Establishment of RAAF Base Williamtown

15 Feb 1941

RAAF Base Williamtown is strategically positioned to the North of Newcastle in the Port Stephens area. The history and expansion of RAAF Williamtown since its establishment during World War II is directly linked to the evolution of air power and the technological advances in tactical fighter and surveillance aircraft.

RAAF Base Williamtown’s location was selected in response to the emerging threat to the east coast of Australia during World War II. The base officially opened 15 February 1941 in order to provide protection for the Hunter region’s strategic port and steel manufacturing facilities.

The initial footprint consisted of 366 officers and airmen shaping a number of the Australian Empire Air Training Scheme squadrons, including the No. 4 Operational Training Unit (1942-1944). The air field consisted of four runways, 1,100m (3,600ft) each designed to accommodate the Williamtown Flying School.

In the post war years, RAAF Base Williamtown maintained its status as the RAAF’s primary fighter base, housing squadrons of Gloster Meteor and CAC Sabre. The 1960s saw what would be one of many technological leaps in fighter capability to be acquired by the RAAF, accompanied by an expansion of the base facilities and airfield with the introduction of the Dassault Mirage aircraft and the retirement of the Meteors.

The base underwent further redevelopment in the late 1980s in order to welcome the acquisition of the RAAF southern fleet of F/A-18 Hornets. The Tactical Fighter Group (now Air Combat Group) established their headquarters on base in 1990 accompanied by the expansion of the facilities to include new hangars, workshops, medical facilities and RAAF chapel.

In 2000 RAAF Base Williamtown became the home of Surveillance and Response Group, coinciding with the reestablishment of 2 Squadron in anticipation of the delivery of the RAAF’s designated Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) platform. In May 2010 No 2 Squadron returned to the skies in the Boeing Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft. Initial efforts for the squadron concentrated on conducting conversion courses for aircrew and maintenance personnel, with important milestones reached in 2011 with participation in Exercise Talisman Sabre alongside US Forces, reaching Initial Operating Capability in 2014 whilst supporting the international search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

RAAF Base Williamtown welcomed the first of the Australian F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) in December 2018. The significant leap in technology associated with the JSF as the first complete 5th Generation platform required major redevelopment works including a 2000 ft runway extension and a revamp of significant base infrastructure. The RAAF continues to take delivery of JSF aircraft for 77 Squadron, 3 Squadron and RAAF Tindal based 75 Squadron which will replace the existing F/A-18 Hornet fleet.

RAAF Base Williamtown currently employs over 3,500 personnel including uniformed members, Australian Public Servants and Defence Industry Contractors. The base support continues to expand with the development of the Defence Industry hub within the Newcastle Airport precinct, ensuring the RAAF’s ongoing presence in the Hunter region.

Related base

  • RAAF Base Williamtown