GW Cameras

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During the early period of the Cold War the United Kingdom carried out wide-ranging missile research, partly in collaboration with Australia (under the umbrella of the Anglo-Australian Joint Project, which ran from 1946 to 1980). [1] The testing of the missiles required a range of sophisticated devices to record and document missile behaviour in flight, approaches to targets and also to record telemetry data that were obtained on the ground. In the days prior to digital data collection this occurred analog, with film being the preferred option. All cameras carry the type specification GW for Guided Weapons. While technically the cameras where high speed cine cameras (100 frames/second), they were used for in-depth frame-by-frame analysis:

  • GW 1 Target Aircraft Camera (Dekko Ltd, 1954)-- a high-speed 35mm cine camera mounted in the target aircraft to record the missile approach angles (and miss distances).
  • GW 2 Target Aircraft Camera (Beck, 1955)-- a high-speed 35mm cine camera mounted in the target aircraft to record the missile approach angles (and miss distances).
  • GW 3 Continuous Record Camera (Cinetra Ltd, 1958). The GW3 was a high-speed 35mm cine camera developed to record cathode ray oscillograph images at various speeds.[2]
  • GW 9 Missile Camera (Specto Ltd, 1960)—A 16mm high-speed cine camera with interchangeable lenses, carried by missiles in flight.[3]

In Australia a number of similar cameras were built which carried different designations: WRECISS, WREROC and WRETAR.



  1. For background on the project see Morton, Peter (1989) Fire across the desert. Woomera and the Anglo-Australian Joint Project 1946–1980. Canberra: AGPS.—For general context of UK guided weapons development in the 1950s see Twigge, S.R. (1993) The early development of guided weapons in the United Kingdom, 1940-1960. London: Routledge.—For Woomera see also: Southall, Ivan (1962) Woomera>. Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
  2. The camera was jointly developed by the Royal Aircraft Establishment and Cinetra Ltd. It took 200ft rolls of daylight loadable 35mm cine film. The design had a geared advance that allowed for recording speeds of 1 inch/sec to 128 inches/sec. The camera came with three interchangeable lenses (1 ¼", 2" and 3") all with f/1.9. A time marker unit was also fitted.-- For details and specifications, see: Brooks, J.H. (1958) Type GW 3 continuous record camera. (UK National Archives AVIA 6/23834).
  3. The 16mm camera, running at 100 frames/sec, was designed and built by Specto Ltd, (London. Specto were manufacturers of cine cameras and projectors, operating from 1935 to 1960 (list of manufacturers of vintage cinematographic equipment). --The GW 9 came with four Specto Ltd. lenses (1/2” f/4; ¾, f/4.5; 1 ½”, f/1.9 and 3’, f4). In addition, it could accept lenses designed for the G.S.A.P. cameras. The camera used a circular disc shutter with two sectors cut out of the rim. At 100 frames/sec the shutter speed was 1/210th. The 50ft of daylight loadable 16mm film allowed for 20 seconds of running time.--For details and specifications, see: Husbands, C.W. (1960) The type GW 9 missile camera. Royal Aircraft Establishment Technical Note TD47, March 1960. London: Royal Aircraft Establishment (Farnborough), Ministry of Aviation (UK National Archives AVIA 6/23847).