Establishment of RAAF Base Amberley

17 Jun 1940

RAAF Base Amberley is located in south east Queensland just 8 kilometres from the city of Ipswich.  The land on which RAAF Base Amberley stands was acquired by the government on 12 December 1938 from a farmer from Sussex, England who named it after his home town.  RAAF Base Amberley is located in the Parish of Jeebropilly which is an indigenous name which appropriately translates as ‘land of the flying squirrel’.

When Australia entered World War II in September 1939, the base infrastructure was very rudimentary, necessitating a major redevelopment program. Base facilities including hangars and accommodation were added in quick succession with the runways being sealed in September 1941. Further infrastructure work continued well into 1942 with the establishment of a power station, emergency water supplies, aircraft dispersal areas, splinter proof walls around vital buildings and satellite landing fields.

RAAF Base Amberley commenced operations on 17 June 1940 with its initial role being a centre for flying training and recruiting.  This changed after the United States joined the war in the Pacific in December 1941 with Amberley becoming home to the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in Australia.  In addition to troops, the USAAF convoy delivered crates of P-40 Kittyhawks, and A-24 Dauntless dive bomber aircraft ready for assembly. From this point, the focus of activity at Amberley shifted to aircraft assembly, maintenance and salvage. No. 3 Aircraft Depot was subsequently formed in March 1942 and took on the task of assembling, maintaining and salvaging RAAF aircraft, sharing hangars and work areas with the Americans.  By the end of the war a vast array of aircraft types had been assembled, maintained and salvaged at Amberley, including Wirraways, Hudsons, Marauders, Kittyhawks, Vultee Vengeances, Airacobras, Bostons, Spitfires, and Liberators.

The formation of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force in March 1941 led to the employment of women on the base in an increasing array of roles including as radar operators, wireless telegraphy operators, parachute packers, instrument repairers and drivers. Amberley was also part of a network of stations producing daily meteorological forecasts which were transmitted in code to operational units over wireless.

No. 23 (General Purpose) Squadron began its association with RAAF Base Amberley when it moved there from RAAF Base Archerfield on 6 May 1942 before departing again a month later, returning in February 1946.  It was then renamed No. 6 (Bomber) Squadron in February 1948.  No. 23 Squadron was subsequently re-activated and returned to Amberley in September 1955 and then reforming as an auxiliary squadron in 1960.

After World War II, RAAF Base Amberley became home to Nos. 1, 2, and 6 (Bomber) Squadrons and No. 82 Bomber Wing. Between 1946 and 1965, Bell B-47G Sioux helicopters were assembled at Amberley and in 1960 Australian Army aviation was reborn when No. 16 Army Light Aircraft Squadron was formed at Amberley as a joint unit operating Sioux helicopters and Cessna 180 light aircraft.

In September 1970 the Canberra bombers were removed from operational service when the Air Force took delivery of the first of twenty-four F-4E Phantoms at Amberley. In June 1973, the first F-111 aircraft arrived at Amberley and remained in service until the fleet was retired in December 2010.   

In 2006 No 36 Squadron relocated to Amberley when it began the process of re-equipping with the C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifter. They were followed by No 33 Squadron in 2008, and were equipped with the KC-30A multi-role tanker / transport aircraft in 2011. In March 2010 the first F/A-18F Super Hornets arrived at Amberley’s No 1 Squadron, acquired as interim replacements for the F-111 pending the arrival of the F-35 Lightning II. Then in 2017 the Royal Australian Air Force introduced into service at No 6 Squadron RAAF Base Amberley the F/A-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft.  The latest Aircraft to make its home at Amberley after relocating from RAAF Base Richmond was the No 35 Squadron C-27J Spartans in early 2019.

These squadrons are supported by numerous other operational and combat support units who also resident on the base, making Amberley the largest air base in Australia supported by No. 23 (City of Brisbane) Squadron.

Related base

  • RAAF Base Amberley