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Spy Games: All eyes on Australia as Exercise Talisman Sabre launches

With Exercise Talisman Sabre formally opened in Brisbane, regional rivals will be keeping a keen eye on the biennial exercise that will feature Japanese warships for the first time.

With Exercise Talisman Sabre formally opened in Brisbane, regional rivals will be keeping a keen eye on the biennial exercise that will feature Japanese warships for the first time.

The exercise was opened by the ADF’s Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, and the US Army Pacific’s Commanding General 25th Infantry Division, Major General Ron Clark. However, attention has been somewhat turned to the presence of a Chinese Type 815G Dongdiao-class electronic surveillance ship that’s making its way towards Australia.


“There is Auxiliary General Intelligence (AGI) north of Australia at the moment,” LTGEN Bilton said at the exercise’s launch.

“It is international waters; they have the right to sail there.”

It’s believed that China has a “keen interest” in how Japan’s vessels interact and operate alongside the ADF and the US, as Japan’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade will heavily feature in the exercise, a unit that was established to respond to situations in the contested waters in the East and South China Seas.

The presence of a Chinese surveillance ship is something that’s not new to Talisman Sabre, however, with the same class of vessel detected monitoring the 2017 iteration.

LTGEN Bilton kept his cards close to his chest when asked about how the ADF will respond to the ship.


I’m not going to go into operational details, but well just take appropriate actions in regard to that vessel, the Chief of Joint Operations said.

Its a vessel that collects information, so its not a great threat, but well take appropriate action.”

With over 30,000 military personnel to participate in the exercise, as well as a multitude of high-end warfighting capabilities, its no surprise to see Beijing taking steps to monitor Talisman Sabre.

One of these capabilities that will be on show is the US high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS), with rapid infiltration (HIRAIN) training set to take place in Queensland during the exercise.

The HIRAIN training features HIMARS flown in to an area by C-130 Hercules aircraft, rapidly unloaded to conduct fire missions, then reloaded in and redirected to the next objectives.

This tactic minimises the window of detection and counter fire missions conducted by hostile forces against the system.

The capability that the artillery and the Marine Corps gains through HIRAIN is invaluable,” said US Marine Corps Master Sergeant David R. Morgan, Field Artillery Chief, Q Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division.

“It allows all areas of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force to assist in timely and accurate fires that will help defeat all future enemies. It is a chance for us to actively get involved with them, to learn from them, and a chance for us to grow as a unified force ready to respond to any crisis.”

“What we are demonstrating is the capability of the US Marine Corps, US Air Force and US Army to come together with different aircrews and different HIMARS units, quickly build a plan, deploy on C-130s, travel great distances by air, land, rapidly deliver long-range precision fires against enemy targets, and depart their firing location prior to detection,” added US Army Major Daniel Graw, Division Assistant Fire Support Coordinator, 3d Marine Division.

Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said the exercise was designed to enhance combat readiness and interoperability between the Australian and United States Armed Forces.

“This premier military engagement reflects the strength of the Australia-US alliance and the closeness of our military to military relationship,” Minister Reynolds said.

“Exercise Talisman Sabre will involve more than 34,000 personnel from Australia and the United States.

“Forces from Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom will be embedded alongside Australian Defence Force personnel, and delegations from India and the Republic of Korea will observe the exercise. Eighteen nations from across the Indo-Pacific region have also been invited to an international visitors program.”

The bilateral exercise is the culmination of extensive and ongoing local community engagement throughout the exercise area.

“Talisman Sabre would not be possible without the generous cooperation of the local community including landowners, governments and traditional owners.”

The majority of Talisman Sabre 2019 activities will take place in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area and surrounding State Forests, near Rockhampton.


Spy Games: All eyes on Australia as Exercise Talisman Sabre launches
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