Daly Waters Airfield

The Daly Waters Airfield, also RAAF Base Daly Waters, is a former commercial and sporadically-used military airfield located at Daly Waters, Northern Territory, Australia. As Australia's first international airfield, Daly Waters was used throughout the 1920s and 1930s as a stop over for commercial airlines operating on the domestic route to Western Australia and international carriers flying from Australia into south-east Asia. During World War II, the airbase was used by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the United States Army Air Force to undertake combat operations against the Japanese in New Guinea, the Dutch East Indies and the islands to Australia's north. Following the war, the airbase was used commercially again up until the 1970s when the airfield was sporadically-used by the RAAF.

Daly Waters Airfield
RAAF Base Daly Waters
Daly Waters, Northern Territory in Australia
Daly Waters Airfield
Location in the Northern Territory
Coordinates16°15′42″S 133°22′50″E
Site information
OwnerDepartment of Defence
Site history
In use
  • 1942 (1942)  1945 (1945) (military use)
  • 1970 (1970)  present (military use)
Battles/warsPacific War, World War II
Garrison information
GarrisonUnited States Army Air Forces (1942)
Daly Waters Airfield

RAAF Base Daly Waters
Airport typeMilitary airfield;
Defunct civil airport
OwnerDepartment of Defence
Operator Royal Australian Air Force
Elevation AMSL700 ft / 213 m
Coordinates16°15′42″S 133°22′50″E
Location in the Northern Territory
Direction Length Surface
m ft
13/31 2,138 7,014 Asphalt
Sources: Australian AIP and aerodrome chart[1]


Daly Waters was Australia's first international airfield. The airfield was a centre for the London to Sydney air race of 1926 and was a refuelling stop for early QANTAS flights to Singapore. During the 1930s, the growth of international air travel meant the airport became a busy hub, despite its isolation and rudimentary facilities.[2] The airfield was served by QANTAS, Australian National Airways and Guinea Airways as well as being an important connection point for MacRobertson Miller Airlines flights to Western Australia.[3]

World War II

In the early months of 1942, following the outbreak of hostilities in the Pacific against the Japanese, the airfield was used a waypoint on the "Brereton Route" for operations between Australia and Java. It was a staging base for aircraft from Cloncurry, Queensland and then up to Darwin area airfields. The RAAF requisitioned the airfield and on 15 March 1942 it became RAAF Base Daly Waters; and operations commenced on 15 May 1942.

The 64th Bomb Squadron of the United States Army Air Forces' Fifth Air Force 43rd Bombardment Group were based at Daly Waters from 16 May 1942 until 2 August 1942,[4] flying B-17 Flying Fortresses from the airfield. The squadron made numerous attacks on Japanese shipping in the Dutch East Indies and the Bismarck Archipelago. Other operations during this period included support for ground forces on New Guinea; attacks on airfields and installations in New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, Celebes, Halmahera, Yap, Palau, and the southern Philippines; and long-range raids against oil refineries on Ceram and Borneo.

Post-war use

In late 1943, the RAAF base was wound down as the war proceeded north, and the airfield was returned to civil use.[5] Commercial traffic continued at the airfield until 1970. Ansett Australia and TAA operated one flight a week with TAA flying south in the morning and Ansett flying north in the evening. The last TAA flight took place on 1 April 1970 with Ansett concluding its operations a week or so later. The original Qantas hangar still stands, housing exhibits of photographs and equipment from the area's aviation past. The main runway, although deteriorated, appears to still be serviceable. The airfield is still used by the RAAF for joint military manoeuvres.

Units based at Daly Waters airfield

UnitAircraftAssignedReassignedTime at Daly WatersNotes
No. 2 Squadron RAAFHudsons
No. 12 Squadron RAAFWirraways
No. 13 Squadron RAAFHudson
No. 34 Squadron RAAFDragon & Ansons
No. 1 Repair and Salvage Unit RAAF
Fifth Air Force, United States Army Air Forces
64th Bombardment Squadron 43d Bombardment GroupB-17 Flying Fortress16 May 1942 (1942-05-16)2 August 1942 (1942-08-02)78 daysDispersed from Group HQ at Sydney, New South Wales

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

  1. YDLW – Daly Waters (PDF). AIP En Route Supplement from Airservices Australia, effective 15 August 2019, Aeronautical Chart
  2. "Daly Waters Aviation Complex". Things to do; Katherine and Surrounds. Government of the Northern Territory. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  3. "Challenging terrain no match for engineering ingenuity". Engineers Australia Northern Division. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  4. "Daly Waters". OzatWar. 15 November 2006. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  5. "Daly Waters". Royal Australian Air Force Museum, Point Cook. Australian Government. 2009. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
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