Work begins on $1.1bn upgrade of RAAF Base Tindal

written by Adam Thorn | September 7, 2020
Passing the locals at RAAF Base Tindal. (Mark Westcott)

Construction has finally begun on the $1.1 billion upgrade of RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory.

The majority of the money, $737 million, will be spent extending the runway and creating a new fuel storage facility to allow for larger aircraft to call it home.

Once complete in 2027, it is expected to house some of the RAAF’s 72 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, as well as US long-range bombers.

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Turning the sod at the site in Katherine, Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said RAAF Base Tindal is vital to northern Australia’s air combat capability and support to our allies.

“Over the next decade, the planned works will further enhance Defence air combat capability and our engagement with allies and other nations through the conduct of joint exercises, including our Enhanced Air Cooperation with the United States Air Force,” Minister Reynolds said.

The move is thought to be part of both the US and Australia’s strategic push into the Indo-Pacific region.

An additional $437 million will provide critical base infrastructure upgrades, such as engineering services on the base including power, water and sewage, as well as 108 new live-in units for Australian Defence Force personnel.

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Speaking at the announcement of the investment in February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the upgrade would be “integral to our alliance with the United States”.

“As part of these upgrades, RAAF Base Tindal will be able to deliver enhanced air-to-air refuelling and air support capabilities, ensuring we can support critical ADF operations — everything from air combat missions through to responding to natural disasters both at home and throughout our region,” said PM Morrison.

The $1.1 billion is part of a more substantial $1.6 billion investment in the Australian Defence Force that will create 300 jobs alone in the construction phase.

RAAF Base Tindal, originally called Carson’s Airfield, is located 15 kilometres outside Katherine and 320 kilometres south-east of Darwin, and was first constructed in 1942 during World War II.

It is considered one of the Air Force’s key sites, and its staff make up almost 25 per cent of Katherine’s population of 10,000 people.

It received its first significant upgrade in 1984 when it was declared an operational Air Force Base, and had its official opening in October 1988.

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