Asia

US and Australia agree on space surveillance radar

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (R) and Australian Minister of Defense Stephen Smith in Perth, 14 November 2012
Image caption Mr Panetta (R) hailed the agreement as a "major leap forward"

The US has reached an agreement with Australia to deploy a space radar system and telescope there as part of closer military ties, officials say.

The radar system - which will be used to "track space assets and debris", according to a statement - will be deployed in Western Australia by 2014.

Officials from both countries unveiled the plan in the Australian city of Perth as part of annual security talks.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived on Tuesday for the talks.

The US C-band space surveillance radar, which reports say is currently at a US Air Force facility in Antigua, will be moved to a naval facility in Exmouth, Western Australia.

It will be used to "track space assets and debris" and "contribute to the safety and security of space-based systems on which we rely and increase coverage of space objects in the southern hemisphere", says an Australia-United States Ministerial Consultation (Ausmin) statement.

The powerful space surveillance telescope will be used to track small objects in deep space.

"The relocation and joint operation of these assets is a demonstration of our commitment to closer space cooperation, and builds upon the Space Situational Awareness Partnership established between Australia and the United States at Ausmin in 2010," Ausmin added.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta hailed the agreement as "a major leap forward in bilateral space co-operation and an important new frontier in the United States' rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region".

Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith said that the two countries have talked about space co-operation for several years.

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