Amid tensions with China, the US and Australian militaries collaborate more closely to safeguard their interests in the Indo-Pacific region. The military forces of both countries are currently wrapping up Exercise Koolendong 22 in the Northern Territory and, for the first time, in Western Australia, at Yampi Sound and Curtin Air Base in Kimberley.
Typically, the Northern Territory has been used to host the mock operational drills.
However, the move to conduct a joint exercise in Western Australia occurs when local leaders push to construct more military bases to safeguard the area’s vital infrastructure.
Those demands grew after a Chinese spy ship was spotted and tracked off the state’s coast this year. The federal government has also announced a review of defense assets’ locations.
The local leaders contend that Australia faces an unstable strategic environment and that a more robust military presence is necessary to prevent potential enemies from launching attacks on regional gas and mining assets.
In the latest exercise, Australian soldiers battled a fictional adversary played by the US this year while battling the elements and logistical difficulties.
“I think on day one, our particular mobility vehicles went into Yampi Sound and probably blew a few tires as they were learning how to maneuver,” Australian 13th Brigade Commander Brett Chaloner said.
In the end, the US marines won, and the Australian military commander noted that they likely had a few B-2 bombers supporting them. In any case, Australian soldiers had an exceptional training opportunity.
US bombers have been flying more frequently over Australia in recent months. Images from last week’s exercise showed several nuclear-capable B-2 bombers flying over Curtin Air Base alongside an Australian F-35 contingent.
The use of B-2s in the exercise, according to Curtin University national security expert Alexey Muraviev, sent a message to Australia’s adversaries in the Indian Ocean. The Chinese will undoubtedly be closely monitoring the deployment of B-2s to Australia, he added.
According to experts, Canberra is not preparing for a confrontation with China, but it does try to send Beijing a powerful message that some boundaries must not be crossed.
Dr. Muraviev pointed out that the exercise allows Australian and US forces to collaborate and become familiar with a potential new area from where they might be operating.
The Australian Air Force will gain experience housing and supporting those strategic assets’ aerial operations while having regular training exercises working alongside American forces.
In July, the United States deployed B-2 Spirit stealth bombers to the Australian Air Force’s Amberley Airbase. The move aimed to enhance the interoperability between the US Air Force and the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force).
PLA Preparing For War?
China has also ramped up its military training. It carried out a range of military drills in the region, demonstrating its might in opposition to the US presence in the Indo-Pacific, which Beijing claims would “seriously violate China’s sovereignty.”
The PLA navy recently conducted drills in the nearby Hainan Province. Currently, the PLA Navy performs routine military exercises off its southern coast near Guangdong.
Moreover, the Chinese navy had been keeping an eye on the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier’s operations in the South China Sea as tension builds over Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House, potentially visiting Taiwan in August.
Meanwhile, a PLA post on Chinese social media with the subject line “Preparing for war!” has gained enormous support from Chinese internet users, reported state-run Global Times.
On July 28, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) 80th Group Army posted this brief message to social media that garnered over 300,000 likes in just 12 hours.
This comes as the country prepares for the 95th anniversary of the founding of the PLA. The 80th Group Army commented on the post, saying, “we must bear in mind the fundamental responsibility of preparing for war and charge on the journey of a strong army.”
This post has received over 19,000 comments, with many netizens commenting enthusiastically, “PLA soldiers, fighting! We support you guys!”
This post by the PLA was made a few days after Taiwan began its yearly Han Kuang military exercises, which the local media reported were meant to help the island nation prepare for a potential amphibious landing by the Chinese mainland. The Chinese experts interpreted exercise as merely a show with no real military value.
Meanwhile, Chinese military veterans have also reportedly stated that they are always ready to rejoin the PLA whenever the need arises in their home country. Online users have also voiced their desire for the swift reunification of the two sides of the Taiwan Straits.
Ahead of the PLA’s 95th anniversary on August 1, Chinese President Xi emphasized the importance of continuing to carry out the plan for bolstering the armed forces by hiring competent individuals for the modern era.
Xi called for new developments in creating more vital armed forces during a visit to the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution. He noted that the PLA would celebrate the 100th anniversary of its foundation in five years.