On the back of the announcement of AUKUS, an alliance between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, the US charges d'affaires to Australia flagged a "bigger, more integrated, more ambitious" Marine Corps deployment.
At AUSMIN in September 2021, Australia and the USA announced the agreement to enhance force posture cooperation in four key areas to: establish an integrated logistics capability, expand existing enhanced air cooperation, enhance maritime sustainment cooperation, evolve bilateral and multilateral operations and exercises.
The US military plans a dramatic and comprehensive ramping-up of its defence presence in the Northern Territory to counter the rising threat of China – measures which experts say will, for the first time, involve all four branches of the American armed services.
Senior US and Australian defence officials and analysts, speaking on background, confirmed to the Defence Special Report that while “final details were getting worked out”, the measures envisaged big increases in joint US air exercises, troop deployments, pre positioning of equipment, and the use of more sophisticated weapons systems across the Northern Territory’s key training ranges.
Spurred by growing perceptions of a rising Chinese threat, last month’s announcement of the AUKUS trilateral defence agreement will see the transformation of the Top End from a very convenient military training area for the ADF and its allies to a vital southern US defence anchor encompassing a vast area of the Pacific, linking Guam to the north and Hawaii to the east.
These are bigger consequences and will have a bigger, more immediate, impact to the region.
The RAN already has a base in Darwin, but it’s a small one that at present accommodates just nine small patrol boats. The Australian defense ministry in 2019 launched a $200 million project aimed at expanding the Darwin base with additional fuel storage and another wharf so that it can support large surface vessels and submarines.
THE Territory could be considered to host new military exercises with Australian and US troops, given its current relationship with the ally and multimillion-dollar defence upgrades announced earlier this year.
Australia and the US are in discussions about plans for new exercises in Australia, including joint training with American army soldiers.
The proposed exercises would be modelled on Darwin’s annual Marine Rotational Force and would use a variety of military training areas, according to The Australian.
It is not known yet what training areas are of interest but the Northern Territory is a likely candidate given its long history with the US.
Queensland is another candidate.