May 15, 2015
United States to deploy B-1B bombers and Global Hawk UAVs in Australia
The US plan comes as the Obama administration moves to boost US naval forces and air power in the South China Sea to assert the right of free passage and challenge China's efforts to buttress its maritime territorial claims through the construction of airfields and artificial islands.
US B-52 bombers have previously been temporarily deployed to Darwin, to take part in exercises with the Royal Australian Air Force, in 2012 and in late 2014.
About 1150 US Marines began arriving in Darwin this week for six months training during the Top End's dry season. The marines are the fourth rotation of US troops deployed to the Northern Territory since 2011. The plan is to gradually increase the number of US Marines rotating through Darwin to 2500 troops by 2017.
Disclosed ahead of any statement by the Australian government, the US plan to deploy B-1 bombers and high-altitude remotely piloted Global Hawk surveillance aircraft to Australia comes as part of the US military's broader "pivot" to the Asia-Pacific region.
The US intends to challenge China's claims to sovereignty over large parts of the South China Sea.