Defence has opened expressions of interest for a new airborne electronic warfare/ISR forward operating base to be built on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands to host M-55A Peregrine EW aircraft.
Although the expression of interest does not explicitly state which aircraft the base will support, the project falls under the Air 555 Phase 1 program for infrastructure related to the introduction of the MC-55A Peregrine EW aircraft at RAAF Base Edinburgh. The contract for Air 555 infrastructure at Edinburgh was awarded to Lendlease in December 2020.
Defence has previously said that the operating concept for the Peregrine fleet is a main operating base at RAAF Edinburgh and three forward operating bases in Townsville, Darwin and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
The forward operating base on the islands will be a modular facility pre-built on the Australian mainland. The successful contractor will be responsible for delivering and installing the base on the islands and maintaining it for 12 months afterwards.
All three of the Peregrine’s forward operating bases will include a data handling and minor maintenance capacity as well as storage facilities for the Peregrines’ self-protection flares. Defence has previously told a parliamentary committee that the Peregrine fleet will share the air operations facility and minor explosive ordnance storage facilities at RAAF Darwin with the P-8A Poseidons. The P-8As will also be forward deployed to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, although it is not clear whether the two aircraft will also share facilities there.
Interestingly, the Capital Facilities and Infrastructure arm of Defence is running Air 555 Phase 1 in conjunction with Air 7000 Phase 1B, which involves constructing facilities to support the MQ-4C Triton when that fleet begins to arrive in Australia from 2023.
Despite the commonalities between the Peregrine, Poseidon and Triton fleets, ADM has previously reported that upgrades on the Cocos (Keeling) islands to support Poseidon operations did not necessarily allow the islands to also support Triton operations. It is unclear whether the Peregrine forward operating base will indirectly introduce this capability.