Pentagon to build up US bases in Guam and Australia to meet China challenge

The Pentagon will focus on building up bases in Guam and Australia to better prepare the US military to counter China, a senior defense official said on Monday.

To counter China, the review directs the Department to enhance "infrastructure in Guam and Australia," and to prioritize "military construction across the Pacific Islands," the official said, as well as "seeking greater regional access for military partnership activities."

"In Australia, you'll see new rotational fighter and bomber aircraft deployments, you'll see ground forces training and increased logistics cooperation, and more broadly across the Indo-Pacific, you'll see a range of infrastructure improvements, in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Australia," Karlin said during the briefing.

The review also did not include "functional capabilities" like nuclear, space and cyber, because those are being addressed in other Department specific reviews, the official said.

China military build-up makes Darwin the unsafe harbour of the north

The stakes for war and peace could hardly be higher. The Morrison government and the leadership of our defence, intelligence and security agencies understand these developments.

But it’s one thing to see you are facing a crisis and quite another to know what to do. Strategic trends in the region are lifting the importance of northern Australia. Our north is, in fact, the essential southern rampart of the Indo-Pacific. The outcome is to make the future of the Port of Darwin a central strategic question. This becomes clear by looking at the plans and purposes of Chinese military growth.

There is no more important step the Morrison government could take than to end the 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin to Chinese company Landbridge.

The threadbare excuses that were deployed to justify the lease in 2015 have long been abandoned by government and opposition. Now, when the Prime Minister warns about the priority “to enhance the resilience of Indo-Pacific supply chains”, we must realise that our ports and airports are critical joints in those supply chains.

The Port of Darwin, and the Top End in general, is the place from which Australia can mount efforts to resist Chinese subversion of the Pacific Islands. The Port of Darwin is also the place to which the USA and other partners can disperse and sustain their forces while deterring Chinese aggression.

Six years into the lease of the port the promised development of infrastructure for tourism isn’t happening. The strategic outlook has changed fundamentally. Landbridge’s presence is now a bone in the throat preventing the development of Darwin as a facility for greater engagement by the AUKUS and Quad partners.

USA B-1B Lancer bombers swoop Down Under to train with Australian refuelers

The B-1B Lancer bombers flew 3,700 miles from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean for drills at Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin in the Northern Territory, Australia’s Department of Defence said in a statement Tuesday.

The drill allowed U.S. and Australian aviators to work together in challenging conditions, Air Commodore Stephen Chappell, director general of Australia’s Air and Space Operations Centre, said in the statement.

The B-1B is the backbone of America’s long-range bomber force and can carry a conventional payload of up to 37.4 tons of guided and unguided ordnance.

Australian aviators trained with B-1B crews on Guam in 2020, according to the Australian statement.

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. Expect to see more in future...

The one word that will stop war over Taiwan

“Restraint.” This should be the one-word diplomatic mantra for Australia about Taiwan. It should be the opening and closing of every statement an Australian prime minister utters because a descent into war between the world’s superpowers over a neuralgic issue that diplomacy has constrained for 70 years – this is the last thing our battered and bruised planet wants.

And it should be the last thing Australia should appear to be talking up. The prospect of such a clash producing a nuclear exchange is spookily high. By installing American facilities on our continent we have made Australia a target. That’s reason enough to plant us in the peace camp.

We’re left a bit exposed because alone of America’s allies we have said we will join America if there’s a showdown, presumably within the first week. It’s almost as if in the corridors of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and the Defence department the hawks are humming the World War I recruiting song, Australia Will Be There.

This begs the question: is there any rigorous analysis by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on how Australia might help avert war, or whether our diplomats are entirely sidelined and relegated.

Canberra needs to commission a document for the national security committee of cabinet that scripts our leaders to press Washington and Beijing on the practical measures that would avoid a descent into war.

Celebrating expanded defence cooperation

The USFPI are an extension of Australia’s existing Defence relationship with the US and support the common interest of promoting regional security and stability.

The MRF-D has grown in size and complexity since the first rotation of US Marines through Darwin in 2012. In 2019, the goal of 2500 US Marines training with the ADF stationed in Darwin was reached.

The structure of MRF-D continues to evolve in response to the changing environment and advances in technology, with the focus shifting to capability rather than numbers. Highly complex joint training scenarios are now being executed, which continue to challenge our forces and better prepare us to rapidly respond in the region, if and when called upon to do so.

This year, about 2200 US Marines and sailors conducted a comprehensive range of training activities, including humanitarian assistance, security operations and high-end, live-fire exercises – exercises that develop enhanced interoperability between the ADF and US Marines and key partners.

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.