Marines have started arriving in Australia for this year’s Marine Rotational Force–Darwin, which will include the most number of Marine aircraft since the rotations began in 2012.
Of the roughly 1,250 Marines taking part in this year’s six-month training deployment, about 900 are expected to arrive between April 18 and 20, said 1st Lt. David Mancilla, a spokesman for the rotation. Most of the Marines will come from the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, out of Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, in California.
A total of 13 aircraft from Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, are taking part in this year’s training deployment, Mancilla said: four MV-22B Ospreys from Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 268; and five AH-1W Super Cobras and four UH-1Y Venom helicopters from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367. They will be based at Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin.
Although Ospreys have flown in past exercises that have taken place in Australia, this year will mark the first time that Ospreys will be part of the rotation’s aviation combat element, Mancilla said.
U.S. and Australian officials are currently reviewing how much infrastructure is needed to accommodate a full Marine Air-Ground Task Force of 2,500 Marines and accompanying aircraft for six-month rotations to Australia.
The initial plan was to begin rotating the MAGTF through Australia by 2016, but negotiations over how much each country should pay for the extra Marines to expand RAAF Darwin and Robertson Army Barracks dragged on much longer than expected, former Australian defense official Andrew Shearer said in February.
“Even close allies have pretty tough negotiations with each other over this sort of burden-sharing,” Shearer told Marine Corps Times. “I think negotiations just got off to a slightly bad start. I think that frankly there wasn’t enough political push from both sides to get their officials to get the thing over the line sooner.”