US spy drones may fly from Australia's Indian Ocean territory of Cocos Islands

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    JAYRAM 2 STRIKE CORPS Senior Member

    Mar 8, 2011
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    North Frontier, The Mighty Himalaya's
    by: Ben Packham
    From: The Australian
    March 27, 2012 5:02PM


    The lagoon off Home Island, one of the Cocos Islands, seen from the air. Picture: Craig Greenhill Source: The Daily Telegraph

    AUSTRALIA'S Cocos Islands territory could be used as a staging point for spy flights by United States military drones over the South China Sea, according to an US newspaper report.

    Citing US and Australian sources, The Washington Post said the Pentagon was eyeing the Indian Ocean territory's coral atolls as an ideal site to launch Global Hawk surveillance drones, as well as manned surveillance flights.

    Defence Minister Stephen Smith has previously revealed Australia's Cocos Islands territory could be used “down the track” for a jointly-operated Australian-US air base.

    But it is the first time the territory has been suggested as a base for unmanned spy flights.

    “Aircraft based in the Cocos would be well-positioned to launch spy flights over the South China Sea,” The Washington Post notes.

    According to the newspaper, US officals are also “intrigued” by the potential offered by Australia's HMAS Stirling naval base, at Perth, and a possible new fleet base at Brisbane.

    It says HMAS Stirling “could service US aircraft carriers, other large surface warships and attack submarines”.

    The US is anxious to expand its reach in the Indian Ocean amid a strategic pivot towards South-East Asia.

    The apparently well-sourced report will further arouse the suspicions of China, where military planners are already concerned about the growing US military presence on Australian soil.

    The report comes as Australia prepares for the arrival of the first of 2500 US Marines for deployment in Darwin.

    Under the plan announced by US President Barack Obama and Julia Gillard, the troops from the Hawaii-based Third Marine Regiment are expected to be based at Darwin's Robertson Barracks.

    They will spend months training at the Australian Defence Force's Bradshaw and Mount Bundy training areas in the Northern Territory.

    A US Marines air-ground taskforce is designed to fight at short notice as a powerful, self-contained force with its own protective air power, able to land on a hostile shore or carry out non-combat operations such as disaster relief.

    It will give Washington the ability to intervene in the region quickly in the event of a crisis.

    The Marines will eventually bring considerable equipment with them, including amphibious assault ships similar to the two giant landing helicopter docks being built for the Royal Australian Navy, along with Harrier Jump Jets and troop-carrying helicopters.

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