Defence Science and Technology Organisation

Defence Science and Technology Organisation

The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) is a branch of the Australian Department of Defence which researches and develops technologies for use in the Australian defence industry.

DSTO is the Australian Government’s lead agency charged with applying science and technology to protect and defend Australia and its national interests. It supports Australia's defence by investigating future technologies for defence applications, advising on the purchase of defence equipment, developing new defence capabilities, and enhancing existing systems. Headed by the Chief Defence Scientist, DSTO has an annual budget of approximately $400 million and employs more than 2300 staff, predominantly scientists, engineers, IT specialists and technicians.



DSTO was created in 1974 by amalgamating the Australian Defence Scientific Service with the Science Branch of the Department of Defence. Over the next 20 years various other Australian Defence laboratories were integrated with DSTO, including what remained of the Weapons Research Establishment, responsible for the Woomera test range.

  • 1907 - Defence science begins in Australia.
  • 1910 - The start of explosives research at a guardhouse (called the Chemical Adviser’s Laboratory) at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne.
  • 1911 - Explosives Ordnance Factory established at Maribyrnong.
  • 1912 - Small Arms Factory established at Lithgow.
  • 1921 - Munitions Supply Board created within Department of Defence.
  • 1922 - Chemical Adviser’s Laboratory became the Munitions Supply Laboratories (MSL) of the Munitions Supply Board.
  • 1929 - Proof Range established at Port Wakefield.
  • 1939 - Aeronautical & Engine Research Test Laboratory established at Fishermans Bend as part of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Division of Aeronautics.
  • 1940 - Department of Munitions established. Salisbury Explosives Factory and Finsbury Munitions Factory built within rural environs of Adelaide.
  • 1946 - Munitions Supply Laboratories (MSL) established at Finsbury, South Australia (later known as Woodville North when the suburb name was changed) as a branch of MSL at Maribyrnong.
  • 1946 - Anglo-Australian Joint Project established at Woomera, with aviation support at RAAF Base Mallala.
  • 1947 - Long Range Weapons Establishment (LRWE) formed in Salisbury, South Australia to support the guided weapons facility at Woomera.
  • 1948 - Munitions Supply Laboratories changes its name to Defence Research Laboratories.
  • 1949 - Fishermans Bend laboratory transferred from CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) to the Department of Supply & Development; renamed Aeronautical Research Laboratories (ARL). Australian Defence Scientific Service established, incorporating LRWE and the Defence Research Laboratories.
  • 1949 - Laboratory established in Alexandria, NSW as part of Defence Research Laboratories to undertake research in physical metallurgy and metallurgical chemistry areas.
  • 1949 - Three new laboratories formed in Salisbury - High Speed Aerodynamics Laboratory, Propulsion Research Laboratory and the Electronics Research Laboratory, collectively known as the Chemistry & Physics Research Laboratory.
  • 1953 - Defence Research Laboratories changes its name to Defence Standards Laboratories.
  • 1955 - LRWE and all the Salisbury laboratories amalgamated to form the Weapons Research Establishment (WRE). RAAF Base Edinburgh established near Salisbury, superseding Mallala.
  • 1956 - The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Experimental Laboratory established.
  • 1957 - Black Box flight recorder invented by Dr David Warren. It is named the ARL Flight Memory Unit. Its descendants are now installed in every aircraft built.
  • 1958 - The Army Food Research Laboratories were formally established at Scottsdale, Tasmania under the Quartermaster General Branch, Army Headquarters. The Laboratories’ role included research and development of foods for the three Services. Laboratories re-named Defence Food Research Establishment-Vegetable Dehydration Division in 1958.
  • 1960 - The Defence Food Research Establishment-Vegetable Dehydration Division re-named The Army Food Science Establishment.
  • 1961 - The Army Food Science Establishment re-named The Army Food Research Station.
  • 1962 - Joint Tropical Research Unit (JTRU) established in Innisfail, Queensland and operated jointly with the British Ministry of Defence.
  • 1967 - Built and launched WRESAT, Australia's first artificial satellite.
  • 1969 - RAN Experimental Laboratory changes name to RAN Research Laboratory (RANRL).
  • 1971 - The Army Food Science Establishment re-named the Armed Forces Food Science Establishment.
  • 1972 - ARL transferred to the Department of Manufacturing Industry.
  • 1974 - As a result of Defence restructuring, the Defence Science & Technology Organisation (DSTO) is created by integrating the Australian Defence Scientific Service, the in-house R&D units of the Armed Services and the Science Branch of the Department of Defence. Defence Standards Laboratories becomes the Materials Research Laboratories (MRL).
  • 1975 - Official transfer of all Defence R&D activities to DSTO in the Department of Defence. The Armed Forces Food Science Establishment (AFFSE) became part of the Service Laboratories and Trials (SLT) division of DSTO.
  • 1977 - Joint Tropical Trials and Research Establishment established (JTTRE), merging JTRU and Tropical Trials Establishment situated at Cowley Beach, Queensland.
  • 1977 - MRL, Woodville North transferred to CSIRO Division of Materials Science.
  • 1978 - WRE split into four smaller laboratories: Weapons Systems Research Laboratory (WSRL), Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL), Trials Research Laboratory (TRL) and Advanced Engineering Laboratory (AEL).
  • 1982 - The Armed Forces Food Science Establishment became a part of Materials Research Laboratories (MRL).
  • 1984 - RAN Research Laboratory transferred to WSRL.
  • 1985 - Materials Research Laboratories, Alexandria, NSW transferred to Army.
  • 1987 - Five year restructuring of DSTO laboratories begins. New Surveillance Research Laboratory created and WRE’s Electronics Research Laboratory reorganised. RANRL transferred to MRL and re-named.
  • 1989 - Control of Cowley Beach was returned to the Army and Innisfail became MRL, Qld.
  • 1992 - The UK-Australia Tropical Research agreement terminated.
  • 1991 - WSRL abolished to leave four laboratories in DSTO.
  • 1994 - ARL and MRL merge to form the Aeronautical & Maritime Research Laboratory (AMRL) headquartered in Fishermans Bend. Surveillance Research Laboratory and Electronics Research Laboratory merge to form the Electronics & Surveillance Research Laboratory (ESRL) headquartered in Salisbury, leaving only two laboratories in DSTO.
  • 1994 - The Armed Forces Food Science Establishment was re-named The Defence Food Science Centre (DFSC).
  • 1997 - ESRL complex rationalised and new "Knowledge Systems Building" in Edinburgh, South Australia, (the newly renamed part of Salisbury containing DSTO), officially opened. The Defence Food Science Centre (DFSC) was re-named Defence Nutrition Research Centre (DNRC). Port Wakefield Proof Range became the Proof and Experimental Establishment.
  • 2002 - DSTO restructured, resulting in three laboratories: Platforms Sciences Laboratory, Systems Sciences Laboratory and Information Sciences Laboratory.
  • 2003 - Maritime Operational Analysis Centre (MOAC) opened at Garden Island, Sydney
  • 2004 - H A Wills Structures and Materials Test Centre officially opened at Fishermans Bend.
  • 2004 - CBRN functions transferred from Maribyrnong to Fishermans Bend.
  • 2004 - Torpedo Systems Centre and Maritime Experimentation Laboratory opened at DSTO Edinburgh
  • 2005 - Laboratory Directors renamed to DCDS (Deputy Chief Defence Scientist):
Director, Platforms Sciences Laboratory renamed DCDS(Platforms & Human Systems),
Director, Systems Sciences Laboratory renamed DCDS(Policy & Programs),
Director, Information Sciences Laboratory renamed DCDS(Information & Weapon Systems) and
First Assistant Secretary, Science Policy renamed Chief, Science Planning & Coordination Division.
Air Operations Division to report to DCDS(Platforms & Human Systems).
New stand-alone Information Integration Branch created in Edinburgh under DCDS(Information & Weapon Systems).
  • 2007 - DSTO Maribyrnong shut down in May with all personnel moved to a new facility within the existing DSTO Fishermans Bend site.
  • 2007 - DSTO celebrates 100 Years of Defence Science and Technology in Australia
  • 2007 - Personnel at DSTO Canberra Fern Hill Park moved to new facilities at Fairbairn.
  • 2008 - DSTO Pyrmont commenced move to Redfern.
  • 2008 - Professor Robert Clark appointed Chief Defence Scientist, the first external appointment to the post since 1991.[1]
  • 2010 - DSTO organizes the Multi Autonomous Ground-robotic International Challenge


DSTO has sites in each state of Australia:

See also

  • NICTA (National ICT Australia) - Australia's national information and communication technology research centre
  • CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) - the national government body for scientific research in Australia
  • ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation) - Australia’s national nuclear organisation and the centre of Australian nuclear expertise
  • TTCP (The Technical Cooperation Program) - An international defence science and technology collaboration between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • South Australian Aviation Museum - repository of DSTO's historic rocket collection from the period 1950 - 1980.


  1. ^ New CDS announced.
  2. ^ The area in South Australia occupied by DSTO was renamed from Salisbury to Edinburgh in 2002.
  3. ^ The DSTO Maribyrnong site was shut down in May 2007 and all remaining personnel were moved to a new facility within the existing DSTO Fishermans Bend site.
  4. ^ Personnel at the DSTO Canberra Fern Hill Park site moved to new facilities at Fairbairn during 2007 & 2008. DSTO staff are also located in Russell Offices, Campbell Park Offices, Brindebella Business Park and various scientific liaison officers are located "on the south side of the lake".
  5. ^ DSTO Pyrmont commenced moving to Redfern in 2008.


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