The Pentagon wants a new hub for B-52s amid tensions with China
The US military has devised a plan which would see nuclear-capable B-52 strategic bombers deployed in Australia on long-term rotational missions, and turn the country’s Northern Territory into a crucial military hub in Washington’s standoff with Beijing. That’s according to a report from Sydney-based state-broadcaster ABC on Monday.
The Pentagon reportedly seeks to build a “squadron operations facility,” which would include a maintenance center and enough parking area for six B-52s at the Royal Australian Air Force military air base Tindal, according to ABC’s Four Corners investigative program.
The air base expansion could cost up to $100 million and is expected to be finished in late 2026. The new facilities are “required to support strategic operations and to run multiple 15-day training exercises during the Northern Territory dry season for deployed B-52 squadrons,” the report said, citing US documents.
An “enhanced air cooperation” between Australia and the US was discussed during last year’s AUSMIN ministerial meetings, and the sides agreed on “rotational deployment of US aircraft of all types.”
“The ability to deploy US Air Force bombers to Australia sends a strong message to adversaries about our ability to project lethal air power,” the US Air Force reportedly told ABC.
While there was no official confirmation of any arrangements to deploy B-52s at Tindal, a source who declined to be identified told Reuters on Monday that a plan to establish “dedicated facilities for the bombers” was indeed in the works.
Washington’s build-up of its military assets is not limited to Tindal. The US is currently constructing a massive $270 million jet fuel storage facility on the outskirts of Darwin, some 200 miles from the airbase. At the same time, the joint US and Australian spy base Pine Gap near Alice Springs are reportedly undergoing a “major upgrade.”
Back in 2021, the US, Australia, and the UK announced the creation of a new AUKUS security pact, which envisages providing Canberra with conventionally armed and nuclear-powered submarines, thus significantly boosting its naval capabilities.
While AUKUS members claim that the pact is merely aimed at protecting the international system that respects human rights and the rule of law, China has slammed the alliance, arguing that its projects pose grave risks to nuclear security.
This view has to some extent been echoed by Russia. In August, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu warned that AUKUS could “detonate” the entire Asia-Pacific region since the pact has the makings of becoming “a military-political alliance.” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, however, dismissed the notion, saying that Washington is not seeking to set up “an Asian NATO.”