Another US Marine Corps (USMC) Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) deployment to Australia has successfully concluded. After an eight-month stay in the Northern Territory, the contingent of approximately 2,200 Marines and their equipment which made up the tenth iteration of MRF-D made their way home during September and October.
This included MRF-D’s Aviation Combat Element of helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft, which were loaded onto cargo ships for the journey back to the US.
The rotation included a comprehensive range of training scenarios, including high-end liver fire exercises, security operations and humanitarian assistance. Interoperability between the USMC and Australian Defence Force was demonstrated in various combined exercises, including Crocodile Response, Koolendong, Loobye and Southern Jackaroo.
Despite some restrictions due to COVID-19, the deployment went ahead as planned, with some mitigating measures made necessary due to the pandemic. A further USMC rotation will return to the Northern Territory in 2022.
In addition to the regular MRF-D deployments, the US plans to undertake increased air operations and force deployment to Australia. This was confirmed by US Defense Secretary Lloyd J Austin III during a visit by Australian officials to the US State Department on September 16 for the Austraia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) 2021.
In a joint Australian-US press release after the AUSMIN meeting, amongst a series of measures it was announced that there would be enhanced air co-operation through rotational deployment of US aircraft of all types in Australia and appropriate aircraft training and exercises.