129 Attlee to Chifley

Cablegram 316 LONDON, 20 September 1946, 5.20 p.m.


United Kingdom Government have considered the report of Lieutenant-General Evetts's Mission to investigate the possibility of providing facilities in Australia for research and development work on guided missiles and supersonic pilotless aircraft.

2. We for our part agree with the recommendation of the Mission which has since been endorsed by the informal Commonwealth Conference on Defence Science, that an experimental range and a supporting development establishment should be set up in Australia. We also accept the recommendation of the Mission as regards the area to be used for the range.

3. We should be glad to learn whether the Commonwealth Government are in agreement with these two recommendations. If so, we think that the first step should be to instal the necessary facilities at the range-head and along the first 300 miles of the range, and that the remainder of the range area should be reserved for future use as and when required. For this purpose we should like, if you agree, to send Evetts to Australia again, accompanied by a small technical staff, to collaborate with the Commonwealth authorities concerned in the detailed planning and execution of the project.

Evetts would serve in a civilian capacity.

4. As regards the supporting development establishment further consideration is needed to determine the details of the programme of development and to what extent the development work can and should be carried out in Australia. We recognise the desirability of carrying out as much of this work as possible in proximity to the experimental range. While the Salisbury factory appears at first sight to be suitable for conversion into a development establishment as recommended by the Evetts Mission, we should like to examine this aspect of the matter in more detail before definitely asking the Commonwealth Government to allocate the whole or part of the factory for this purpose. It is hoped that in the meantime the Commonwealth Government will be able to hold the factory in reserve.

5. We have given a good deal of thought to the question of the arrangements which will be required for settling between our two Governments questions of policy arising in connection with the project. There is a good deal of technical information and knowledge in the United Kingdom, and our suggestion is that some special joint body on which both our Governments would be represented should be set up in London for reaching decisions about such questions. We could formulate a detailed scheme if this suggestion is acceptable to you in principle. It would be understood that the Commonwealth Government would be in charge of the executive arrangements for installing and maintaining the facilities to agreed requirements at the range and the development establishment.

6. The initial capital cost of buildings and other works services for the range head and the first 300 miles of the range is tentatively estimated at (A)3 millions (including the cost of 60 miles of railway between the range head and the nearest point on the trans-continental line). We think that operating costs may eventually be about (A)3 millions annually, including the cost of experimental firings. This expenditure forms only part of the total expenditure on a programme of research and development on guided missiles and pilotless supersonic aircraft, and we are, of course, bearing all that part of this expenditure which is incurred in the United Kingdom. Part of the expenditure on the range and development establishment in Australia will be incurred in Australia and part in the United Kingdom, but we are not yet able to indicate how the total expenditure will be split geographically. We should like to suggest, however, that a decision should be taken in principle now that the Commonwealth and United Kingdom Governments should bear respectively that part of the expenditure in connection with this project which is incurred in Australia and the United Kingdom. If this suggestion is agreeable to your Government, detailed financial arrangements can be worked out later.

7. I am anxious that rapid progress should be made in establishing this range, which is of the highest strategic importance. Evetts and the chief scientific officer of his party would propose to leave the United Kingdom by sea about 8th October, the remainder of the party following by air to reach Australia about the same time as Evetts.

8. I should be glad if you could let me know your views upon these suggestions as soon as you conveniently can.

[AA:A3317/1, 333/46]