8 August 2023
The largest massing of naval capability in Australian waters in recent years occurred when the Exercise Talisman Sabre 23 fleet assembled for combined training.
More than 17,000 people from eight countries served at sea across the 27 vessel-strong armada of frigates, destroyers, cruisers, amphibious ships, support ships, submarines, aircraft carriers and their embarked fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
The personnel count included ships’ crews and embarked land forces conducting amphibious activities – key events in the exercise program.
Exercise Director Brigadier Damian Hill said the large maritime component was central to the exercise concept.
“As an island nation, Australia operates predominantly in the maritime and littoral environments, so it was fitting that half the Talisman Sabre force was maritime,” Brigadier Hill said.
As Talisman Sabre Maritime Component Lead, Royal Australian Navy Commodore Flotillas Commodore Paul O’Grady, had the responsibility of overseeing the naval force and said the exercise was an important training event.
“Talisman Sabre provided a rare and valuable opportunity to combine diverse capabilities from different countries, and operate them seamlessly at sea. Together with their embarked aircraft and helicopters, they executed war at sea events, sustained the fleet, employed niche capabilities and delivered land forces from the sea,” Commodore O’Grady said.
In addition to planned exercise activities, the close integration and international cooperation among maritime units was evident in their search-and-rescue response to the tragic loss of four Australian Army aircrew in an MRH90 incident during the exercise.
Commodore O’Grady commended all involved for the dedication and determination shown throughout the search operations.
The amphibious task group
The Talisman Sabre amphibious task group carried embarked forces from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea and Germany, and comprised:
- Royal Australian Navy amphibious assault ship HMAS Adelaide
- Landing ship dock HMAS Choules
- United States Navy amphibious assault carrier USS America
- Amphibious transport dock ships USS New Orleans and USS Green Bay
- Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Izumo
- Tank landing ship JS Shimokita and the Republic of Korea ship (ROKS) Marado.
The group was escorted by HMAS Brisbane, USS Rafael Peralta and USS Oakland, His Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Montreal, ROKS Munmu the Great and an Australian Collins-Class submarine.
The fleet and its escorts were sustained at sea by Australian replenishment ship HMAS Stalwart and United States Naval Ships Tippecanoe and Caezar Chavez.
Commodore O’Grady said the exercise strengthened international interactions.
“By practising forming, sustaining and protecting a large multi-national amphibious task group we have enhanced interoperability through increasingly complex maritime scenarios, in challenging and unforgiving environments,” Commodore O’Grady said.
Mine countermeasures and logistics
Closer to shore, the coastal minehunter HMAS Huon practised protecting ports and amphibious landing areas from the threat of sea mines and other harbour security threats in company with USS Miguel Keith.
This was supported by a port security unit and maritime safety and security team from the United States Coast Guard deployable specialised forces and the RAN Maritime Geospatial Warfare Unit operating Remus 100 autonomous underwater vehicles.
In the vicinity of Bowen, Queensland, the United States Navy's Military Sealift Command Ships Bob Hope and Fisher exercised the joint logistics over the sea capability. A pier erected from the shore and projecting over 500m out into deep water, allowed deep draft vessels to unload vehicles and equipment on shore in remote regions without requiring harbour facilities.
The aircraft carrier strike group
To Australia’s north, HMAS Perth operated with USS Ronald Reagan and its escorts USS North Carolina, USS Antietam and USS Robert Smalls and support ships USNS Rappahannock and USNS Carl Brashear.
“These activities, executed over a vast area, strengthened our relationships and interchangeability, enabling our people to deliver vital warfighting effects as a combined force across a wide range of missions,” Commodore O’Grady said.
Exercise Talisman Sabre brought together more than 30,000 people from 13 nations in training activities carried out on land, at sea and in the air across Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and New South Wales, and in the waters off Queensland and the north-west coast of Australia from July 21 until August 4.