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Tuesday, 11 February 1986
Page: 114

(Question No. 620)

Senator Vallentine asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 14 October 1985:

(1) Is research on the Railgun still being carried out at the Material Research Laboratories (MRL) Melbourne under a joint memorandum of understanding with the United States (US); if so:

(a) is the continuation of the Railgun research at MRL presently under review;

(b) will the research cease in 1987, when the current memorandum of understanding is up for renewal.

(2) Has Australia agreed to carry out research in specific areas of Railgun technology as directed by the US.

(3) Has the work at MRL on the Railgun included research into the following power sources: compact homopolar generators; homopolar generators; and pulsed power conditioning.

(4) What information on Railgun research has come to Australia from the US, given the tightened security by the US on Defence Information exchanged to foreign governments.

(5) Is the memorandum of understanding referred to in (1) (b), which covers the Railgun research, essentially a one way flow of information from Australia to the US.

(6) How many scientists working on the Railgun at MRL have gone to the US.

(7) Where are these scientists located to work on the Railgun.

(8) What aspects of the research have the scientists worked on.

(9) Has the Australian Railgun research at MRL contributed in any way to the space based Railguns currently being developed in the US for Ballistic Missile Defence.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Yes. (a) Yes. (b) The research will have ceased by 1987.

(2) No. The United States (US) does not direct the course of the research in Australia.

(3) The work at MRL has included research on pulsed power conditioning. It has not included research on compact homopolar generators or homopolar generators.

(4) Unclassified information on research into the physics and operating principles of electromagnetic guns and launchers and pulsed power conditioning.

(5) No.

(6) One scientist working on Railgun research at MRL resigned and took up permanent residence and employment in the US.

(7) The scientist concerned was engaged by Westinghouse R and D Centre, Pittsburg.

(8) At MRL the scientist took part in theoretical and experimental studies of the performance of small laboratory Railguns.

(9) No MRL research has been specific to space-based Railguns; whether, and to what extent MRL research has contributed to US space related work could only be answered by the US.