- The Washington Times - Friday, November 5, 2004

SYDNEY, Australia — The United States will be allowed to test smart bombs and other cutting-edge military technology in Australia in a further sign of the deepening alliance between the two Iraq war allies.

Under the plan, the U.S. military will experiment with self-guided smart bombs and conduct live bombing raids in three huge training areas in Australia’s sparsely populated tropical north.

Prime Minister John Howard is one of the staunchest allies of President Bush, having committed Australian troops to U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan and last year’s invasion of Iraq, despite domestic opposition.

Details of the plan were disclosed by Ross Babbage, an Australian former defense official who has just returned from briefings in Washington.

Although the Australian government played down the reports, they are in keeping with an agreement signed in July to allow the American military access to training facilities in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

The base at Shoalwater Bay, Queensland, will be upgraded to hold a big exercise in 2007, with more than 20,000 U.S. troops engaged in live bombing raids, amphibious landings and war games, Mr. Babbage said.

“The Americans and our government are putting more meat on the bones of the alliance,” he said. “In Washington, what they were saying was that when it comes to the cutting edge, you guys and the Brits are who we can work with.”

Australia, which has a modest military capability, sees the United States as a guarantor of its security in the event of conflict in Southeast Asia.

There is already opposition to the plan. The prime minister of Queensland, Peter Beattie, gave warning that the exercises could make Australia more of a terrorist target.

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