INDIAN OCEAN –
For two years service members from both the U.S. and Australian Navies have prepared for a complex amphibious assault scenario taking place on the shores of the Northern Territory of Australia during Talisman Sabre 2015.
Talisman Sabre is a comprehensive biennial military exercise allowing a U.S. and Australian Combined Task Force to prepare for crisis actions and contingency operations.
Members of the Australian Fleet Battle Staff and Australian Army are embarked onboard the ship’s of Expeditionary Strike Group Seven (ESG 7). They will work be side-by-side with U.S. counterparts throughout the next two weeks.
Fleet Battle Staff members are taking on the roll as Sea Combat Commander based onboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Capt. Nick Woodley of the Royal Australian Navy and his staff will be overall responsible for all surface and sub-surface threats entering the battle space during the scenario.
“What we are looking at doing is fully integrating with the amphib piece,” said Woodley, “Along with the capabilities of USS Preble as the Air Warfare Commander, the aim is to set the pre-conditions which enable the amphibious assault to take place.”
The Australian military bring only to the ship their knowledge and skill. They use all U.S. shipboard equipment, and for the time they are embarked, they are standing combat watches beside the ship’s company.
“Within this context we bring warfare expertise in anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare, but more importantly, command and control capabilities which complement the other parts of the capabilities which already exist within the Expeditionary Strike Group,” said Woodley, “We are trying to build up that ability to handle multiple disciplines of warfare super-imposed on the amphibious mission which is critical for this ship, the task force and the exercise.”
“Large ships such as Bonhomme Richard, Ashland and Green Bay are filled with fighting forces,” which will go in where they are navigationally constrained, to offload their fighting troops.” said Woodley, “We look after those areas that must have threats neutralized.” The goal for the team as Sea Combat Commander is to achieve and maintain sea control in the amphibious area.
Woodley said submarine warfare will be the most challenging warfare element, because it’s the nature of the submarine to use stealth to achieve its mission, and the team will work to counter that.
This year the Australian command team was able to embark early with the strike group conducting port calls in the Australian cities of Fremantle and Bunbury. The advantage allowed them to prepare and acclimate to the crew, overcome technical difficulties, and settle into the routine of the ship.
“It is one thing to have staff talks and meetings, it’s totally a different thing to get together and operate, “said Captain Ed Thompson, commodore of Amphibious Squadron Eleven (CPR 11). CPR 11 is the forward deployed naval force amphibious ready group complementing ESG 7 and is overall responsible for the ships where the Australians will train.
This is the sixth iteration of the exercise which will focus on joint training in a mid-intensity, high-end operation. In addition to the amphibious force, the exercise will feature 21 ships, including the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), more than 200 aircraft, and three submarines.
“When we work with Australia, it requires us to be more agile in our thinking,” said Thompson, “adapting to the size and scope. We sometimes get comfortable operating the same way, and when we work alongside our partners, it challenges us and makes us stronger.”
Talisman Sabre is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Pacific Command and Australian Defence Force Headquarters, Joint Operations Command and will run from July 4-18.