Combatting the Tyranny of Distance in Talisman Sabre 23.
U.S. Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force working together in bridging the distance.
Article: Jaryd Stock
The U.S. Air Force (USAF) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in the Northern Territory and Western Australia kicked off Talisman Sabre 2023 (TS23) with the first integrated flying missions on July 23, 2023 supporting elements of the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin Air Combat Element.
Talisman Sabre is a biennial large-scale military exercise between Australia and the United States that started in 2005. This is the 10th and largest iteration of the exercise, with more than 30,000 personnel from 13 countries participating.
“This iteration of Talisman Sabre is not only the largest, but the most complex, high-end, multi-domain air component training we have undertaken thus far in a Talisman Sabre,” said Col Brian Baldwin, commander, 13th Air Expeditionary Wing.
“We have a long history of mateship with our Australian allies, and opportunities such as Talisman Sabre allow us to further strengthen our collective interoperability across not only the operations aspect of our mission, but in our logistics, maintenance, and support functions as well.”
For the air component of Talisman Sabre, around 3,000 servicemen and women have deployed to RAAF Bases from Richmond on the outskirts of Sydney to Darwin, Tindal, Scherger and Curtin all in the Top End of Australia, with approximately 100 RAAF and USAF aircraft.
Enabling agile air operations across thousands of miles requires extensive logistics and support function preparation as the recent U.S. led exercise Mobility Guardian which finished prior to the commencement of Talisman Sabre highlighted.
The two exercises combined together as this massive exercise and undertaking was executed in the weeks prior to the start of Talisman Sabre by members of the Royal Australian Air Force Air Mobility Group and U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command, working side by side, and continued on through the executing and completing the objectives.
The two exercises were supported for the first time a four ship deployment of the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus which deployed to RAAF Base Darwin, this would mark the first time the KC-46 the USAF’s brand new aerial tanker based platform has participated in Talisman Sabre.
The logistics efforts were not only the physical air movement of people and equipment across the country from one point to another, but also the planning for fuel, cargo inspections, lodging, meals, and other support functions for all those participating in the exercise, a detailed look at these operations can be seen in the video below:
“Logistics are absolutely critical in large scale exercises such as Talisman Sabre, ” said U.S. Air Force Maj. James Tringas, Director of Logistics, 13th Air Expeditionary Wing, assigned to 759th Logistics Readiness Flight, 459th Air Reserve Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
“Through preparation and now execution of TS23, we continue to validate our agile combined logistics capabilities, leaning heavily on the RAAF logistics infrastructure and support, to enable the projections of airpower across Australia.”
Projecting a large number of air assets across the north and west of Australia is no easy task. That task is well worth the undertaking as the airspace available in the region enables aerial training like nowhere else in the country. The bilateral missions are taking full advantage of the airspace, utilising it for large force employment within the exercise.
For context the area on the ground in size alone for the Bradshaw Field Training Area which is located to the South of the City of Darwin is the size of State of Connecticut in the United States. The airspace over the Top End of Australia over the Australian Outback and out towards the Timor Sea is unparalleled in size anywhere in the world.
This gives forces on the ground and in the air the space to move and it allows in this case airforces from anywhere in the world to come to Australia to conduct large force employment tactics working along with their Australian and coalition counterparts, and that experience of working together gaining interoperability over large distances cannot be matched anywhere else in the world, even not in the United States.
“One of the things the Top End provides is an amazing amount of airspace for these types of high-end war fighting exercises,” said Air Commodore Pete Robinson, Commander, Air Task Group. “What you can do in the Top End is what you can’t do anywhere else in the world.”
Bilateral exercises such as Talisman Sabre are designed to build trust, and strengthen interoperability among key allies through shared experiences, side by side execution of all aspects of the mission and realistic training. These exercises build upon each other, with each iteration growing in scale and cope, further integrating our forces to ensure readiness for any challenge the allies face.
“The alliance with the United States is critical for the security of our country. And we can’t be more pleased to continue that relationship now, and in the future through exercises and training,” said Air Commodore Pete Robinson, Commander, Air Task Group.
TS23 has seen a real focus not so much on the high end war fighting assets such as the F-22 Raptors from the PACAF 154th and 15 Air Wings that deployed from Hawaii to RAAF Base Tindal, or the F-35A Lightning that are based there or the Red Air vs Blue Air Offensive Counter Air/ Defensive Counter Air- although that is indeed apart of the exercise.
The focus is on the logistical approach of how by working together coalition partners can come together by deploying a task force anywhere in the Pacific at short notice to austere airfields.
This is highlighted by the fact that RAAF Bases Scherger and Curtin are being utilised in this iteration of the exercise.
Elements of the Marine Rotational Force Darwin led by the Air Combat Element from U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey equiped VMM-363 Squadron and India Co., 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment (Reinforced) onboard the Ospreys conducting a six ship formation flight departing RAAF Base Darwin for Scherger to conduct an aerial assault securing the airfield for logistical operations to be carried out by KC-130J aircraft from the USMC’s VMGR-352 squadron.
All the while the air war above the USMC task force was being contested between Red Air and Blue Air assets from RAAF Base Tindal and the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Air Wing 5 operating from Nimitz Class Carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76)
Talisman Sabre has highlighted the importance of the logistical challenges that are presented when operating in the Indo-Pacific region, working in remote locations, working over large distances over vast oceans.
Although there are challenges Air Commodore Pete Robinson concluded the interview by saying “Talisman Sabre has brought together a potent force, that does some fairly amazing things.”