US, Australia to hold largest-ever Talisman Sabre military drills this summer
Stars and Stripes April 18, 2023
The biennial military exercise by U.S. and Australian forces returns to pre-pandemic scale this year with more than twice the troops than took part two years ago, the Australian government announced recently.
Talisman Sabre is scheduled to draw approximately 30,000 personnel, close to the usual complement that last participated in 2019. The exercise continued in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, but organizers reduced troop numbers to about 17,000.
This year’s event will run from July 22 to Aug. 4, according to a Sunday statement by Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles’ office.
“Talisman Sabre is the largest bilateral combined training activity between the Australian Defence Force and United States military, reflecting the closeness of our Alliance,” the statement said.
This year’s exercise will be the largest in its geographic span and international involvement, Australian army Brig. Damian Hill, the exercise director, said in the statement.
Training is scheduled across the country in Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and New South Wales.
Perth, Western Australia, is just under 2,700 miles from Brisbane, Queensland, on the country’s east coast, or about the distance from New York to Los Angeles.
“This year’s exercise 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,” Hill said.
Troops from the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea will also participate. Personnel from the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand will attend as observers, the statement said.
The U.S. and Australia have been formal allies, along with New Zealand, since 1951, when the three signed the ANZUS Security Treaty. Australia is also a large purchaser of U.S. arms, more than $27 billion worth — $1.71 billion in fiscal year 2020 alone — according to the State Department website.
In 2021, a U.S. expeditionary strike group led by USS America, the amphibious assault ship based at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, joined Talisman Sabre along with 70 fixed-wing aircraft and 50 helicopters.
Troops from the U.S. Army’s 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade from Sagami General Depot, Japan, fired a Patriot missile at a pair of drone targets from Shoalwater Bay, Queensland, during the exercise.
This year, troops will practice large-scale logistics, multidomain firepower, land combat, amphibious landings and air operations, the statement said.
The number of U.S. troops headed to the exercise isn’t available yet but every service will take part, including the Coast Guard, Maj. Jimmy Sheehan, a U.S. Army Pacific spokesman, said in an email Tuesday to Stars and Stripes.
Talisman Sabre is a critical component for Operation Pathways, a campaign of exercises, experiments and security activities across the Indo-Pacific, he said. Operation Pathways allows the Army to rehearse movement and employment of land forces over extended distances and diverse terrain.
“The sheer magnitude of forces, equipment and vehicles that are required to move vast distances in order to set the theatre, enables training opportunities to build strategic readiness for U.S. forces,” U.S. Army Pacific deputy chief of staff Brig. Gen. James Bartholomees said in comments emailed by Sheehan.