Darwin, a natural northern bulwark

Darwin port has always been a safe haven and vital asset in a sometimes unstable region.


The 2016 Defence White Paper committed the Government to increasing Defence’s international engagement particularly with countries in the South Pacific and South-East Asia. Darwin provides a fit-for-purpose hub from which to base ADF assets prior to deployment into the region as part of its enhanced international exercises.

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USA Marines finish 2020 rotation

The US Marine Rotational Force Darwin 2020 has completed its ninth rotation in the NT.

The MRF-D has departed after undertaking a range of exercises, which strengthened cooperation and interoperability with the Australian Defence Force.

The 1100 US Marines arrived in a series of tranches and completed a mandatory 14-day quarantine, prior to starting their training; and, were tested for COVID-19 on entry to Australia and a second time prior to exiting quarantine.

One of the Marines tested positive for coronavirus while in quarantine.

Planning is underway for the next year's MRF-D, which will mark its 10-year anniversary.

US Marines in remote corner of Australia are practicing to guide Air Force bombers to targets across the Pacific

At remote ranges in northern Australia this summer, US Marines and Australian troops trained to guide US bombers to targets on far-flung islands, illustrating the Corps’ increasing focus on a potential war in the Pacific.

In August, Marines flew RQ-21A Blackjack drones in Australia for the first time as part of the month-long Exercise Loobye.

During the exercise, US B-1 bombers from Guam and B-2s out of Diego Garcia flew as far as 4,000 miles to the Delamere, Bradshaw, and Mount Bundley training areas in northern Australia, simulating long-range precision strikes. The bombers were supported by tankers flying out of Okinawa.

RQ-21s flew over the ranges to gather information before and after the airstrikes.

“We’ve done an awful lot with the US Marine Corps,” Houston said. “They basically are the only nation that really gets a chance to routinely mount an exercise invasion of Australia, and that relationship … has served us incredibly well.”

Marines head home as training wraps up

THE ninth rotation of US Marines has wrapped up training in the Northern Territory, with 2500 troops expected to pack up and return home this month.

Colonel David Banning, Commanding Officer of Marine Rotational Force Darwin (MRF-D), said the troops were now preparing to return to their home stations after months of training alongside the Australian Defence Force in the Top End.

“We’re going to be rocking up again next spring, heading back down here for the 10th anniversary.”

NT’s Pine Gap facility could play role in accidental nuclear exchange between US and China as tension rise

HEIGHTENED US-China tensions have increased the risk of an accidental nuclear exchange between the two superpowers — and whether or not the Northern Territory’s Pine Gap surveillance base is playing a role in hyping this up needs to be looked at.

Though the current US-China tensions has fewer nuclear risks than the Cold War-era US-Soviet relationship, the standing dynamics shouldn’t be ignored, according to new a research paper from the United States Studies Centre, based out of the University of Sydney.

As the US and China entered into a period of “intense strategic competition” the risk of accidental nuclear warfare between the two had grown.

Warning Australian politicians to be attentive, Dr Cunningham said Canberra needed to determine whether the country was inadvertently contributing to heightening nuclear risks through joint intelligence facilities on Australian soil.

This includes the Northern Territory’s Pine Gap, a joint US-Australia run station about 18 km out of Alice Springs which houses a US satellite surveillance base and Australian Earth station, and set up in the late 60s in the throes of the Cold War.

Australia’s strategy, Dr Cunningham argued, should be based on three national security interests: avoiding nuclear threats or nuclear use in a future conflict, ensuring that Chinese military actions are adequately countered at the conventional level and preserving the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.