The strategic position of the Ness came to prominence in the naval wars with the Dutch and the French. The threat from Napoleon prompted defensive construction while cattle and sheep continued to graze.
In 1913 the War Department acquired a large part of the Ness to develop into airfields. This was to start a 70-year period of intense military experimentation. At the pioneering edge of early military aviation, Orford Ness was a hive of activity, working on all aspects of how to use a plane as a weapon.
Despite its airfield moving to Wiltshire the bombing range continued ballistics testing. Firing trials took place to determine the vulnerability of aircraft and their components. The information gathered was used to improve aircraft and munitions design and helped many aircrew to make it home.
Lethality and vulnerability trials continued and also work on the aerodynamics of ammunition. Ballistics testing was extended to include rockets with jets firing from almost no altitude into the King's Marsh. Later on the Ness hosted one of its largest secrets, the huge Cobra Mist radar project.
At the height of the Cold War the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment and the Royal Aircraft Establishment (AWRE) used Orford Ness for development work on the atomic bomb. Continuing all the way through the 1960s ominous half-buried concrete structures were built to contain these most lethal of weapons.