US to ramp up military presence in Australia

Bases across Australia are set to host a larger contingent of US troops and military equipment as part of a new deal struck between the nations.

Minister for Defence Peter Dutton and Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne have confirmed plans to bolster the United States’ military presence in Australia after meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin as part of AUSMIN discussions.

As an extension to the bilateral Force Posture Working Group convened in May 2021, the counterparts endorsed areas of expanded co-operation across the air and maritime domains.

This includes:

  • enhanced air co-operation through the rotational deployment of US aircraft of all types in Australia and appropriate aircraft training and exercises;
  • enhanced maritime co-operation by increasing logistics and sustainment capabilities of US surface and subsurface vessels in Australia;
  • enhanced land co-operation by conducting more complex and more integrated exercises and greater combined engagement with allies and partners in the region; and
  • the establishment of a combined logistics, sustainment, and maintenance enterprise to support high end warfighting and combined military operations in the region.

Minister Dutton shed more light on the deal earlier on Friday morning, revealing US personnel and military assets would be based in key strategic locations across the country.

In addition to hosting troops in the Top End, Australia is set to welcome US maritime and air platforms in the southern states.

This is expected to include submarines, bombers, and surveillance aircraft, the latter of which could be sustained at RAAF Base Richmond and RAAF Base Amberley.

“We’ve got thousands of troops based in the north of Australia, in Darwin, but there’s more that we can do in the maritime space [and] in the air space,” Minister Dutton told the media.

“There’s also a big opportunity for Australian industry — the sustainment of personnel and the equipment they bring with them. 

There are many elements to it, but really, it’s all about trying to keep us as a country safe and that’s the first objective.”

The nations are yet to confirm the size of the expanded US presence, with representatives in discussions to iron out details.

This announcement follows the establishment of a new trilateral partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (AUKUS).

The new multinational agreement will see nuclear-powered submarines built in Adelaide, leveraging skills and resources provided by stakeholders in the US and UK.

Further details regarding the fleet’s capability, project logistics, and the delivery timeline are to be fleshed out over the next 18 months.

The new plan scuppers France-based Naval Group’s multi-decade contract to deliver 12 diesel-powered Attack Class submarines to replace the ageing Collins Class fleet as part of its $90 billion SEA 1000 contract.

Defence Connect -17 SEPTEMBER 2021 By: Charbel Kadib