Australian Minister of Defense Richard Marles delivers remarks, during a meeting with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, USA, 13 July 2022. EFE-EPA FILE/SHAWN THEW

Australia to invest $2.5 billion to bolster northern military bases

Sydney, Australia, Apr 27 (EFE).- Australia will allocate AU$3.8 billion ($2.5 billion) over the next four years for the modernization of its northern military bases as part of its strategic defense plan.

A military helicopter lands at the RAAF Base in East Sale, Victoria, Australia, 02 January 2020. EFE-EPA FILE/JAMES ROSS AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT[AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT]

“It is clear that given our strategic circumstances, the Australian Army must be optimized for littoral operations in northern land and maritime spaces, and provide a long-range strike capability,” said a statement from Defense Minister Richard Marles on Thursday.

Crew members from an Australian Collins submarine (front) with the UK nuclear-powered attack submarine, HMS Astute (rear) at HMAS Stirling Royal Australian Navy base in Perth, Western Australia, Australia, 29 October 2021. EFE-EPA FILE/RICHARD WAINWRIGHT AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT[AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT]

“Air Force must also be equipped to support operations in the north through surveillance, air defense, strike and air transport.”

The northern bases “are a huge asset and critical to Australia’s ability to project,” Marles said in the statement, providing further details on projects to increase the country’s deterrence in the strategic Indo-Pacific region.

The funds will be used to improve runway capacity as well as the supply and storage of fuel, accommodation and security, according to the text.

Two billion dollars will go to critical air bases, $1 billion to upgrades to land and joint estate capabilities (major training area upgrades), $600 million to maritime estate investments and $200 million to the “acceleration of additional projects.”

The amount allocated to the northern bases will also provide support to the air force in surveillance, defense, attack and air transport operations.

Thursday’s announcement follows Wednesday’s about a AU$4 billion plan to manufacture and buy long-range missiles, which will see the army’s current artillery range grow from 40 kilometres to more than 500 km.

These measures for the modernization of the armed forces are part of a plan announced Monday to implement major defense reform in the face of the rise of the era of missiles, cyber warfare and dangers beyond the country’s borders.

The plan is the response to a Defence Strategic Review that gave a series of recommendations, including urgently modernizing the network of Australian bases, ports and barracks, such as the one on Cocos Islands, off the northwest of the country, and in Darwin, where the rotation of 2,500 United States marines takes place.

Australia is part of the AUKUS alliance, with the US and the United Kingdom, which last month released details on the purchase and development of nuclear-powered submarines for the Oceanian country.

Canberra estimates that the implementation of the recommendations of the review, which includes cutting other military expenses such as armored vehicles, will amount to about AU$19 billion over the next four years. EFE