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Advance in timekeeping tech enhances JORN capability

jorn alice springs
An advance in timekeeping will enhance the capability of JORN (Source BAE Systems)

Technology using a pure sapphire crystal to accurately measure time has taken out the 2018 Defence Science and Technology (DST) Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia, and will be used to support upgrades and enhancements to the Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN).

Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne congratulated Professor Andre Luiten and his team from the University of Adelaide on developing the sapphire clock, a device so accurate it can keep time within one second over tens of millions of years.


The sapphire clock has the potential to produce the purest of signals, which, when fed into JORN, could generate high quality surveillance data.

"This innovation delivers a step-change in radar frequency, purity and overall performance over conventional devices giving Defence a significant capability edge," Minister Pyne said.

JORN is a network of three remote over the horizon radar (OTHR) radars located in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia. The state-of-the-art defence system provides wide area surveillance at ranges of 1,000 to 3,000 kilometres, and plays a vital role in supporting the Australian Defence Force’s air and maritime operations, border protection, disaster relief, and search and rescue operations.



The JORN technology had its beginnings in early research into the ionosphere conducted at the Weapons Research Establishment from the 1950s. Subsequently, the Jindalee high frequency OTHR became a core research project from 1970 and was developed to provide surveillance across Australia’s northern sea and air approaches.

Minister Pyne expanded on the importance of this capability development, saying, "This is an example of world-leading research with a positive impact on Australia’s defence and national security. It is a fantastic result which will be a game-changer for Defence capability." 

The JORN network is Australia's first comprehensive land and air early warning system. It not only provides a 24-hour military surveillance of the northern and western approaches to Australia, but also serves a civilian purpose in assisting in detecting illegal entry, smuggling and unlicensed fishing.

The DST Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia is awarded annually for outstanding science or technology that has developed, or has potential to develop, innovative solutions for Australia's defence or national security.

Advance in timekeeping tech enhances JORN capability
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