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US imperialism embeds the Northern Territory in its war plans

Written by: (Contributed) on 27 November 2021


Residents of Australia's Northern Territory might have noted publicity surrounding recent plans to upgrade military facilities. A great deal of it has been attributed to defence and security provision.

Australia's Northern Territory has a long history of being regarded as sensitive; it looks out across the South Pacific where regional tensions are intensifying. In recent times, military planning has included the transformation of Darwin as a support centre, linked to Diego Garcia and Guam as military and intelligence hubs for US-led regional operations. 

The plan has an added significance as US-led Cold War diplomatic tensions with China continue to escalate; a recent statement from Canberra, for example, drew attention to the US adjusting its regional military planning according to which the Northern Territory 'could become the lynch-pin in the chain of US bases running from the Aleutians in the North Pacific to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean which support US strategy and military operations', in a direct reference to Island Chain Theory. (1)

A recent study of the Northern Territory stated that 'our north is, in fact, the essential southern rampart of the Indo-Pacific … with … the Port of Darwin a central strategic question'. (2)

In recent diplomatic jargon, the Northern Territory was noted as part of a military plan which will include 'the transformation of the Top End from a very convenient military training area for the ADF and its allies to a vital southern US defence anchor … and … an important defence springboard into the Indo-Pacific'. (3)

While residents of the Northern Territory have become used to observing US troop rotations over the past decade, military plans now include enlarging the rotations to include 'the capability to train, sustain and co-ordinate allied and partner-nation military forces'. (4)

Reference was also made to the planned importance of the Northern Territory for armed forces and military personnel from France, Germany, the UK, Japan and India, all expressing an interest 'to get more mobile across the region'. (5) Plans appear already under-way for those concerned to 'locate military units with their ADF counterparts in the Top End'. (6)

The US lays great emphasis upon the strategic importance of Darwin Harbour; it is five times larger than Sydney Harbour, and deeper than San Francisco Bay and has, therefore, been assessed as 'uniquely placed to facilitate and support an enlarged regional alliance'. (7)  

References to Australian-hosted facilities being used to project military power and presence over the wider region are not difficult to find.

Emphasis has already been placed upon upgrading RAAF Tindal, just outside of Katherine, for use as a 'forward operating location for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions throughout the region'. (8) The air-base hosts seven RAAF units which include five for combat and two for surveillance. (9) Planning is already under-way for a significant upgrade. Early last year an announcement was made by Canberra for the base to have a $1.1 billion upgrade which would include an extension to the runways and fuel storage to enable re-fuelling facilities. (10) The financial figure was later adjusted and raised to $1.7 billion. (11)

RAAF Tindal is already used extensively by the US military with their troop rotations. It also has an important part in battle plans for US-led real-war scenarios: during such a crisis the US envisages its outlying military facilities coming under attack with its forces 'scattered from bases in Japan, Guam and Hawaii … although ... with Australian agreement … significant numbers of these aircraft will be in northern Australia … American strategy is to spread its forces … making them as difficult a target as possible'. (12)

While information about regular military forces can be accessed from official media releases and tenders issued for purchasing, other covert operations tend to be more guarded and subject to higher levels of classification. US imperialism is no stranger to the dark world of such operations. (13)

It has, nevertheless, been possible to establish that RAAF Tindal was an important part in the failed mercenary attempt by Sandline in 1997 to re-open the Bougainville mine in PNG. Successive Australian governments have continued throughout to deny any active involvement in the military debacle.  (14) But then, that is what such people do.

With reliable information emerging about Australian arms manufacturing businesses expanding their exports from $1.5 billion in 2017/18 to $5.2 billion in 2020/21 one can but question whether RAAF Tindal has also been used for transporting vast quantities of arms to countries to be used for repressive purposes. (15) Secrecy would appear an important consideration.

It is not surprising to note that Australian arms exports remain shrouded in official secrecy with relations established and maintained with a number of countries without serious questions being asked about officially sanctioned government repression: Indonesia is but one example. It has been noted, for example, that 'Australia has not produced detailed annual reports on weapons exports since 2004'. (16)

In conclusion, planning to upgrade military facilities in the Northern Territories has little to do with Australian defence and security, it is directly linked to US-led directives to maintain and extend 'US interests' across the Indo-Pacific. A recent study also noted that due to the changing balance of forces the 'US faces the prospect of military defeat … and there are growing signs they could draw the US into a war it could not win'. (17)

 We need an independent foreign policy before we are drawn into a US planned regional limited war which would clearly not be in Australia's best interests!

1.     Interchangeable forces key to submarine success, Northern Territory Defence supplement, The Weekend Australian, 30-31 October 2021.
2.     Unsafe harbour of the north, The Weekend Australian, 20-21 November 2021.
3.     Security pact to boost US presence in the Top End, Supplement, The Weekend Australian, 30-31 October 2021.
4.     Darwin at the centre of exciting new space race, Supplement, The Weekend Australian, 30-31 October 2021.
5.     Darwin port, harbour need future to be anchored, Supplement, The Weekend Australian, 30-31 October 2021.
6.     Unsafe harbour, op.cit., Weekend Australian 20-21 November 2021.
7.     Interchangeable forces, op.cit., Weekend Australian, 30-31 October 2021.
8.     Tindal to be hub for projection of air-power, Supplement, The Weekend Australian, 30-31 October 2021.
9.     Wikipedia: RAAF Tindal.
10.   Ibid.
11.   Tindal to be hub, op.cit., Weekend Australian, 30-31 October 2021.
12.   Unsafe harbour, op.cit., Weekend Australian, 20-21 November 2021.
13.   See: Air America, Christopher Robbins, (London, 1988).
14.   RAAF Tindal, op.cit., wikipedia.
15.   Wikipedia: Australian arms exports.
16.   The secretive world of Australia's arms exports, Overland, 2 March 2021.
17.   Chinese entry to trade pact unlikely: PM., Australian, 23 November 2021.


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