Talisman Sabre war rehearsals focus on interoperability

July 13, 2023
United States Marines at Shoalwater Bay during Talisman Sabre 2007. Photo: Kamran Sadaghiani/Wikimedia Commons

Against the backdrop of AUKUS, this year’s biennial Talisman Sabre war rehearsals in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales will involve the biggest number of countries yet.

The tenth Exercise Talisman Sabre will involve about 30,000 military personnel. The first Talisman Sabre in 2005 involved 11,000 US and 6000 Australian troops. 

Running from July 22 to August 4, the military exercises primarily involve the United States and Australia, but include contingents from Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, France, Britain, Canada and Germany. The Philippines, Singapore and Thailand will attend as observers.

Minister of Defence Richard Males said on April 16 that Talisman Sabre provides an opportunity to “exercise high-end, multi-domain warfare capabilities, build and affirm military-to-military ties and interoperability, and strengthen strategic partnerships across the region”.

Brigadier Damian Hill enthused that Talisman Sabre “will demonstrate our ability to receive large volumes of personnel and equipment into Australia from across the Indo-Pacific and stage, integrate and move them forward into the large exercise area.”

Military interoperability is critical for any war in the region. Talisman Sabre involves the US army delivering a massive amount of defence equipment to the Asia-Pacific region. US commander Brigadier General Jered Helwig said:  “We have to rehearse sustainment at scale and treat logistics as a warfighting function as we rehearse it as part of our campaigning.”.

Despite the bipartisan propaganda offensive against China, including the AUKUS announcement, polling from the conservative Lowy Institute found that fewer people (52%) are convinced that China is a security threat to Australia compared to last year (63%).

Correspondingly, more are convinced that China is an important economic partner (44%), up 11 percentage points from last year. In 2018, 82% viewed China as more of an economic partner than a security threat.

Labor’s assistant defence minister Matt Thistlethwaite said on July 3 that the 3500-bed facility in Howard Springs on the outskirts of Darwin would be converted to accommodate Australian and international defence personnel. The lease will cost the taxpayer $50 million a year.

“It’s not only the US — we’ve also been growing the collaborations that we have with other nations as well … [and] we’re only going to see more and more of that into the future,” Thistlethwaite told the ABC.

“It's also important to point out that we’re going to see more Australian troops working in this area. We've got big plans to grow the Australian Defence Force, and the operations that occur here in the north of Australia, are an important component of that.”

[Sydney Anti-AUKUS Coalition is organising a Cancel Talisman Sabre protest on July 19 at Sydney Town Hall.]

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