A barrage of shells fired from Australian, US and Japanese warships have kicked off the multi-national exercise.
The Royal Australian Navy’s HMA Ships Ballarat and Parramatta, US Navy destroyer USS Rafael Peralta, and Japanese destroyer Makinami have fired shells into Townshend Island within the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, marking an explosive start to Exercise Talisman Sabre 21 (TS21).
A US Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter, accompanied by a UH-1Y Venom helicopter, also launched 20mm rockets towards Mount Phipps, before moving to Townshend Island where the Venom fired its minigun, fast-firing .50 calibre rounds and rockets.
The Australian Army also deployed two ARH Tigers, which fired 30mm rockets before dropping flares and firing .30 calibre rounds.
Hellfire missiles were also launched over the water at Townshend Island.
Two F/A-18A/B Hornets dropped a 1,000-pound bomb by the base of Mount Phipps before nine US and Australian M777 Howitzers opened fire.
“Not much would survive at the other end,” Commander of an M777, Bombardier Dean Russell, 105th Battery of the 1st Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, said.
“There would be a lot of trees splintering and shrapnel flying around. You’d be wanting to get low if you were there.”
US F-35 Lightning IIs also weighed in, attacking with bombs and multiple 25mm cannon strafing runs at Townshend Island.
Meanwhile, US Army and Marine Corps High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) jointly fired about 20 rockets beyond Mount Phipps.
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Task Force Fires commander US Marine Lieutenant Colonel Roe Lemons, who controls the HIMARS, said the system is capable of hiding for months before emerging to deliver long-range precision fires.
“It’s wheeled, it can go anywhere. It’s very easy to hide. It has the same effects we typically see from aviation, but it can provide that from a ground-based platform,” Lieutenant Colonel Lemons said.
“We can transport it in anything from a C-130 and up. We fly can in, we shoot that mission, then we get out of the area.”
The demonstrations were observed by international representatives, along with Minister for Defence Peter Dutton.
“It sends a clear message to anybody who would want to do harm to Australia,” Minister Dutton said.
“…Our region has changed significantly in recent years and we need to make sure we have the greatest investment in our people and our equipment.
“We maximise our capacity to keep Australia safe through a deepening of our relationship with the United States, our Five Eyes partners and others who are contributing to Talisman Sabre.”
The demonstration follows the detection of a second People’s Liberation Army Navy General Intelligence Ship, Haiwangxing, approaching the Queensland coast via the Solomon Islands.
Haiwangxing’s approach comes just days after sister ship, Tianguanxing, was spotted en route to Queensland via the Torres Strait.
Minister Dutton said this was a reminder of the changing dynamic in the Indo-Pacific, and the ramp up in China’s military presence.
“The Chinese have invested in all of their assets. They have a production line of submarines and frigates that we've not seen since wartime and we need to be very conscious of that,” he added.
“There's been a militarisation of bases across the Pacific and elsewhere around the world, and Australia needs to make sure we do whatever we can to maintain peace in our region.”