The US military presence in the NT has reached a milestone with the latest arrival of US Marines as the ABC uncovered an American proposal to spend upwards of $300 million on naval construction projects in and around Darwin.
The American legislation also references a new airport parking apron for the US Navy and investments in RAAF Tindal. The ABC has also reported that negotiations are underway to build a new port at Glyde Point near Darwin to accommodate large ships such as LHDs.
A permanent naval facility in the Territory could serve as a valuable logistics base for the US as growing Chinese missile capabilities increasingly threaten supply lines running through Guam.
Defence told the ABC that the proposal for ‘Navy Military Construction’ in Darwin must still pass through US Congressional processes, but denied planning any new military infrastructure in the NT in a subsequent statement.
“The Department of Defence has not engaged in any classified or unclassified planning with respect to developing, funding or supporting an alternative military, commercial or mixed-use port at Glyde Point or elsewhere in the vicinity of Darwin,” Defence said in a statement.
“This information was provided to journalists last week.
“Any proposal for a facility at Glyde Point, or elsewhere in the NT, is a matter for the relevant NT authorities.”
Foreign Minister Marise Payne, however, confirmed to Sky News on Tuesday that the US is planning to build new infrastructure in the north once Congressional approval is granted.
“The development of facilities will support the Force Posture Initiatives,” Payne said.
Meanwhile, the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) has been strengthened with the arrival of additional US Marines, bringing the total number in the Territory to 2,500.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the 2019 rotation represents the most capable and operationally focused deployment to date.
“This milestone demonstrates the enduring nature of the Australia-US alliance and our deep engagement with the Indo-Pacific region,” Minister Reynolds said.
“The Marine Rotational Force-Darwin improves interoperability between Australian and US defence forces, and enhances our ability to work together with regional partners in the interests of stability and security in the Indo-Pacific.”
The 2019 rotation features a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, advanced TPS-80 radar system and Aviation Combat Element including MV-22 Ospreys and UH/AH-1 helicopters.
The US Marines are expected to complete the rotation in October.