10 Year Mark in Expanded U.S.-Australian Cooperation


According to an Australian Department of Defence article published on November 16, 2021, Australia and and the United States had reach the 10 year mark in their enhanced defense cooperation.

On November 16, we celebrate a decade of expanded cooperation between the Australian Department of Defence and the United States Department of Defense through two Force Posture Initiatives (FPI): Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D) and Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC).

The USFPI are an extension of Australia’s existing Defence relationship with the US and support the common interest of promoting regional security and stability.

The MRF-D has grown in size and complexity since the first rotation of US Marines through Darwin in 2012. In 2019, the goal of 2500 US Marines training with the ADF stationed in Darwin was reached.

The structure of MRF-D continues to evolve in response to the changing environment and advances in technology, with the focus shifting to capability rather than numbers. Highly complex joint training scenarios are now being executed, which continue to challenge our forces and better prepare us to rapidly respond in the region, if and when called upon to do so.

This year, about 2200 US Marines and sailors conducted a comprehensive range of training activities, including humanitarian assistance, security operations and high-end, live-fire exercises – exercises that develop enhanced interoperability between the ADF and US Marines and key partners.

These deployments also offer a valuable opportunity to develop working relationships with other government agencies, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment; and the Australian Border Force.

The EAC has deepened air-to-air integration between the ADF and US air elements, particularly in the areas of maintenance, logistics, refuelling, aeromedical evacuation, and advanced warfighting.

Investments by Australia and the US in a range of infrastructure projects that support USFPI activities in the Northern Territory have benefitted local businesses, with several winning multimillion dollar contracts for the development of key infrastructure, including modular accommodation and aircraft maintenance facilities.

At AUSMIN in September 2021, Australia and the US announced the agreement to enhance US force posture cooperation in Australia in four key areas to:

  • establish an integrated logistics capability
  • expand existing enhanced air cooperation
  • enhance maritime sustainment cooperation
  • evolve bilateral and multilateral operations and exercises.

These new areas of cooperation will increase interoperability and deepen alliance activities in the Indo-Pacific.

And an RAAF article published in the November 25, 2021 Air Force magazine focused on the EAC part of enhanced cooperation:

The United States Force Posture Initiative (USFPI), including the establishment of Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC), are core to the alliance and a tangible demonstration of our shared interests and deep engagement with the Indo-Pacific region.

Since then, EAC and the Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D) – which make up USFPI – have grown in complexity and size.

EAC commenced in February 2017, as a second initiative under the USFPI. The EAC initiative is led by CAF and Commander US Pacific Air Forces.

GPCAPT Paul Nicholas, of AFHQ, said that EAC was designed to significantly enhance and strengthen not only our relationship with the US Air Force, but with all the aviation arms of the US military including the Marines, Navy and Army.

“EAC is more than partnering for combined exercises, it is an opportunity to focus on lines of effort to progress interoperability across areas such as combat support, health, air-to-air refuelling, engineering, and logistics,” GPCAPT Nicholas said.

“Through the EAC, exercises such as Talisman Sabre and Pitch Black have allowed SMEs from both nations to develop the necessary changes to policies, regulations, tactics, techniques and procedures, through hands-on collaborative work.

“EAC has a strong focus on logistics to ensure we are able to operate and sustain air forces across the full operational spectrum and basing locations.”

EAC provides the opportunity to test operating procedures under exercise conditions and being able to rationalise resources on those areas that are most important.

“We don’t need to be able to drive every air movements vehicle, although we may want to cross-qualify on key ones such as tow motors and forklifts,” GPCAPT Nicholas said.

The authorisation for RAAF and USAF maintainers to service each other’s C-17 Globemasters was a high-profile outcome.

“To have another nation service your aircraft is a key milestone that was built on a common understanding and trust in each other’s platform maintenance regulations and standards, common training systems and agreements,” GPCAPT Nicholas said.

The aim is now to progress additional agreements with common USAF and USN aircraft systems, such as C-130J, F-35 and P-8.

“We want the emerging capabilities such as F-35s to do more than just operate together from a shared location; we want them to operate seamlessly together as a truly integrated and coherent force package,” GPCAPT Nicholas said.

Noting the long, shared history of RAAF and USAF working together, GPCAPT Nicholas said the EAC is adding another layer of depth to the partnership.

“We’ve always had a sense of shared experience and great trust between the aviators of both nations, and with EAC we are building on that understanding” he said.

The EAC has deepened air-to-air integration between the ADF and US air elements, particularly in the areas of maintenance, logistics, refuelling, aeromedical evacuation and advanced warfighting.