Arnhem Land space centre could be used for missile testing

Two space companies have signalled the possibility of a defence force future for a remote base near the NT town of Nhulunbuy.

Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) has signed an agreement with United States rocket company Phantom Space Corporation to collaborate on missions at the Arnhem Space Centre (ASC) in the NT.

Phantom, which has confirmed it has had links to the US Department of Defense, has voiced its hopes to mass-produce rockets and fire orbital rockets from the north-east Arnhem Land site by 2025.

Mark D Lester, Phantom's chief operating officer, said that "since the US and Australia remain close allies, it is possible we will conduct defence missions" at the Arnhem Space Centre in the future.

Northern Australia poised for influx of soldiers and spending in nations new missile age

The Northern Territory is poised to play a key role in Australia's future missile defences, according to a Top End MP, as the region prepares for an influx of soldiers and defence force spending.

The presence of the US Marines in Australia's Top End is also poised to grow in the years ahead, with the review recommending an increase to the annual rotation.

The report called for greater "engagement with the US on deterrence, including through joint exercises and patrols; and strengthening Australia's sovereign military and industrial capabilities".

Dr Coyne said this could play out through the arrival in the north of more US ships and fighter jets annually.

"There's a strong possibility that we'll see more often, more frequent US Navy ship visits," he said.

"Certainly we're most likely to see a greater rotational force of US air force craft through northern Australia."

Federal government MP Luke Gosling said the country's north would be prepared to play its part. "There's no doubt that the Northern Territory and the Top End will be part of the [nation's] missile story," he said. "Why? Because we're defending Australia, and obviously, you can get more range into the northern approaches to Australia from the Top End."

Strategist calls for long-range Top End missiles

Defence strategist Paul Dibb has urged the upgrade of the RAAF’s Top End “bare bases”, saying the government’s $1.1bn investment in RAAF Base Tindal is a “clear sign of the deteriorating security environment”.

Professor Dibb, who sounded the alarm over the vulnerability of Australia’s north in a landmark 1986 review, also called on the government to consider the acquisition of land-based missiles, to give the nation a credible long-range strike capability.

“We need strike, with significant range. Not short-range. The days of just sitting offshore are gone,” the Australian National University scholar and former intelligence chief said.

US Studies Centre defence analyst Brendan Thomas-Noone said USAF B-52s were likely to be “rotated through” RAAF Tindal.

“It’s about trying to present more targets for China to account for,” he said. “If you are able to land these bombers in Australia, in the Indian Ocean, in other parts of Southeast Asia, up in Alaska, that is a lot of different places that China would have to track, if there was a conflict.

The upgrade of the Tindal base will include major runway extensions, fuel stockpiles and engineering to support Australia’s new Joint Strike Fighters, US Air Force B-52 strategic bombers and RAAF KC-30 air-to-air refuellers.

More US air deployments under new alliance

Australia is open to boosting American troop rotations and increasing military plane visits as defence co-operation between the allies ramps up.

A historic pact to share nuclear-powered submarine technology - under the umbrella of a new alliance known as AUKUS - has been signed as Australian ministers held talks with counterparts in the United States.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Peter Dutton met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday morning for the latest AUSMIN talks.

Mr Dutton said he aspired to increase troop rotations and other military co-operation between the two nations.

"If that includes basing and includes the storage of different ordinances, I think that is in Australia's best interests, in our national interests at this point in time."

US eyes Top End military build-up to combat China threat

The US wants to store munitions and defence equipment in Australia’s Top End under a bilateral force posture review to better prepare the ANZUS allies for growing strategic threats from China.

Mr Goldman said geostrategic tensions required a more “innovative defence partnership” between Australia and the US, including co-production of precision-guided weapons on Australian soil.

He said a bilateral force posture review working group, established following last year’s AUSMIN talks, had met for the first time ­earlier this month to discuss “a wide range of contingencies”.

Mr Goldman said it was too early to provide details on any new initiatives, but said pre-positioning US weapons in Australia offered strategic advantages.

Mr Goldman’s comments follow the US government’s announcement last year of a $15m contract to build an earth-covered weapons magazine and munitions conveyor at RAAF Base Tindal, south of Darwin, as well as upgraded fuel storages.