Wednesday, 21 August 2019 06:08

News from the Frontline Featured

Many of you noted that our Program Officer, Barry Laming, was absent for two weeks whilst participating in Exercise Talisman Sabre 2019, with his Melbourne-based Army reserve unit 5/6 RVR.  The following is Barry's recount of what taking part in one of Australia's largest military exercises is like.

Exercise Talisman Sabre (TS) is a bi-annual military exercise held in Shoalwater Bay, North Queensland, consolidating a wide array of capabilities across Land, Aerospace, Maritime and Digital domains.  The aim is to test interoperability between Australian and US forces, and this year's exercise saw participation from our military allies in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and Japan.  The scope of activity is impressive... a major amphibious landing, land force maneuvers, air and airmobile operations, urban operations, maritime operations and special forces activities.

What sets TS apart from other exercises is the highly unpredictable and unchoreographed nature of the operations, particularly in regard to – and as a result of - an independently operating, notional enemy. For this reason, moving around the battlespace requires heavy reliance on all domains to provide situational awareness and logistic support to the combat dedicated units. In practice, and at a ground level, interoperability means exploiting whatever capability makes itself available at the opportune moment to achieve the overall objective. In other words, if the opportunity to get a lift from helicopters presents itself, or you can get some rest next to an artillery battery with a few .50 cals mounted on their Bushmasters, you do it.

My first-hand experience with this level of interoperability came through chance run-ins with soldiers from the UK and the US who possessed a varied nature of capabilities. In the first week, I came across a pair of Electronic Warfare operators, one ADF and the other British, while trying to establish stable communications with our Platoon Headquarters. During the same journey, I met an Australian air radar team with an anti-aircraft team from the US Marines attached to them. In the second week, we were airlifted into an enemy-occupied area with a Company of US Army... the airlift provided by Australian Army Aviation and helicopter pilots from the US Navy. Unfortunately, neither of our Infantry Companies advanced very far due to the prevalence of mechanised enemies, but we scored a few hits and won in the end.

All of these experiences galvanised the fact that the future of warfare is entirely integrated, and not limited to political alliances, but reliant on the integration of equipment and technology. The explanation of Army’s Accelerated Warfare program summarises this integration well by stating, “Accelerated Warfare as a description of ‘how we respond’ means owning the speed of initiative to outpace, out-manoeuvre and out-think conventional and unconventional threats. It requires excellence in the art and science of decision making as well as deep thinking about Army’s role in understanding, shaping and influencing the environment…. (t)his includes aligning shared interests to create access to preferred operating environments, technologies and partners.” Major military exercises shape the way in which we as a Defence Force respond to threats, and that response is shaped by our ability to not only co-operate with allied forces, but to enhance our sovereign capability across all domains. As our requirement for a dynamic and capable Defence force evolves, so too does our need for innovation and capability. Members of both ADA(Vic) and the VDA should take pride in the fact that your efforts play a critical role in creating and maintaining an ever adaptable Defence Industry. Your ongoing commitment to your respective fields of expertise will shape and drive our Defence capability well into the future and your efforts do not go unnoticed.
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