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Cabinet papers: New over-the-horizon radar system flies

The cabinet gave the go-ahead for construction of Australia’s powerful Jindalee over-the-horizon radar system (JORN).

The military system is based at Laverton in Western Australia and Longreach in Queensland and is designed to provide 24-hour all-weather detection of surface vessels and low flying aircraft across the northern approaches to Australia at a range of up to 3000 kilometres.

In a redacted submission, Defence Minister Robert Ray told the cabinet in November 1990 that the over-the-horizon radar system was essential for Australia’s defence.

Telstra, in association with GEC-Marconi, became the prime contractor for the $970 million project in June 1991.

Curiously, JORN was unable to provide any analysis or detect any sign of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 after it disappear in March 2014, reputedly somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.

The over-the-horizon system is kept under wraps but wags at the time of the aircraft’s disappearance suggested the radar system was probably busy looking for asylum boats.

Cabinet records release

Cabinet records for 1990 and 1991 held by the National Archives of Australia became eligible for access from January 1, 2016. Information about the cabinet records, lists of the documents and copies of key cabinet documents, including selected submissions and decisions, are available on the Archives’ website (naa.gov备案老域名). Click on the “Collection” tab, then “Popular research topics”, then “Cabinet”.

Requests for access to records not already released may be made via RecordSearch on the Archives’ website.

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