Australia and the US will expand military infrastructure in the Commonwealth’s Northern Territory, particularly Nackeroo Airstrip at the Bradshaw Field Training Area (BFTA).

Upgrades to the airstrip include the extension of the runway and adding parking positions for aircraft, including C-17A Globemaster and MV-22 Osprey aircraft. 

This will increase the capacity and capability for Australia and the US, as part of their force posture cooperation, to conduct enhanced land and air operations out of Bradshaw. 

The decision is a major component of the $747m (A$1.1bn) US Force Posture Initiatives Northern Territory Training Areas and Ranges Project. This Project will deliver essential upgrades to facilities and infrastructure at four Defence training areas in the Northern Territory.

A No. 35 Squadron C-27J Spartan delivers those attending the official handover of the Nackeroo Airstrip. Credit: Australian Defence Forces.

The Project will also provide a new medical facility, a 250-person training camp, urban operations training facility, accommodation camp and road upgrades at the (BFTA). 

The works deliver on the priorities of the 2024 National Defence Strategy, including the delivery of a networked and resilient set of bases, predominantly across Northern Australia, strengthening Australia’s national resilience and focusing Defence’s international engagement efforts on enhancing interoperability and collective deterrence.

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Global tensions in the Indo Pacific

The announcement came around the same time that the US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin III endorsed a statement of principles for Indo Pacific defence industrial base collaboration following consultations with partners and allies in the region.

Responding to what the US Department of Defense has on many occasions described as “the pacing threat of China,” Australia and other US allies in the region subscribe to a liberal international order that promotes freedom of navigation and national sovereignty – two democratic tenets Chinese militarisation threatens.

“Together with our friends in the region we’re breaking down national barriers and better integrating our defence industries,” Austin stated at the 2024 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. “We’re also working together to fortify the shared capacity of the defense industrial bases of our allies and partners.”