By Daniel Y. Teng
The U.S. Air Force is preparing to deploy six B-52 bombers to northern Australia amid a steady build-up of U.S. military strength in the region in response to Beijing’s ongoing aggression.
Works are underway on facilities at the Tindal air base located three-and-a-half hours south of Australia’s northern-most city of Darwin.
According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, U.S. officials have drawn up plans for a “squadron operations facility” and a maintenance centre and parking space for six B-52 bombers. The cost is expected to reach US$100 million.
The B-52 Stratofortress continues to be a formidable part of the U.S. military since the 1950s. The aircraft is able to fly extreme long distances without refuelling (8,800 miles or 14,080 kilometres) while carrying a massive payload (70,000 pounds or 31,500 kilograms), including nuclear weapons.
Ongoing aggression in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait have spurred Australian and U.S. military planners to build-up the Darwin region (the Top End) including regular marine exercises and upgrades to existing military facilities. The U.S. and Australia jointly operate a satellite surveillance base located around central Australia called Pine Gap.
Australian defence officials have also been tasked with acquiring new military hardware while even contemplating buying yet-to-be-released B-21 Raider, according to reports.
All Part of the Plan: Expert
In response, U.S. Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy said the region faced “increasing tensions.”
“I know that since I served in Japan, but America has for the past 75 years worked really hard to support the rules-based order,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Oct. 31.
Meanwhile Michael Shoebridge, director of Strategic Analysis Australia, said reports of the build-up were nothing new noting preparations had been ongoing since 2012 under the Obama-Gillard era.
“This is implementing that big idea from 2012, but the big new development of course is the much greater need to deter Beijing from conflict,” he told The Epoch Times.
He said media reports and commentators may portray the move as an incitement of conflict with Beijing, but he noted that Australia was only part of a wider “dispersing” of U.S. capability throughout the region against the Chinese Communist Party, notably Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Guam.
“It is complicating Beijing’s war planning. So it’s a strategic move and it’s not a really aggressive initiative that some media reports convey—it’s smarter, rather than aggressive.”