USAF to expand Australian base for B-52s

The US plans to create facilities to base six Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers  in Australia in a move that experts say is linked to increased tensions with China over Taiwan

The US Department of Defense has given the go-ahead for $14.4m worth of work to be carried out at Royal Australian Air Force Tindal, near Darwin.

It has drawn up detailed plans for a “squadron operations facility” for use during the Northern Territory dry season, an adjoining maintenance centre and a new apron that can hold six B-52s.

A USAF B-52 Bomber leaves the KC-135 Stratotanker after taking fuel onboard
A USAF B-52 Bomber leaves the KC-135 Stratotanker after taking fuel onboard DVIDS

The US also plans to build jet fuel storage tanks and an ammunition bunker, with the new facilities fully operational by 2026.

China has condemned the plans, saying the move undermined regional peace and stability. It also warned of a potential arms race in the region.

Last week Australia sought to play down the deployment, saying it was part of a multibillion-dollar programme of cooperation with the US.

The expansion at Tindal is part of the Enhanced Air Cooperation Program, which has built on a range of exercises and training activities between the two countries since early 2017.

Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles said last week: “What we’re talking about is a US investment in the infrastructure at Tindal, which will help make that infrastructure more capable for Australia as well.

“In terms of U.S. bombers, they’ve been coming to Australia since the 1980s. They’ve been training in Australia since 2005. All of this is part of an initiative which was established in 2017.”