Canberra is preparing to shell out $715 million to upgrade naval facilities in Australia’s Northern Territory to accommodate more US warships, according to a report by the US military-linked publication Stars and Stripes.
Stars and Stripes reported Thursday, citing comments made to them by Australian defense officials, that the Australian Department of Defense intended to spend $715 million to upgrade the naval base HMAS Coonawarra and the surrounding Larrakeyah Defense Precinct in the northwestern city of Darwin.
Also included in the bill are associated refueling and other facilities as well as base infrastructure expansion. All the upgrades are expected to be complete by 2023, according to the Australian Department of Defense web page on the project.
Another $223 million is also set aside for maintenance and to support further growth over the next 25 years, according to the DoD. Stars and Stripes also noted that $88.65 million will go toward upgrading maintenance facilities at Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin.
Sputnik reported earlier on the Pentagon’s plans to spend $8 billion over the next decade upgrading its own facilities in Northern Territory, which is the closest part of Australia to China, the South China Sea and the vulnerable sea lanes connecting the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
The US Marine Corps presence in the Northern Territory has steadily increased in recent years, reaching its peak planned strength of 2,500 this past summer. US troops use the dry and sparsely populated territory to test out maneuvers, including live firing of weaponry like HIMARS rockets.