US B-1B Lancer Bombers Swoop Down Under to Train with Australian Refuelers

A pair of Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flew over northern Australia during a training mission Monday, according to Australia’s Department of Defence.

Expect to see more B-1Bs in Australia in future, according to Ross Babbage, a former Australian assistant defense secretary.

The AUKUS defense pact announced by Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States in September includes provisions to make it easier for allied ships and aircraft to operate Down Under, he said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory, is the base for a 2,500-strong air-ground task force of U.S. Marines during the southern hemisphere winter.

Northern Australia provides easy access to Southeast Asia and beyond. It includes a broad logistics and industrial support base, plenty of air space and ranges for training and a friendly local population, Babbage said.

"There is substantial expansion of fuel and other capabilities being built in northern Australia to support these types of operations," he said.

The B-1Bs rendezvoused over the Timor Sea with two Australian tankers, which transferred fuel to them at an altitude of 30,000 feet, according to the statement.

US stages drill with allies as it seeks to counter Chinese missile threat

Drills will include air combat exercises designed to improve ability to use smaller airfields in case its main bases come under attack.

The joint exercise at the Andersen Air Force Base, known as Cope North 2021, started on Wednesday and will run until February 19 and will see the base hosting F-35A joint strike fighters for the first time.
The exercise kicks off with an exercise designed to improve the three countries’ ability to carry out humanitarian operations in response to a natural disaster in the region, according to a statement from the US air force in the Pacific.
It also includes air combat drills designed to improve their flexibility and common communications ability.

one commander had said that one aim was to improve the forces’ ability to operate from small, rough airfields with limited facilities – also known as austere airfields– a move analysts said was designed to make it harder to “wipe out” US air power with missile attacks on major bases.

Major RAAF military exercise Pitch Black cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions

PITCH Black, the Royal Australian Air Force’s largest international air engagement exercise, has been shot down by COVID-19.

Australian Defence confirmed on Tuesday that the Territory military exercise will not be conducted this year due to the coronavirus crisis.

Pitch Black hosts up to 3500 personnel and up to 120 aircraft from around the globe including participants from Australia, Canada, France (New Caledonia), Germany, Indonesia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Republic of Korea and the United States.

Japan was to be participating for the first time in 2020.

The cancellation of Pitch Black follows on the back of the announcement that Australia’s largest army exercise for this year, Exercise Hamel, has been cancelled. 

$1bn Tindal base in NT for  jet fighters as F-35 rollout fast-tracked

More than $1b additional investment in making us reliant on the USA: major runway extensions, fuel stockpiles and engineering will be designed to support “Code E” large aircraft, such as US Air Force B-52 strategic bombers and RAAF KC-30 air-to-air refuellers.

Mr Morrison told The Australian the $1.1bn spending comes on top of almost $500m that had ­already been planned for Tindal.

Under the US Force Posture Initiative signed in 2011 by the ­Gillard government and Obama administration, the US and Austral­ia committed to joint funding for military infrastructure project­s of about $2bn.

This included an increase in the annual rotation of US marines through Darwin to about 2000. The Tindal program will be funded under Australia’s contrib­ution, after the US announced it would spend $305m in upgrading infrastructure in Darwin

“These are (the) sorts of things you can do when you manage money well and invest in priorities of keeping Australia safe and building the capability of our defenc­e forces.” #FFS

US to spend $305 million ramping up military aircraft facilities in Darwin

America has allocated more than quarter of a billion dollars for Osprey aircraft infrastructure in Northern Australia.

The US Defence Department is looking to spend $305.9 million on facilities for their Osprey fleet, Chief Minister Michael Gunner told NT Parliament on Wednesday, while knocking back a suggestion that the money would be spent on a new naval base in Darwin.

"The budget appropriation that is being sought in America is for ramps for the Ospreys in the Northern Territory, not for a naval installation," Mr Gunner said.

"The Ospreys are aircraft vehicles. That is where the money is intended to go."

In July, the ABC revealed that a draft US Congressional bill had $US211.5 million allocated for new "Navy Military Construction" in Darwin, with few other details available.

Mr Gunner said that following these reports, he had reached out to US Secretary of Navy Richard Spencer, to clarify the nature of the spending.

The ABC understands plans for a new commercial port facility were still being discussed.