US military’s footprint is expanding in northern Australia to meet a rising China

Major construction, funded by the U.S. and Australian governments, is underway in Australia’s Northern Territory for facilities that will be used by the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

The facilities will support U.S. and Australian forces training to defend chains of small islands that would likely be an arena for any future conflict with China, according to former Australian assistant defense secretary Ross Babbage.

The allies are learning to conduct dispersed operations and deploy anti-ship missiles to island chains in the Western Pacific “to make it extremely difficult and dangerous for Chinese operations in a crisis,” including a conflict over Taiwan, he said by phone Wednesday.

The Australian government will likely announce more initiatives in the northern Australia before the year is over, Babbage said.

USA, Australia discuss possibility of B-21 bomber deal

Following the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine deal, a senior US official reportedly said recently that the US would consider providing Australia with nuclear-capable B-21 bombers, the in-development successor to the B-2 stealth bomber that experts said on Wednesday would enable Australia to launch long-range strikes against China, thus posing serious threats to China.

US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall made the remark at a media briefing after meeting with newly minted Royal Australian Air Force chief Air Marshal Robert Chipman on August 22 in Canberra, The Strategist, a website affiliated with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, reported on Tuesday.

Kendall again hyped the "China threat" theory, claiming the US and its allies were "concerned about Chinese behavior" in the South China Sea as well as China's military modernization program.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, said if Australia obtains the B-21, the country would essentially become an overseas bomber base of the US,

Australian troops not welcome in Japan, says Okinawa governor

The governor of the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa says Australian Defence Force personnel are not welcome on the 150 islands he administers, as fears grow that rising tensions between China and US allies will lead to conflict in the region.

Denny Tamaki, the top official in the region who is up for re-election this year, said in an interview that he was worried the existing concentration of US forces had already made the islands a target for hostile forces.

He said the Okinawan people did not support Australian or other foreign defence personnel holding joint military exercises in Okinawa. Australia and Japan signed a defence deal in January that will open the way for their forces to step up training and host each other’s military.

“As the governor here, I would say that many people in Okinawa would oppose having Australian Defence Forces being stationed here, even temporarily, or to use a base in Okinawa where 70 per cent of the US forces in Japan have already been concentrated.”

New Darwin port could help replace US Pearl Harbour naval facility

Experts say a new port could replace the US military’s main fuelling station in the Pacific region after the closure of a storage facility at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii.

The federal budget allocated $1.5 billion to build “new port infrastructure, such as a wharf, an offloading facility and dredging of the shipping channel” in the Northern Territory.

Mr Dutton said in November that stability in the Indo-Pacific “requires the United States to be completely engaged in the region”. He indicated in June he was open to increasing the US marine presence in Darwin and said it was in both countries’ interest for the US to expand its presence in the region.

The federal budget allocated an extra $2 billion to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and expanded its remit to include the Commonwealth territory of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The Defence Department announced in 2020 it was upgrading the Cocos Island runway to accommodate surveillance and response aircraft.

The government is also investing $300 million in an industry precinct at Darwin for gas, hydrogen and critical minerals.

“Additional fuel storage, additional logistics, support and port facilities will enable greater flow through of American units, and conceivably stationing on a longer-term basis. Not basing, but possibly stationing at least for periods of time.

Defence must secure northern Australia amid gravest risk since WWII

In 2021 the AUSMIN communiqué agreed to ‘establish a combined logistics, sustainment, and maintenance enterprise to support high-end warfighting and combined military operations in the region’. The location wasn’t specified, but look at a map. It won’t be Hobart.

Just south of Darwin the US is installing a fuel farm planned by September 2023 to hold over 300 million litres of military jet fuel. Although the government is reluctant to say what is in prospect, it’s obvious the Americans are going to be here in much larger numbers soon.

This all points to a need for a radical rethink about Darwin’s role in the defence of Australia and what we need to do to rebuild our threadbare military infrastructure across the north. The PLA threat is pushing south, and we need a response to it.

I understand the prime minister doesn’t want a new defence white paper or a national security strategy. There’s a view that written policies constrain freewheeling decision-making. So be it, but something must be done to instil a disciplined focus around Defence’s strategic planning, jolting it away from its fantasies about the late 2030s and towards the tough realities of today.

When there’s no time left to change the structure of the military, the need is to look instead at force posture