Originally an UK Ministry of Defence Proof and Experimental Establishment (P&EE), the range included provision for artillery Vertical Recovery. This was the vertical firing of and the subsequent recovery of projectiles used as carriers for fuzes or components which, because the projectiles retain their nose up attitude throughout flight and landed on soft chalk, were not damaged by impact.
The vertical firing technique was also used for empty proof and strength of design firings or as a means of being able to "listen" to proximity or electronic fuzes over long times of flight in a relatively electronically quiet area. This heritage is maintained in the COTEC crest, which shows three orthogonal representations of a vertical firing gun.
COTEC is located at Gore Cross, the site of a 19th century highway robbery. Today a stone stands on the A361 commemorating the event and carries the following inscription:
“At this spot, Mr Dean, of Imber, was Attacked and Robbed by Four Highwaymen, in the evening of October 21st 1839. After a spirited pursuit of three hours one of the Felons BENJAMIN COLCLOUGH fell Dead on Chitterne Down. THOMAS SAUNDERS, GEORGE WATERS, & RICHARD HARRIS, were eventually Captured and convicted at the ensuing Quarter Sessions at Devizes, and Transported for the term of Fifteen Years. This Monument is erected by Public Subscription as a warning to those who presumptuously think to escape the punishment God has threatened against Thieves and Robbers.”
The original P&EE range was built in the 1960s, and in 1995 Cranfield University leased it for 11 years as an adjunct to its Shrivenham Campus. The lease was renewed in 2006. Cranfield University at Shrivenham (now designated Cranfield Defence and Security) is the Academic Provider to the Defence Academy, providing management and technical courses open to students from UK and other countries. COTEC is operated by a team of trained personnel, including Instrumentation Engineers and ex-UK Army Ammunition Technicians employed as Trial Conducting Officers.