WA base set to
keep eye on space
Western Australia is set to host a new multimillion-dollar US defence base to that will help keep watch on dangerous space junk.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates is poised to announce the base when he visits Australia next week with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, The West Australian newspaper reported on Saturday.
It is understood the
base is likely to be built at
the top secret Harold E Holt Naval communications
station at Exmouth, in
a major expansion of the US military footprint
The project was to have been announced by US President Barack Obama during his aborted trip to Australia in June, the newspaper said.
China has been accused of "militarising" space and shocked Western powers in 2007 after using a ballistic missile to shoot down one of its ageing weather satellites - an incident which not only sparked a fierce diplomatic reaction but also added another 5000 pieces of debris to orbit altitudes already crowded with an estimated 500,000 pieces of space junk, the paper said.
Many are the size of a bus, including spent stage-three rockets and broken satellites.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Australia had a long-standing co-operation with the United States on questions of space.
"Next weekend of course Australia will host AusMIN talks, which bring together Secretary of State Clinton, obviously the defense secretary with our foreign minister, with our defence minister," Ms Gillard told reporters in Hanoi on Saturday.
"I'll also be attending sections of that so well have the opportunity to keep talking about these questions with the United States."
Defence Minister Stephen Smith said last year's Defence White Paper stated Australia's "strategic capability advantage" depended on its ability to access space and protect the nation from "foreign exploitation by space-based capabilities".
"The US Space Surveillance Network is the principal system Australia and other nations rely on to detect, track and identify objects in space," Mr Smith told The West Australian.
"While no decisions have yet been made, Australia and the United States are discussing the potential for supporting the US Space Surveillance Network and the development of Australia's space situational awareness."
© 2010 AAP
SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald
US Spy Base to be Built in WA
US Spy Base to
be Built in WA
Australian defence support for United States military operations in the Middle East will be boosted by construction of a new top-secret US military communications base in Western Australia.
Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon revealed yesterday that work would begin in July or August this year on a satellite ground station for the United States Mobile Users Objective System, a new satellite communications system being deployed by the US Navy.
The new US defence facility will be located with the existing Australian satellite signals intelligence facility at Geraldton, Western Australia. The base will be linked to a network of communications satellites that will provide front-line US military units with instant access to high-grade intelligence and tactical information.
Once operational, the new facility will automatically provide communications support for US military operations in Iraq and the Persian Gulf.
Indeed, it will also automatically provide communications support for US military operations in much of the Asia-Pacific region.
The Defence Department announced late last year that it had finalised an agreement with the US Navy for the new satellite communications centre.
Mr Fitzgibbon's confirmation that construction will proceed comes shortly after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's withdrawal of the bulk of Australian combat troops from Iraq.
The new Geraldton facility will be the first major US defence base to be established in Australia since the construction in the 1960s of the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap in the Northern Territory and the now closed early-warning satellite ground station at Nurrungar in South Australia.
In answering a question on notice by Labor backbencher Daryl Melham, Mr Fitzgibbon also revealed the US Navy had contracted Boeing Australia to provide construction services for the new Geraldton base. Boeing Australia already provides operational support for the existing facility at Geraldton, another Australian signals intelligence facility at Shoal Bay near Darwin, the Australian Navy's communication station at North West Cape near Exmouth, and the Defence Communications Network facility at Deakin, ACT.
About 70 Australian contractors are working on the design of the new Geraldton building and up to 20 United States staff and 100 Australian contractors will be involved in the construction phase.
The ground station will comprise three buildings housing sophisticated electronic infrastructure, three 18m satellite dishes and two smaller antennas.
Once complete, the base will be fully automated and will require only call-out maintenance support. All costs will be carried by the US.
Informal discussions on the possible location of the facility in Australia began in 2003.
The Defence Department and the US Navy signed a classified memorandum of understanding setting out the governing arrangements for the station in November last year.
The conclusion of a secret memorandum of understanding rather than a formal treaty means the agreement has not been reviewed by Federal Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. Mr Fitzgibbon has said the ground station will be operational by 2011.
SOURCE: Canberra Times
US Gets Military Base in Western Australia
Military Base in Western
AUSTRALIA'S close defence alliance with the United States is to be further entrenched with the building of a new US military communications base at Geraldton in Western Australia.
The Age has learned that the US is to build the base, which follows three years of secret negotiations with Canberra.
The base will provide a crucial link for a new network of military satellites that will help America's ability to fight wars in the Middle East and Asia.
It is the first big US military installation to be built in Australia since the controversy surrounding the joint spy base at Pine Gap more than two decades ago.
It will provide a key link in the system that will carry orders and intelligence information to US and allied troops on operations in the world's hotspots.
Details of the deal emerged on the same day as the US finally told Australia it would not allow even its key allies, including Australia, to buy its best fighter aircraft, the F-22 Raptor.
The base, about 370 kilometres north of Perth, will control two of five geostationary satellites — those with the highest priority parked over the Indian Ocean to monitor the unstable Middle East. Building may start within months.
Visiting fellow at the Australian Defence Force Academy Philip Dorling said that once the base was operating, it would be almost impossible for Australia to be fully neutral or stand back from any war in which the US was involved.
The network will be the military equivalent of the new generation 3G mobile phone system and will provide front-line military units instantly with high quality intelligence information, graphics and maps.
Defence Minister Brendan Nelson confirmed that talks were continuing with the US Defence Department which wanted to build a ground station for its Mobile User Objective System, an array of satellites being developed to provide new generation communications for US and allied forces.
The network is intended to significantly improve communications for fast moving ground troops.
Dr Nelson said the ground station would be built on defence land. More ground stations might be built at other locations in Australia, he said.
He said the Government would ensure that it had full knowledge of all activities at the ground station.
He said negotiations began in 2003 and were continuing. Details would be made public once the details were finalised.
Dr Nelson provided the information in response to a written question from Labor backbencher Daryl Melham.
Mr Melham said it was remarkable that the negotiations for the base had been going in secret for more than three years without the Government being prepared to make any public announcement.
"This is deplorable," he said.
Dr Dorling said the base would have direct military significance and would be a military target, similar to the submarine communications base at North West Cape and the joint facility at Pine Gap with its missile early warning system.
"You knock out the ground station and you knock out the system," Dr Dorling said.
"Once again the Howard Government is extremely eager to add another strand to Australia's alliance with the US.
"If the Americans are involved in conflict anywhere in the Indian and Pacific oceans, basically our half of the hemisphere, Australia will be directly involved by providing vital intelligence and communications links."
He said the Geraldton base would be the link through which the United States would control the satellites.
"Geraldton is as far west as you can get on the Australian land mass. That means they can put the satellite as far west as possible so that the Middle East, particularly the Persian Gulf, and south Asia will fall within its footprint," Dr Dorling said.
SOURCE: The Age
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