Military build up in Northern Territory could provoke China

Published: 14 February 2017

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Twelve of America’s F-22 Raptors arrived in the Northern Territory on Saturday, ahead of the maiden Enhanced Air Cooperation activity in Australia.

Valued at $900 million each, the jets are considered some of the US’ deadliest stealth fighters, and sending them to the southern edge of Asia was seen as “strategically significant”.

According to News Corp the US may have been sending a message to China about its military might.

“(US Pacific Command) Admiral Harris shoots from the hip,” Director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute, Dr Euan Graham said.

“It would be a misunderstanding to say he’s spoiling for a fight with China but there’s quite a strong view in the region, the US wasn’t strong enough in standing up to China (under President Obama).”

It is understood Admiral Harris, during a recent visit Down Under, mentioned that China is becoming more and more assertive.

Previously the F-22’s has been deployed to Japan and Guam.

“They’re very selective of where the (F-22s) are deployed. The previous deployments have been in Japan and before that Guam — now they’ve been sent to Australia,” Dr Graham told News Corp.

“If you connect the dots between those three deployments they send a high-end signal (to China) the allies are prepared to deploy their most capable front end.”

The northern parts of Australia are said to be out of range for China’s ballistic missiles.

According to News Corp the Enhanced Air Coordination is to strengthen Australia’s air-to-air relationship with the US.

Mr Graham said it’s extra significant that a full squadron had been deployed.

“There’s only about 170-odd (F-22s) in existence so to send a full squadron, that’s more than just a token commitment,” he said.

“The F-22s say in a very emphatic way, the US-Australia military alliance is rock solid.”

The F-22s will conduct short training visits to Townsville before being put on public display at the Australian International Air Show at Avalon, near Geelong in Victoria.