Defence has outlined how it plans to upgrade RAAF Tindal in the Northern Territory in a $1 billion upgrade to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works (PSCPW).
The upgrade will see the base ready for use by RAAF F-35A fighters and KC-30A tankers, E-7A Wedgetail, forward basing facilities for MQ-4C Triton and MQ-9B unmanned aircraft, as well as increasing numbers of visiting aircraft under the US Force Posture Initiative (USFPI).
This is a very significant enhancement to a facility which dates back to WW2, but which has been operating in its current form from the late 1980s when fast-jet operations were relocated there from Darwin for the F/A-18A Hornet.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison officially launched the upgrade program in February, though major works, including lengthening the runway and improving fuel services, were foreshadowed in the 2016 Defence Integrated Investment Plan (IIP).
The full scope of the works has now been detailed for the PSCPW which reviews major government infrastructure projects to ensure the taxpayer is receiving value for money. In a sitting on April 21, the committee heard the works – which will be managed by Lend lease – will comprise basic works to update and improve three-decade old services including accommodation, power, water, drainage, firefighting, and sewage.
Then there are more ambitious works to increase base capacity, including extending the runway by 2,000 feet to 11,000 feet (3,353 metres), widening runway shoulders from three metres to 10.5 metres, and improving the parallel taxiway for heavy aircraft movements. There will also be a new air movements terminal and parking ramp which will be cover 52,000 square metres and have capacity for heavy aircraft.
Where once base fuel infrastructure had to meet the needs of 75SQN’s F/A-18 aircraft and occasional visiting fighters, an all-new facility will provide vastly greater capacity, with total storage of six megalitres in two tanks of steel and encased in concrete and an earth mound for protection. The US will construct its own separate fuel farm, aircraft parking apron and associated facilities.
Defence started planning for this in early 2018, with construction expected to start in mid-2020 and running through to late-2027. Estimated total cost is $1.174 billion, including Defence contingency.