4 June 2024

Upgraded joint training airstrip opened on vast Northern Territory range

| Andrew McLaughlin
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people at an air force airfield reopening

Defence personnel and traditional owners at the Nakeroo airfield reopening. Photo: ADF.

Defence has officially opened a major upgrade to the Nakeroo Airstrip in the Northern Territory’s vast Bradshaw Field Training Area.

The opening was commemorated with traditional owners conducting a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony to mark the completion of the works, and to recognise the 20th anniversary of the site’s Indigenous Land Use Agreement.

Previously little more than a graded and dressed dirt strip, the airfield has now been upgraded to handle medium and large transport aircraft, as well as helicopters and the US Marine Corps’ MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.

The upgrades include an extended and paved 1700-metre runway, and a large apron capable of parking 12 aircraft up to Boeing C-17A Globemaster in size.

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The airstrip is about 350 km south of Darwin and about 10 km north of Timber Creek in the remote west of the Northern Territory. At 8700 square kilometres, the Bradshaw range is one of the largest live-fire training sites in the world.

The upgrade has been performed as a major element of the $747 million United States Force Posture Initiatives Northern Territory Training Areas and Ranges Project.

The project is designed to deliver essential upgrades to facilities and infrastructure at four Defence training areas in the Northern Territory: Bradshaw, RAAF Base Tindal near Katherine, the army’s Robertson Barracks in Darwin, and the HMAS Coonawarra naval base in Darwin.

The project will also see a new medical facility built, along with a 250-person training camp, an urban operations training facility, an accommodation camp and road upgrades at the Bradshaw Field Training Area.

“The works at Bradshaw Field Training Area will enhance training opportunities between Australia and the United States, with C-17 Globemaster and MV-22 Osprey aircraft now being able to land at the airstrip on a more regular basis and carrying heavier loads,” Defence’s Director General Capital Facilities and Infrastructure Branch Air Commodore Ron Tilley said.

“This handover also builds upon Defence’s relationship with the local traditional owners of Bradshaw with whom Defence has a longstanding and collaborative Indigenous Land Use Agreement.”

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