The origins of the Royal Australian Air Force extend back to the early days of aviation, and we have made important contributions to defence and peacekeeping initiatives across the globe ever since.
Establishment of RAAF Base Tindal
RAAF Base Tindal is located 15 kilometres outside Katherine in the Northern Territory and 320 kilometres by road south – east of Darwin. Tindal forms part of chain of airfields reaching from Learmonth in Western Australia to Townville in Queensland and is home to No, 75 Squadron, a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fighter unit as well as several detachments and non-flying units belonging to the Combat Support and Surveillance and Response Groups.
Establishment of RAAF Base Tindal
The history of RAAF Tindal dates back to WWII when it was originally constructed to house a squadron of B24 Liberator Bombers in defence of Australia. The airfield, or Carsons Field as it was originally known, was constructed by the American 43rd Engineer Regiment in April 1942, however by the time construction was complete the war in the Pacific had changed as the Japanese began withdrawing from the region. Subsequently no squadron was ever deployed to operate from Tindal.
After WWII the airfield was renamed Tindal after Wing Commander Archie Tindal, who was the first RAAF casualty on mainland Australia during the initial raid by the Japanese on Darwin in 1942. As a permanent reminder of his heroic actions, Wing Commander Tindal's grave is located in the war cemetery at Adelaide River, approximately 110 kilometres south of Darwin.
Development of the Airfield
20 years after its initial construction as an airfield, restoration of Tindal as a 'bare base' began in 1963 and was completed in 1970. This would allow jet aircraft to operate from Tindal and act as a back up base for Darwin, which was beginning to become congested through local housing development and an increase in civil aviation, which was beginning to restrict air space. In 1984, after a decision by the Federal Government, Tindal began further redevelopment to allow for a squadron of F/A-18 Hornet's to be permanently based here. On 1 October 1988 Tindal became an operational base as part of the defence-in-depth policy and became the new home to No. 75 Squadron.
The official opening of RAAF Base Tindal by the then Prime Minister, Bob Hawke occurred on the 31 March 1989. He spoke that day of the significance of this base, not only in its strategic placement in time of conflict; but also the economic development it brought to Northern Australia and the local economy. RAAF Base Tindal, in the 1980s brought additional infrastructure to Katherine, as well as a new community that has continued to grow, work, play and strive together since.
Since 1988, RAAF Base Tindal has continued to grow and plays an integral part of the Katherine community. Within the confines of the base there are a number of units and lodger detachments, which employ around 650 personnel both uniformed and civilian; although Tindal predominantly remains uniformed because of its operational focus. The units currently based at Tindal are:
- No. 17 Squadron (including Delamere Air Weapons Range Facility)
- No. 75 Squadron
- No. 2 Squadron Detachment Tindal
- No. 2 Security Forces Squadron Detachment Tindal
- No. 452 Squadron Tindal Flight
- Estate & Infrastructure Group
- Tindal Health Centre (2 Expeditionary Health Squadron - Detachment Tindal and Joint Health Command - Detachment Tindal)
- 87 Squadron Detachment Tindal
- CIOG Regional ICT Services
- Joint Military Police Station Darwin - Detachment Tindal
Due to its physical isolation, Tindal remains a popular location for deployment of other RAAF units, and indeed other ADF units. The operational tempo varies from year to year, however the infrastructure that has been developed over time has allowed for the successful launch of operations in conjunction with other ADF units. With the focus of ADF operations continuing across the northern region of Australia, RAAF Tindal will remain the premier-operating base in Defence of the nation.
The base recently commenced a significant redevelopment program announced by Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, in February 2020. Totalling more than $1.1 billion, the works will house Air Force’s newest platform, the F-35A Lightning II, expected from late 2021. Additional works around the base will improve base infrastructure both above and below ground; they will lengthen, strengthen and widen the runway; and will provide additional aircraft parking and support areas. The redevelopment also represents a huge investment in its staff, the people capability of RAAF Tindal, to increase their ability to support multiple large-scale operations and exercises into the future. The continual improvement in infrastructure and support services, coupled with the dedication of the people who are posted to RAAF Tindal, will ensure, Tindal as an establishment, will become a recognised centre of operational excellence on a global scale.