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Australia to invest AUD3.8 billion to improve northern bases

Australia intends for its northern military bases to become a forward deployment line for joint combat capabilities and the protection of the country's northern maritime approaches. Here, an RAAF F-35A flies over HMAS Sydney during Exercise ‘Tasman Shield' in April 2023. (Commonwealth of Australia)

The Australian government has announced an investment of AUD3.8 billion (USD2.5 billion) to improve a network of military bases across the northern part of the country.

The funding will be spread over four years, the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) said in an announcement on 27 April.

According to the DoD, the aim is to improve the ability of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to operate from northern bases. The decision was made in response to recommendations in Australia's new Defence Strategic Review (DSR).

The funding includes AUD2 billion for airbases from Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Learmonth through to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, in addition to RAAF airbases across the Northern Territory and North Queensland, the DoD said. These include Curtin, Darwin, Tindal, Scherger, and Townsville airbases.

The DSR states that the RAAF must be able to maintain a “network of northern airbases with appropriate hardening and dispersal”. According to the DoD's latest announcement, the funding will “include upgrades to runway and apron capacity, fuel supply and storage, accommodation and security”.

The DSR document also recommended on-base enhancements to “Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance (GWEO) storage, connectivity required to enable essential mission planning activities, … [and] life support”.

Improvements of the airbases, according to the DSR document, are intended to sustain “all aspects of air warfare”. The document adds that the northern base network must “support maritime, littoral, and sustainment operations”.

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