Friday, May 28, 2021

Militarising Space: the strengthening of a regional hub for US-led operations

 Written by: (Contributed) on 28 May 2021

Canberra has begun moves to upgrade existing military communications systems with the JP 9102 Australian Defence Satellite Communications System (ADSCS) in preparation for escalating diplomatic hostilities with China and the future likelihood of real-war scenarios.

While part of larger US-led regional facilities, the planned JP 9102 ADSCS system is primarily Australia-based; revealing the significance of Australia as a strategic hub for 'US interests' and their military and security provision across the wider Indo-Pacific region.

The JP 9102 ADSCS is intended fully operational by 2027-28, at approximately the same time China replaces the US as the largest economy in the world, creating further US-led diplomatic tensions.

In late May the Australian Defence Department officially announced moves to upgrade military communications facilities with the introduction of the JP 9102 ADSCS system. (1)

Tenders for the massive $7 billion electronic system were issued two years ago, with the intention of out-sourcing the program into the Australian military-industrial complex. (2)

The JP 9102 ADSCS system is intended to provide the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) with a secure, sovereign satellite system 'capable of providing command and control communications over a wide area of the earth's surface, stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and encompassing South-east Asia'. (3) It was, furthermore, noted that the system was a 'critical enabler for the future operational capacity of defence', leaving little to ambiguity, with a 'focus on supporting operations within the Indo-Pacific region'. (4)

The announcement was carefully timed to follow what was referred to as a 'bilateral force posture review working group' meeting earlier the same month; agenda items included discussion about 'a wide range of contingencies'. (5) A US official diplomatic statement issued following the meeting revealed the Pentagon were considering 'pre-positioning US weapons in Australia … which … offered strategic advantages'. (6)

The JP 9102 ADSCS would appear part of the same package.

What is particularly significant about the new JP 9102 ADSCS system is that it is intended to initially supplement existing systems and then replace them when fully operational although no specific details of the transition have been made available. (7)
Existing military communications facilities in Australia have tended to reside under larger, more comprehensive US-led facilities such as those at Pine Gap, where the arc has a radius stretching from hubs on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to Guam in Micronesia. Both hubs, in recent years, have also been upgraded for military operations.

There is every reason to conclude the JP 9102 ADSCS, when fully operational, will continue to operate in such a manner, under US-led tutelage and existing military command structures.

Information available about the JP 9102 ADSCS system has revealed proto-type work to support the ADF existing UHF SATCOM ground facilities operating from both Perth and Canberra. (8) References to the ADF's 'nation-wide' satellite facilities are supported by the arc from both cities swinging through most military facilities in the northern part of Australia, already used for US-led military exercises and planned forward actions into the wider Indo-Pacific region. (9)

The JP 9201 ADSCS system would appear to be part of US-led regional foreign policy to strengthen Australia as a strategic regional hub with upgraded defence and security facilities.

A recent diplomatic statement from acting US ambassador Mike Goldman, likewise, would support the view the Pentagon has every intention of developing Australia as a more important hub for 'US interests' as counterparts in Guam were regarded as within range of China's missiles. (10) Military bases in the northern parts of Australia, are clearly being developed for specific use as logistics facilities and operational hubs for US-led military planning.

The planning has already included moves to upgrade existing facilities at RAAF Base Tindal with the creation of underground bunkers for weapons magazines and munitions conveyor systems together with extension of the landing strips to 3.3 kms for potential use with US B-52 bomber planes together with numerous other examples. (11)

References, furthermore, to joint US-Australia-PNG planning for an upgrade to the Lombrum base on Manus Island, reveal even more about the US-led military planning strategy. The arc from Perth and Canberra to military bases in northern Australia also swings from the bases to Lombrum, revealing transmission and reception range, leaving little doubt the proposed upgrade will place PNG in the front-line of military activities by Australia.

With China slowly edging toward becoming the biggest economy in the world and its diplomacy having considerable influence in the Indo-Pacific, Australia is being drawn ever closer to potential real-war scenarios on behalf of the US as diplomatic tensions continue to escalate.

It has already been noted by one former senior ADF figure now based in Canberra, that 'the prospect of a major war in the Indo-Pacific, is a terrifying but realistic possibility'. (12)

These developments place Australian people in a dangerous position:

                                         We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Blacktree's roots are in deep space, WA Defence, The Weekend Australian, 22-23 May 2021.
2.     Australian Tenders,  Australian Federal Government, Department of Defence, 18 April 2019; and, ibid.
3.     Weekend Australian, op.cit., 22-23 May 2021.
4.     Defence starts JP 9102, EX 2., 17 July 2020.
5.     US eyes Top End military build-up to combat China threat,  Australian, 26 May 2021.
6.     Ibid.
7.     Defence starts JP 9102, op.cit., 17 July 2020.
8.     Weekend Australian, op.cit., 22-23 May 2021.
9.     Ibid.
10.   US eyes Top End military build-up to combat China threat, op.cit., 26 May 2021.
11.   Ibid.
12.   National Security at risk without unity on threat preparation, Australian, 22 February 2021.

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