PINE GAP: The U.S Intelligence Facility in Australia

By Penny Hoffmann

Pine Gap is a U.S intelligence facility based in Alice Springs, Australia. It is located in the centre of Australia to make foreign interceptions difficult. It is most-likely the most important CIA intelligence collection station globally.

PINE GAP: located in Central Australia.

According to the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, Pine Gap plays a “vital role in the collection of a very wide range of signals intelligence, providing early warning ballistic missile launches, targetting of nuclear weapons, providing battlefield intelligence data for United States armed forces operating in Afghanistan and elsewhere (including previously in Iraq), critically supporting United States and Japanese missile defence, supporting arms control verification, and contributing targetting data to United States drone attacks”.

Pine Gap has three surveillance systems: fundamentally it is “the ground control station for geosynchronous signals intelligence (SIGINT) satellites developed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency”, but it also serves as a Relay Ground Station (RGS) which sends information regarding “U.S. missile launch detection/early warning satellites/Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR)” to U.S and Australian H.Q’s and command centres. Thirdly, Pine Gap has a foreign satelite and communications satelite interception function.

Pine Gap was first established by the United States in 1966 and became operational in 1970. The original mission was to collect information on the testing of Soviet missiles:

“During missile tests, information on the performance of various parts of the missile in flight is sent by radio signal to the test base. U.S. satellites in geo-stationary orbit sitting above the earth intercepted this missile telemetry, and downlinked the data to Pine Gap and other ground stations. That data was then processed into usable signals intelligence about the performance and capacities of new Soviet missiles.”

Pine Gap still collects information regarding foreign missile testing in places such as North Korea.

Pine Gap has undergone dramatic technological development:

“This has provided the technical basis for Pine Gap to provide data enabling the targeting of illegal U.S. drone attacks in countries with which the United States nor Australia are at war, including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.”