Northern Australia’s value not lost on friends and rivals

It has been painfully obvious for years that our major ally, the US, major regional partner, Japan, and our major market, China, all see more strategic value in northern Australia than successive federal governments and much of our Defence establishment.

At a time when the US has been trying to reduce the burden of overseas military commitments, the “rotational deployments” of US Marine Corps troops to the Top End — now in their ninth year — are based on an American judgment that northern Australia is increasingly important to Asia’s security.

In the face of a more aggressive China with stronger military forces, the US is dispersing its own forces in Asia. While it’s right to say that 2500 marines is hardly a threat to Beijing, it’s an important demonstration of America’s commitment to Australia and Southeast Asian security.

*headdesk*

U.S. Marines conducts GMLRS shoot in Australia for first time

The U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, a part of Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D), fired Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System munitions, known as GMLRS, during Southern Reach, at Bradshaw Field Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia on August 15, 2019.

The HIMARS Marines fired two GMLRS in Australia for the first time ever, according to Cpl. Kallahan Morris. The HIMARS is a weapons system made up of the M142, five-ton chassis vehicle and can carry either a launcher pod of six rockets or one MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS).

The live-fire training conducted was over an area of 3,282 square miles.

HIMARS is participating in MRF-D for the first time. These Marines and equipment provide MRF-D an extended range precision strike capability that can further shape the battlespace.

the HIMARS Marines with MRF-D conducted multiple fire missions, shot two GMLRS rounds, and enjoyed training in the heat of Australia’s Northern Territory dry-season.

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.

The US military has big plans for Australia — and that might be a big problem for China

The US military is considering investing more than $211 million into construction in Darwin, Australia, according to the Senate's version of the annual defense legislation.

What that money will build is unknown. The Marine and Navy officials Marine Corps Times reached out to have yet to provide a statement.

Australian outlet ABC News reported that secret planning is underway to develop a new commercial port just outside of Darwin that could eventually be developed to house Australia's landing helicopter dock ships or the US amphibious assault ships that ferry Marines around the globe.

While Australia is one of America's most important military allies in the Pacific, the military construction could cause diplomatic headaches for Australia and sour its relationship with China, which over the years has become more economically intertwined.

"...even our best allies, the Australians, they're with us from a military perspective, but economically they're tied to China," Maj. Gen. Daniel Yoo, the commander of the Marine Raiders, told Marine Corps Times in an interview during a May special operations conference in Tampa, Florida.

"And so they have a problem internal to their own country as far as there's some that feel they should be closer to China, because their economic health is dependent upon it."

Congress may review the Corps' plan to redistribute its forces across the Pacific.

Report: Darwin’s Glyde Point may house new base for US Marines

The ABC is reporting senior defence and federal government officials conceded the proposal may anger China even though it would be built as an industrial port.

However if approved it could eventually accommodate “large amphibious warships” such as landing helicopter docks and US military ships.

The ABC said it approached the Defence Department and the US Embassy in Canberra for comment, but both are yet to respond to detailed questions on timing and costs.

In a statement, the department said “Defence has no plans for the development of a new naval facility in the Northern Territory” while the US embassy declined to comment.

The NT Government says it is unaware of any plans for a US war base in Darwin.

In his first official visit to Darwin in May, US Ambassador to Australia Arthur Culvahouse said US relations to Australia were expected to build in the coming years.

Gunn Point Rd recently underwent $38 million upgrades which saw the resealing of the 35km stretch of road as well as resealing of Murrumujuk Rd.