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China says B-52s in NT could ‘trigger arms race in region’

written by Adam Thorn | November 1, 2022

A B-52H Stratofortress is parked on the flightline at Barksdale Air Force Base in May 2020 (US Air Force)

China has warned the US’s plans to regularly base six of its nuclear-capable B-52 bombers at RAAF Base Tindal may “trigger an arms race in the region”.

The country’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, urged the US and Australia to abandon what it branded an “outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality” and “narrow geopolitical mindset”.

“Such a move by the US and Australia escalates regional tensions, gravely undermines regional peace and stability, and may trigger an arms race in the region,” Lijian said.

He added the countries should “do more things that are good for regional peace and stability and mutual trust among all parties.”

It follows a report by Four Corners on Monday that revealed Washington will build dedicated facilities in the NT, including a ‘squadron operations facility’ and parking areas for the aircraft. While the aircraft is a regular visitor to Australia, the development means B-52s will effectively be regularly based here.


It comes amid growing tensions with China and after the US sent six of its B-2 Spirit bombers to train at RAAF Base Amberley this year.

The upgrades to Tindal that will allow it to house B-52 are expected to cost $22.5 million and be financed by the US government.

The US Air Force appeared to confirm the plans telling the ABC, “The RAAF’s ability to host USAF bombers, as well as train alongside them, demonstrates how integrated our two air forces are.”

However, both the federal government and territory governments have played down any concerns the new facility at Tindal could escalate relations in the region.

Minister for Northern Australia, Madeleine King, called the base upgrade a “welcome investment” that would be good for the community and jobs.

Meanwhile, the Northern Territory’s Deputy Chief Minister, Nicole Manison, added the move wouldn’t be a cause for concern.

“I think everybody acknowledges that the Northern Territory has always been … a defence place,” Manison said.

“I think Territorians are very comfortable with that, they understand our strategic location, and generally are very supportive of that defence investment.”

The B-52H Stratofortress is a long-range, heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions, including nuclear and conventional bombing alongside maritime surveillance.

The US currently has a fleet of 76, and the aircraft type has been in operation for more than 60 years. During the first Gulf War, it dropped 40 per cent of the coalition force’s weapons.

It has an unrefuelled combat range in excess of 14,000km.

“The B-52 is capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the U.S. inventory,” states the US Air Force’s website.

“This includes gravity bombs, cluster bombs, precision-guided missiles and joint direct attack munitions.

“Updated with modern technology, the B-52 is capable of delivering the full complement of joint-developed weapons and will continue into the 21st century as an important element of our nation’s defences.

“The Air Force currently expects to operate B-52s through 2050.”

It comes after the US sent six of its batwing B-2 Spirit stealth bombers to Amberley this year to train with RAAF F-35s.

The UFO-like Spirit can also carry nuclear weapons and is thought to be the most expensive aircraft ever made, valued at around $2 billion each.

Their visit amounted to the biggest-ever deployment of the US’s most important military jet to Australia, with the country’s active fleet only numbering 20.

It came as the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. China retaliated by testing ballistic missiles over Taipei for the first time.

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Comments (11)

  • John


    What? In the way the militarisation and fortification of the South China Sea did not? These goons are beyond belief.

  • Grant Spork


    China is already well advanced with an “Arms Race!” building modern Aircraft and Aircraft carriers, a huge navy and militarising islands in the South China Sea. If Taiwan falls the position of South Korea and Japan, the trade over sea lanes to Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia will be compromised. Xi now has an economy which is tanking and needs a distraction from internal politics, this makes a conflict more probable. The US has a strong collaboration with Australia and B52 bombers can launch long range strikes and fuel up in locations around the Pacific, Coral Sea and Indian Ocean. Like Putin, Xi seems to overestimate his own military power and that is a danger to regional peace.

    • Adrian P


      Sounds like a rerun of the Domino theory to justify the Vietnam war.
      B52s carpet bombed Vietnam and we still lost that war.
      Other countries in Asia did not fall after Vietnam, so much for the Domino theory.
      Would Indonesia give permission for B52s to overfly their territory bearing in mind, that in April 1986 France and Spain refused the right of F111s based in the UK to over fly their territory to attack Libya.

  • Peter


    Gotta love the mentality of China! They build islands in South China Sea which is apparently ok. Reinforces the times I had dealing with Chinese businesses – two faced, untrustworthy and myopically selfish

  • Mark


    Think China is missing the point , it is Australia’s aim to provoke China .

  • GeorgeB


    China is already racing ahead with its massive military buildup. We’re only playing a minor catchup. Such hypocrits. We shouldn’t even be acknowledging their statements.

  • chris


    This criticism coming from the CCP!.. following their filling in of shoals in international waters in the South China Sea to create military grade airfields. Of course, during the early Obama years, they claimed this was to enhance regional SAR capabilities! Now that it is a fait accompli, the wretched Communist Party no longer even bothers with this pathetic pretext for illegal activity, as determined by the judgement in the Hague.

  • Dave Guru


    Talking about talking with forked tongue. China has caused the issues they are blaming the USA & Australia of doing. The Chinese has caused the escalation by desecrating reefs / Atolls to make artificial islands and claim there purpose was for commercial requirements Only to turn them into full on fortified military bases in international waters. Has he looked at China’s escalation in naval ship building where they will have a larger Navy than the USA within ten years.
    How dare he criticise the USA & Australia for reacting to China’s offensive behaviour and attitude.
    China & Russia have showed their aggression and bullying tactics. Look at what china has done to Hong Kong. If they want countries to trust china, set up a genuine democracy similar to Taiwan and interact with democracies of the world in a one on one footing.

  • Adam


    “trigger an arms race in the region” by comedian, Zhao Lijian. ?
    But what are some 50-year-old bombers going to do against a Taiwan invasion?
    Precision-guided missiles against ships that are making a 9-hour journey across the Taiwan Strait I guess.
    I wonder if those missiles would be able to hit a large steel ship moving at 20 knots?

  • Bruce . Fraser


    Amazing that China would comment that our allies aircraft being in Australia may start a Arms Race, especially since they , the PLA and PLAN had commenced some 18 years ago in a obvious arms race with USA , which has accelerated producing such powerful ships and missiles , Aircraft that are not defensive, raising potential Forts and airstrips on built up reefs , then claiming ownership in the international waters , and a modern navy capable of total offensive challenge for domination. We in Australia would have preferrd a stable trading position with all of our neighbours , and not hear the rattling swords , rumors of wars and aggression that is now part of our circumstance . Australian society has to realise we are slow off the mark , too trusting and we face real powers that require increased countermeasures , and develop Home Defence , CMF capabilities , and store huge reserves of basic Fuel , Missiles , Airframes and naval capacity, at whatever cost . Id go further and state we should train minimum 10,000 reserves in each state , and Northern Territory , a reserve force of near extra 80,000 who can handle modern arms, drones and all type military vehicles , especially the lightweight anti tank weapons so successfuly used in Ukraine . If you want PEACE , PREPARE FOR WAR ! is so true .

    • Adrian P


      During January and February 1942, the 6th and 7th Divisions of the Second Australian Imperial Force were sailing from the Middle East to protect British interests in the Dutch East Indies. After the fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942, Curtin asked Churchill to send the troops home to defend Australia from the steadily advancing Japanese. Instead, Churchill diverted the 7th Division towards Burma without first seeking Australian approval.
      It is essential not to be coerced by more powerful allies to misappropriate Australian assets leading to a loss of security for Australia and its people.

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