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The Australian Government has paused the 2020 Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D) deployment due to the ongoing restrictions associated with the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Australia and the US plan to devise options for a possible deployment in the future. This is subject to an improvement in the virus containment situation and the viability of such a deployment proceeding.

The decision to postpone 2020 MRF-D is not expected to affect Australia’s commitment to host MRF-D rotations in the coming years.

Australia Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said in a statement: “I remain fully engaged with Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner on this matter.

“I have also reiterated to Chief Minister Gunner that the government is committed to supporting the Australian defence industry during this difficult time, including businesses in the Northern Territory.

“Our ability to host such deployments, alongside the unmatched degree of interoperability we enjoy, is clear testimony to the enduring strength and sense of purpose of the Australia-US alliance.”

The MRF–D initiative involves the annual rotation of US Marines through Northern Australia for about six months during the dry season.

During the initiative, a range of training activities will be undertaken unilaterally with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and other Indo–Pacific nations.

The first rotation was conducted in 2012 with 200 US Marines. The deployment provides opportunities to deepen interoperability with the ADF.

The MRF–D 2019 rotation, which consists of 2,500 US Marines, includes an enhanced command element headed by a colonel, a ground combat element, and a logistics combat element.