13 Marine Aircraft to Deploy to Australia

The Marine Corps this spring is sending its largest aircraft element to date -- four tilt-rotor Ospreys and five Super Cobra and four Huey helicopters, all out of Hawaii -- to the next $25 million rotation of Marines to northern Australia as the Corps continues to redistribute its forces around the Pacific.

The Marines are moving to four major forward areas of operation over the next decade -- Japan, Guam, Hawaii and Australia -- as part of a "distributed laydown" that seeks to deter growing threats in the vast Asia-Pacific region, particularly from from China and North Korea.

The Osprey, with its long range and speed, is seen as a key connector for the Marine Corps in its new island-hopping strategy.

In November 2011, President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that U.S. Marines would be sent on six-month rotational deployments to train with the Australian Defence Force in Darwin and elsewhere in the Northern Territory. The move puts the Marines closer to Southeast Asia and allows Australia, a key ally, to bolster its defense.

The presence was to grow to a 2,500-member Marine Air-Ground Task Force during the 2016-2017 time frame, but officials said the sixth iteration of the deployment will remain at 1,250 Marines who are expected to arrive in Australia in April.

Most of the Marines will be from the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, out of Camp Pendleton in California, Marine Corps Forces Pacific said.

According to Australia's Department of Defence, 200 Marines deployed in 2012, 250 in 2013, 1,150 in 2014, 1,150 in 2015 and 1,250 in 2016.

But the deployment number is stuck at 1,250 for the time being as funding problems continue to be worked out for the full Marine Air-Ground Task Force of 2,500 with aircraft, vehicles and other equipment.

"The Marine Corps position to date has been that we will not grow the force beyond 1,250 Marines in Australia until we get some top-line (overall Marine Corps budget) relief for funding for military construction," Craig Whelden, executive director of Marine Corps Forces Pacific at Camp H.M. Smith, said at a recent Chamber of Commerce Hawaii event.

Whelden added that "we've essentially tapped out what we can use of existing facilities and for sustainment." The deployment of 1,250 Marines costs about $25 million, he said. Marine Corps Forces Pacific is the tasking authority for the units participating in the rotations.

Australia and the United States in October agreed to a more than $1.5 billion cost-sharing agreement to improve infrastructure in northern Australia as well as pay for ongoing costs over the 25-year pact -- ending a disagreement over who would pay the tab, The Australian newspaper reported.

Australian media also said the Marine Corps rotational force is expected to double to its full strength of 2,500 by 2020.

The four Hawaii MV-22 Ospreys scheduled to make the deployment are from Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 268 (VMM-268), while the five AH-1W Super Cobra and four UH-1Y Venom helicopters are part of Marine Light Attack Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 (HMLA-367). The Aviation Combat Element of 13 aircraft will be hosted at Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin.

By comparison, the Marines sent four UH-1Y helicopters for the rotational deployment in 2016 and four big CH-53E Super Stallions in 2015, according to Australia's Defence Department.

Whelden called the next contingent to deploy "a more diversified, a more capable force than we've had previously."

The "distributed laydown" in the Pacific, which dovetails with the Marine Corps' expeditionary nature and ability to rapidly move forces from one place to another, calls for moving more than 4,000 Marines from Okinawa, Japan, to Guam. Whelden said hundreds of millions of dollars already have been invested on Guam, with wharves to support amphibious ready group ships already completed and ramp and hangar work ongoing for Ospreys and the new F-35B Lightning II, which the Corps called the "world's first operational supersonic short takeoff and vertical landing fighter." "We aren't basing F-35s in Guam, but we train on Guam a lot," Whelden said. Ten of the stealth fighters this week were sent to Iwakuni, Japan, with six more expected to arrive this summer. Whelden said the relocation of about 2,700 Marines from Okinawa to Hawaii is about 10 years away.

Base camp plan

THERE are fears the Katherine township may not receive the full economic boost it hoped for from the half-billion dollar upgrade to the Tindal RAAF base.

The planned construction of a worker’s camp at the base, to house between 140-200 people, has caught some people by surprise.

Project documents say the “transit accommodation” to house hundreds of workers will be a permanent construction to be used by RAAF personnel after the upgrade work is finished.

“I don’t want Tindal to become like a US military base where they have their own shops and services so people don’t need to come to town,” Katherine MP Sandra Nelson said.

Ms Nelson said she was surprised to learn of the accommodation camp and had expected that most of the project’s workers would be housed in Katherine.

The Defence Department expects to spend between $400-$500 million upgrading Tindal as it prepares for the arrival of Australia’s new jet fighter planes, the F-35a Joint Strike Fighter, or Lightning II.

Some of the senior project managers for one of the chief contractors on the project, Lend Lease, will be employed on a fly in, fly out basis.

“Defence anticipates that much of the construction workforce will come from outside the Katherine area,” information for the Air Combat Facilties Project states.

“Accordingly, as an efficiency measure and to minimise the impact of the project on the availability of housing in the area, Defence proposes to develop a construction accommodation facility for the workforce.

“Long term benefits will be realised by resolving the existing shortfall of transit accommodation on base by refurbishing and retaining the construction accommodation once construction is complete,” project documents state.

Katherine Town Council chief executive Robert Jennings said it was still proposed to house a large number of the upgrade staff in Katherine.

“We have raised the issue of accommodation but we have been reassured the contractors are keen to get the local content high,” Mr Jennings said.

“There have been a number of meetings and a lot of energy has already gone into engaging with Katherine on this project.”

Ms Nelson said the opportunity for “make a noise” on the accommodation facility was likely gone.

“There is scope for this community to push harder on the later stages, it’s not too late, and we don’t want to miss out.”

Katherine Chamber of Commerce president Kevin Gray said Katherine was “extremely lucky” to have Tindal on its doorstep.

“I don’t want Tindal to become like a US military base where they have their own shops and services so people don’t need to come to town,” Katherine MP Sandra Nelson said.

B-52 to operate out of RAAF Base Darwin

A United States Air Force B-52 Stratofortress long-range strategic bomber will conduct training activities in the Northern Territory and operate out of RAAF Base Darwin throughout next week.

A Defence spokesman said United States Air Force training in Australia continued a long-standing and mutually beneficial program of combined training activities and exercises.

Exact flight dates are not being released for security reasons.

Mission Creep Tony Abbott pushed for US request to join Syria air strikes

The Abbott government pushed for Washington to request that Australia expand its air strikes against the Islamic State terror group from Iraq to its more dangerous neighbour Syria, Fairfax Media has learnt.

Government sources say it was Mr Obama who raised Syria as a topic and then made the first suggestion of Australia's expanded role.

But it is widely known in government circles that Mr Abbott has long been keen to do more in the fight against the Islamic State, which has taken swaths of territory stretching across Syria and Iraq and established affiliates in Libya, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

from humanitarian air drops to begging master to let us off the leash, in 12 months.

Sounds of War: Deadly Noise Around USA Bases

Residents near military air bases producing ''lethal'' levels of noise suffer from hearing loss, insomnia, stroke, heart attacks - even death.

Growing numbers of USA residents are finding themselves in the firing line of domestic military expansionism, whether it be living in areas subjected to chronic, harmful jet noise, or having their fishing areas disrupted and polluted by Naval war gaming exercises. For many, the issue could literally be a matter of life and death.

The impacts of noise pollution are often underestimated. Its effects span a broad range of health issues, many of which don't seem connected with sound or hearing at first glance.