Jindivik target drone
A project that captured attention and greatly enhanced the reputation of Australian scientists and aeronautical engineers was the development of Jindivik, a subsonic unmanned jet-propelled target aircraft designed to measure missile performance and built at the Government Aircraft Factory at Fishermans Bend. Jindivik was a metal low-wing cantilever monoplane, 7 meters long with a 5.8 meter wingspan and powered by an Armstrong-Siddeley Viper jet engine giving it a maximum speed of Mach 0.85 and a ceiling of 40,000 feet.
A small team began the design and development of Jindivik prototypes in 1948 making the Jindivik project contemporaneous with the development of the Anglo-Australia Joint Project. Ian Fleming, chief designer at the Government Aircraft Factory, Fishermans Bend, supported by the Aeronautical Research Laboratories, headed the team that undertook the design work and initial development of Jindivik.
The Aeronautical Research Laboratories’ pioneering expertise in flutter and vibration analysis was successfully applied to the project with almost all wind tunnel testing being carried out at Fishermans Bend. The Royal Aircraft Establishment in Great Britain and the Long Range Weapons Establishment/Weapons Research Establishment played crucial roles in developing the control equipment and instrumentation, and in project planning, although this latter role was assumed by the Royal Australian Air Force and later still by civilian contractors.
Two aircraft were designed initially: a manned version called Pika and the unmanned radio-controlled Jindivik. Only two of the manned Pika were built to prove the basic Jindivik design and its electronic guidance and control systems. They were flown between 1950 and 1954. The first successful Jindivik test occurred on 28 August 1952 from Evetts Field near Woomera. Five people at ground level flew the Jindivik target aircraft into position for trials. Once the Jindivik reached operational altitude, it could be used to tow small targets on a wire cable that was reeled out, sometimes streaming thousands of metres behind the aircraft. This target became the object of missiles fired towards it, thus saving the Jindivik, which could be returned to the landing strip by the ground crew and re-used for further target trials.
The first firing trial using the Jindivik Mk1 as a target took place at Range E, Woomera, on 1 October 1954. Mk2, Mk3A and Mk3B Jindiviks were later designed and developed, and continued in service at Woomera until 27 June 1975.
Jindivik technology was sold overseas and thereby helped raise Australia’s profile in international defence markets. The first use of Jindivik overseas occurred in 1957 when the Royal Swedish Air Force purchased ten Mk2 Jindiviks. In 1960, the aircraft was introduced into the United Kingdom: it first flew in the United States in 1962, and in 1967 the Royal Australian Navy adopted the Jindivik for target service at the Jervis Bay Missile Range. One Australian Navy Jindivik set a record of 324 flights between 1952 and 1977.
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