Establishment of RAAF Base Pearce

10 Mar 1938

RAAF Base Pearce is located in the suburb of Bullsbrook, approximately 35 kilometres north of Perth, Western Australia. The base, the only permanent RAAF base on the west coast is home to No. 79 Squadron, No. 2 Flying Training School and No. 25 (City of Perth) Squadron as well as several other units, including No. 130 Squadron of the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

The federal government settled on naming the base ‘Pearce’ in honour of Sir George F. Pearce in August 1936. By October 1936, the aerodrome had been cleared and levelled, and construction of a hangar, the Airmen’s Mess and kitchen had commenced.

No. 23 (City of Perth) (General Purpose) Squadron began ferrying aircraft to its future home at Pearce in late 1937. On arrival at Pearce, the unit was equipped with 6 Avro Anson and 6 Hawker Demon aircraft and had a personnel strength of 12 officers and 135 other ranks. The squadron was renumbered No. 25 (General Purpose) Squadron on 1 January 1939. RAAF Base Pearce was officially granted station status on 6 February 1939.

Shortly after, a further 3 officers and 54 other ranks were posted from 25 Squadron to form No. 14 Squadron, the second unit to be based at Pearce. No. 14 Squadron was a general reconnaissance unit equipped with Avro Ansons, and then Hudson’s. Additional works were carried out at Pearce to accommodate the second unit, including another hangar, an extension for the bulk petrol and oil systems, base gymnasium, cinema and additional married quarters. In the early 1940s, the runways were extended, sealed and a third runway was constructed.

Nos. 14 and 25 Squadrons were disbanded on 10 December 1945 and 9 July 1946, respectively. No. 25 Squadron was then reformed at Pearce in April 1948. Other units which formed at Pearce included, No. 4 Recruit Depot - March 1940, No. 5 Initial Training School - October 1940, No. 35 Squadron - February 1942, No. 77 (Fighter Interceptor) Squadron – March 1942, No. 85 Squadron in May 1945 and No. 11 Squadron in November 1950.

In 1965, the government announced selection of the Macchi MB-326H to be introduced as an ‘all-through’ jet trainer with the intent to replace both Winjeels and Vampires. Accompanying this decision was a significant redevelopment of Pearce and the construction of a satellite airfield at Gin Gin, 27 kilometres (17 miles) north of the base. No. 1 Applied Flying Training School which had moved to Pearce in 1958, was renamed No. 2 Flying Training School in 1969.  Beginning in 1989, No. 2 Flying Training School commenced re-equipping with PC-9 aircraft having operated Macchis for the previous 20 years.

Pearce welcomed a detachment of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) pilot flying training school which had moved to Pearce escaping from Singapore's complex airspace. In March 1993, the Australian government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Singapore covering a period of 25 years.

Yet another redevelopment commenced at Pearce in October 2008. The $14.2 million project involved a mix of new construction and refurbishment of existing facilities and infrastructure. It wasn’t long before some of the new facilities and services introduced as part of the base redevelopment were put to use at the time of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2011, held in Perth between 28 and 30 October. With F/A-18s from 3 Squadron, a 2 Squadron Wedgetail, 10 Squadron AP-3Cs and a 38 Squadron King Air providing support from Pearce.

In February 2014, homes in Bullsbrook were threatened by fire. RAAF Base Pearce supported the state emergency services by providing access to its water and aviation fuel supplies, airfield and airfield parking areas which was a welcome help to fire bombing aircraft given the base’s close proximity to the fire front.

Pearce was placed on an operational footing on 18 March 2014 for Operation Southern Indian Ocean (SIO), the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The bases’ fuel, accommodation, messing and Information Technology support would be vital contributions to the running of the operation. While foreign personnel were accommodated off base, Australian uniformed personnel at Pearce increased from 300 to 800 during the operation. A year after Operation SIO concluded, No. 25 (City of Perth) Squadron, responsible for air base combat support at Pearce, Gin Gin and Learmonth, deservedly lifted the Hawker Siddeley trophy as the most proficient Air Force unit with primary whole of base support functions.

The PC-9 bid farewell to Pearce on 12 December 2020, after more than 30 years of operations. Hundreds of Defence personnel and contractors attended the function marking the end of the PC-9 era at Pearce during which 103 pilot training courses passed through Pearce from which about 1,400 pilots graduated.

Related base

  • RAAF Base Pearce