Home Asia Pacific Largest bilateral drill between Australia and US kicks off in Queensland

Largest bilateral drill between Australia and US kicks off in Queensland

exercise Talisman Sabre 2021 kicks off
Minister for Defence Peter Dutton officially opens exercise Talisman Sabre 2021, at RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland. Photo: Australian defense ministry

Personnel from Australian and the United States armed forces kicked off exercise Talisman Sabre (TS21), their largest bilateral engagement, with an opening ceremony at RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland, on July 14.

This year’s Talisman Sabre will involve more than 17,000 personnel from Australia and the United States, deploying across central and northeast Queensland and off the east coast of Australia, as well as 40 aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force.

The drill will likely be closely observed by China, whose navy has already deployed Tianwangxing, an intelligence-gathering vessel, to the Australian coast. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Australian defense minister Peter Dutton said the Australian military had been monitoring the Chinese military vessel for “several days”.

“We are aware that the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) general intelligence ship Tianwangxing is approaching Australia’s east coast via the Torres Strait,” he said, adding that the passage was legal, but also closely watched.

Commander of the ADF’s Deployable Joint Force Headquarters, Major General Jake Ellwood, said the high-end warfighting exercise was designed to enhance the interoperability between the ADF and the US armed forces.

“Exercise Talisman Sabre reflects the strength of the Australia-US alliance and the close and enduring nature of our military relationship,” Major General Ellwood said.

In addition to the US, forces from Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom will participate in TS21, and Australian-based personnel from India, Indonesia, France and Germany will observe the exercise.

A majority of these international forces will participate exclusively offshore, including about 5000 who will participate as part of a US Navy Expeditionary Strike Group, in a contactless component to the exercise.

TS21 will also provide an opportunity for the practice of rapid airbase activation and subsequent flying operations from RAAF Base Scherger in Far North Queensland; the Air Force’s northern bare base and strategic outpost.

“Talisman Sabre is a major undertaking for all participants and demonstrates our capacity to achieve large-scale operational outcomes, while also dealing with a global pandemic,” Major General Ellwood said.

“The exercise would not be possible without the generous cooperation of the community, including landowners, local governments and traditional owners. We are grateful for their ongoing support.”

Gavin Sundwall, United States Acting Chargé d’Affaires, spoke at the opening ceremony and said bilateral exercises such as TS21 helped maintain trust and interoperability among key allies through shared experiences and tough, realistic training.

“Although this occasion looks different than it has in the past due to COVID-19, our servicemen and women are still able to execute this crucial, high-level, bilateral exercise in the presence of our many allies and partners invited to observe,” Sundwall said.

TS21 is the ninth iteration of the exercise and incorporates force preparation activities, amphibious landings, ground force maneuver, urban operations, and air combat and maritime operations.