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Defence progresses plans for Cocos Islands Poseidon upgrade

Department of Defence has released a request for tender for runway upgrades and refurbishment for Cocos (Keeling) Islands, a $220 million enhancement for the support of P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft operations.

The move will extend the RAAF's surveillance capability in the northern Indian Ocean significantly, being just 920 nautical miles from Singapore.

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The tender calls for the following works to "meet Defences' operational and support requirements":

  • Strengthening and widening of runways, taxiways and aprons;
  • Relocation and upgrading of airfield stormwater infrastructure; and
  • Refurbishment of airfield ground lighting.

The estimated value for the tender is between $190 and $220 million, with a closing date of 14 August 2019.

Last month, Defence Connect highlighted the enormous strategic potential of the Cocos Islands, describing the islands as Australia's own Guam, Pearl Harbour or Diego Garcia.

Cocos (Keeling) Islands have long been identified as a key strategic force multiplier for both Australian and allied use. As recently as 2017, the joint standing committee on the national capital and external territories sought to identify the strategic opportunities for developing and enhancing the strategic importance and capabilities of the islands to support increased Australian engagement in the Indo-Pacific. 

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The islands have also become increasingly important to Australia's allies, mainly the US as it has sought to 'pivot' towards Asia in response to increasing Chinese assertiveness.

The islands will become increasingly important as part of Australia's strategic calculations, particularly as the balance of power between the US and China continues to narrow and the rising Asian power seeks to increase its influence and coercion beyond the reclamation of islands and development of an anti-access/area-denial system in the South China Sea. 

Defence progresses plans for Cocos Islands Poseidon upgrade
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