Australia to upgrade military bases, expand wargames with U.S

Australia will spend A$747 million ($580 million) to upgrade four military bases in its north and expand war games with the United States, Prime Minister Scott Morrison will say on Wednesday.

An airstrip in the Northern Territory will be lengthened to support larger aircraft, firing ranges overhauled and new training facilities set up for defence personnel and U.S. marines, according to extracts of the announcement seen by Reuters.

“Working with the United States, our allies and Indo-Pacific neighbours, we will continue to advance Australia’s interests by investing in the Australian Defence Force,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison will say.

Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton on Sunday said a conflict between China and Taiwan “should not be discounted”.

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.

Biden presidency may mean ‘harder choices’ for Australia in the defence space

The Biden Administration will likely be "focussed on national securities," meaning Australia may have to make harder choices in the defence space, according to the Lowy Institute’s Richard McGregor.

“Trump was focussed on trade,” Mr McGregor told Sky News. “The Biden Administration might be much more focussed on national securities.

“That might mean harder choices for us in the defence space.”

Mr McGregor said this may mean the US would expect Australia to look at things including “intermediate range missiles” and the possible placement of “more Marines in Darwin”

“They might like us to do greater naval exercises in the South China Sea,” he said. “I think they’re going to expect us to step up as a strong ally.”

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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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.