traffic is tape-recorded on a multi-channel machine, with full stand-by facilities. Range air-sea space is under constant radar surveillance, and adequate safety factors are calculated to allow for the presence of shipping and aircraft on the Range, whether or not these are present on account of trials.

A new Engineering Workshops building was completed and opened in 1970 by Lord Bessborough, then Minister of State Technology. This facility allowed the previously scattered Designs Office and mechanical engineering staff and equipment to be centralized under one roof with modern and improved working facilities, and is the most recent major building project to be completed in furtherance of the continuous process of development of Range facilities at Aberporth

   Appendix A      


Dr (later Sir Aiwyn) Crow       Director PDE 1940

William Blackman                   Superintendent PDE  1941-1947

H.A. Popham                          1947-1956 (Officer in Charge     1947-1951, then Superintendent)

R.J. Buller                                 1956-1965 (1956-1962 Superintendent, 1962-1965 Superintendent of Ranges)

P.C. Akass                               1965-1970 (Superintendent of Ranges)

C. Kell                                      1970-1971 (Officer in Charge)

C.W. Rhodes                            October 1971 to date (Superindentent of Ranges)

Appendix B             


Ministry of Supply Projectile Development Establishment 1939-1945

Ministry of Supply (RAE) 1945-1947

Ministry of Supply, RAE GWTW  1947—1959

Ministry of Aviation (RAE) 1959-1967

Ministry of Technology (RAE) 1967—1970

Ministry of Aviation Supply (RAE) 1970-1971

Procurement Executive, Ministry of Defence (RAE) 1971 to date.   (1973)


Still to Come in 2014

       1    Plan of Cardigan Bay Range Area, including Llanbedr


       2     Aerial view of present—day Rangehead, looking across Western Launcher Area.

       3 Model of the original 3 in AA rocket launcher.

       4 H.A. Popham and visitor (c 1947).

       5 RTV I missile at launch, about 1949.

6         Balloon with spherical target (North Battery Area lower right of picture) 1949.

7        Royal Navy Trials Site, Clausen Rolling Platform with Seaslug Launcher, about 1953

8        Royal Navy Trials Site, Seaslug missile at launch from Clausen Rolling Platform, mid 1950s.

9         Present—day Royal Navy Trials Site — general view, showing cliff railway (top left).

10 Eastern Launcher apron with old Army huts (top left) and newly built RAE Instrumentation Building (separated by road from Army Camp, top left). Former Army concrete gun emplacements are visible between launcher apron and Army huts (about 1951).

11 Red Shoes missile in Bristol Building Prep. Room, about 1952 (H.A. Popham up).

        12 XTV Missile, about 1952.

13 RTV 1. ‘Q’ trial 1954 — missile approaching target aircraft.

14 RTV I ‘Q’ trial 1954 — missile strike on target aircraft.

15 Present—day kinetheodolite (left) and high speed camera positions.

        16 Modern Debrie DUC 35 mm film processing machine.

17 Western Launcher Area development, building operations,1956.

18 HRH The Duke of Edinburgh viewing Skylark nosecone and launcher, 1957.

19 Data Centre IBM 1130 Computer console.

20 Data Centre kinetheodolite film readers.

21 Modern Doppler Receiving and Recording                                  Complex.

22 AN—FPS/16 Precision Tracking Radars

23 Marconi 5300 Air Surveillance Radar

24 Telemetry Receivers and Recorders

25 Part of Range Century Coded Timing System.

26 Missile strike on sea target    (miss—distance camera picture).

27 Sea target showing missile damage to                                    superstructure.

28 Remote—controlled smoke generating buoy.

29 Sea Dart sea target on deck of Range  Working Ship. MV Dolwen.

30 Target hulk (HMS Venus) with missile damage to bows.

31 Flotation trial of 45 ft triangular sea target.

32 Launch of meteorological radio—sonde.

33 Ground Controller’s position (Operations Building).

34 Air Control Bay (Operations Building).

35 Bloodhound missile at launch.

36 Sea Dart missile at launch.

37 Rapier missile on launcher.

In 2009, to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the range at Aberporth, the MOD held an Open Day for those who had ever worked there, and their families.

Photography was allowed, except in buildings.

Here below is a selection.

Click some Images for Information.

Views from the MOD

Dennis ? Identified!


Royal Aircraft Establishment Aberporth  Circa 1985

   The Royal Aircraft Establishment at Aberporth owns and operates Aberporth' Airfield, and is one of three establishments dispersed throughout the UK which together form the RAE Ranges Division. All controlled by the Superintendent of Ranges resident at Aberporth, these locations together provide the complex facilities necessary for the performance evaluation of missiles and other equipment under development.

   Some 700 people are employed in a wide variety of tasks within the Establishment.

    The Range at Aberporth includes air and sea space encompassing some 2,000 square miles of Cardigan Bay. It caters mainly for guided missile trials conducted from either shore-based launchers, aircraft, or ships at sea against marine surface targets or target aircraft operated from another Ranges Division Establishment, which is an airfield, located at Llanbedr in North Wales.

     The RAE lays great emphasis on all aspects of safety, and uses bye-laws to control certain sea areas so as to enable trials to proceed with maximum safety. In addition, a new computer-based Range safety system using radar data is about to become operational. This will predict the danger areas associated with trials so accurately that it will be possible for missile firings to take place while ships, or perhaps gas and oil drilling rigs, are within the Range area.

      Among the many extensive installations at Aberporth are a centre for trials data analysis by modern computer techniques, and an up to date engineering complex carrying out design, manufacture and repair work over the whole mechanical and electronics field.

      The Establishment has apprentice schemes in both mechanical and electronic engineering and currently has 70 young people under training. There is a very successful Youth Training Scheme with extensively equipped engineering and electronics workshops located at the Airfield with provision for training up to 60 school-leavers. Because of the scattered rural nature of Dyfed, accommodation is provided in a hostel run by the YMCA. Leisure activities (for YTS and apprentices) cover a wide variety of sports such as sailing, most of the ball and racquet games, and shooting.

     Although no guarantee can be given that permanent employment will be available with the RAE for all these young people on completion of their training period, the scheme provides a valuable opportunity for school-leavers to develop skills and receive the benefit of associated further education which they would not otherwise have in this locality.

      Training is also centralised at Aberporth for apprentices recruited by the Royal Naval Armament Depots at Trecwn and Milford Haven, by the Proof and Experimental Establishment at Pendine and for those initially engaged at other RAE Ranges Division establishments as well as others employed by the Department of the Environment Property Services Agency, whose District Office and Depot is at Aberporth.

Remember as you read, this was as it was in 1985