Source: The Australian
The new strategy would assign specific US-based army brigades and marine expeditionary units to different regions of the world, where they would travel regularly for joint exercises and other missions, using permanent facilities and the forward-staging bases that some advisers call “lily pads”.
Marines, for example, would use a new forward-staging base in Darwin as a launch pad for Southeast Asia, while Washington is in talks to expand its military presence in The Philippines – both of which are signals to China that the US has quick-response capability in Beijing’s backyard.
Many of the proposed bases will be secret and could temporarily house small commando teams, the Defence officials said.
“There are going to be times when action is called upon, like Tuesday night, when it will be clearly advantageous to be forward deployed. On the other hand, most of the time it will help you to be there to develop host nation or regional security,” a military official said.
The US Air Force now operates 61 drone combat air patrols around the clock, with up to four drones in each patrol. Mr Panetta’s plan calls for the military to have enough drones to comfortably operate 65 combat air patrols constantly with the ability to temporarily surge to 85 combat air patrols, officials said.
The US is also considering new bases in Turkey and Jordan, near the border with Iraq. These would supplement a network of airstrips and other facilities in the region that house drones and operatives used for missions in Yemen, Somalia and beyond.