The government has decided not to proceed with the 2020 Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D) deployment given ongoing restrictions associated with COVID-19.
In a statement, Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said she would consider options for a delayed deployment if possible.
“Australia will work with the US to devise options for a possible later deployment, subject to conditions improving and the viability of such a deployment proceeding,” Minister Reynolds said. “Any decision in relation to the 2020 MRF-D in no way affects Australia’s commitment to host next year’s, or subsequent, MRF-D rotations.
“I remain fully engaged with NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner on this matter.”
Minister Reynolds also affirmed the government’s commitment to the deployment, which has steadily grown in size in recent years.
“Australia and the US remain firmly committed to the benefits to regional security that the MRF-D brings,” Minister Reynolds said. “Our ability to host such deployments, alongside the unmatched degree of interoperability we enjoy, is clear testimony to the enduring strength and sense of purpose of the Australia-US Alliance.”
ADM understands that RAAF combat squadrons are planning to deploy to the NT in July for Exercise Pitch Black 2020, despite the current COVID-19 restrictions placed on travel, which is set to run from July 24 to August 14.
However, the event is currently ‘under consideration’ in line with advice from the Chief Medical Officer.