The US plans to deploy up to six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to northern Australia, national broadcaster ABC reported.
The plan includes a dedicated facility for the giant aircraft — including a maintenance center and a parking lot — at Tindal air base, south of Darwin.
Parking Lot by 2026
The aircraft’s deployment date is unclear. However, the estimated $100-million parking lot is expected to be ready by late 2026, the outlet added.
In addition, the Pentagon has budgeted $14.4 million for a “squadron (of B-52) operations and maintenance facilities” at Tindal in April. Jet fuel storage tanks and an ammunition bunker are also planned at the facility.
“The [squadron operations] facility is required to support strategic operations and to run multiple 15-day training exercises during the Northern Territory dry season for deployed B-52 squadrons,” ABC wrote, citing US documents.
Part of Larger Defense Upgrade
The planned deployment is part of a larger defense upgrade in northern Australia, “including a major expansion of the Pine Gap intelligence base,” keeping a potential conflict with China in mind.
“The ability to deploy the long-range bombers to Australia sends a strong message to adversaries about Washington’s ability to project air power.”
Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder said it is "not uncommon" to send aircrafts including B-52 bombers to Australia to participate in the joint and combined exercises while stressing "it also sends a clear message that we do have the capability to deter and, if necessary, engage." pic.twitter.com/iHydZe9BJU
— Ryo Nakamura (@NikkeiDC_Ryo) November 1, 2022
Aimed at China
Citing Center for a New American Security senior fellow Becca Wasser, the outlet wrote that putting the B-52 — with a range of 14,000 kilometers (8,699 miles) — on Australian soil is a warning to Beijing amid growing concern in Washington that China is accelerating its timeline to invade Taiwan.
US intelligence recently revealed that Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the military to develop the ability to take control of Taiwan by 2027.
“Having bombers that could range and potentially attack mainland China could be very important in sending a signal to China that any of its actions over Taiwan could also expand further,” Wasser was quoted as saying by ABC.
In a related development, the US deployed four B-52s to its Andersen Air Force base on Guam this year.