Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment

From Naval History Archive
Jump to navigationJump to search
Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment
Navy Board Flag from 2003.gif
Establishment overview
Superseding department
TypeResearch Department

The Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment was an British Admiralty then later Navy Department research department dedicated to underwater detection systems and weapons. It was formed at the Isle of Portland in 1959 and later became part of the Admiralty Research Agency (ARE) in 1984.


In 1959, Portland's Admiralty Gunnery Establishment was transferred to Portsdown Hill, allowing the research at Portland to focus on anti-submarine research and underwater weapons.[1] The formation of the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment was an amalgamation of a number of Admiralty research sites, including the Underwater Countermeasures and Weapons Establishment at Havant, the Torpedo Experimental Establishment at Greenock and the Underwater Launching Establishment at Bournemouth. This amalgamation saw all research into underwater weapons and detection systems concentrated at Portland, with two primary sites forming the AUWE: "AUWE (North)" and "AUWE (South)". The North site, located at Portland's Naval Base was formerly the HM Underwater Detection Establishment.[2]

The work carried out at Portland had the highest security classification during the Cold War.[3] In 1961, the two establishments were the centre of worldwide attention, after the discovery of espionage infiltration. This became infamously known as the Portland Spy Ring, a Soviet spy ring that operated in England from the late 1950s till 1961 when the core of the network were arrested by the British security services.

In 1984, the AUWE became part of the Admiralty Research Agency (ARE) and later the Defence Research Agency (DRA) in 1991. With the end of the Cold War in 1991, both Portland's naval base and the two research establishments closed in 1995. AUWE(S) was sold and became the Southwell Business Park in 1997, while AUWE(N) was demolished around 2005.[4]


  1. "New Scientist – Google Books". 27 February 1958. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  2. "Admiralty and Ministry of Defence: Underwater Weapons Establishment, later Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment: Reports and Technical Notes".
  3. "A Portland Success Story | Dorset Life – The Dorset Magazine". Dorset Life. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  4. "Portland Port, Royal Naval Cemetery and a Gun Battery". Retrieved 15 September 2019.