The United States and Australia are leading a large multinational exercise to demonstrate that, if necessary, forces from widely distant locations can be assembled and deployed rapidly. The combined exercise is an important training and operational event code-named Talisman Sabre 2021 and is an annual international military gathering to ensure different U.S. and Australian allies can operate seamlessly together. There is an added benefit of establishing a presence, albeit short-lived, in China’s backyard. Beijing has recently engaged in threatening activities in proximity to its neighbors, as Liberty Nation has reported consistently.
Conducting combined training with allies keeps regional military forces ready should they be needed. In a Military.com article, Konstantin Toropin provides details about the exercise. The combined participants number 17,000 from the Republic of Korea, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the U.S., Australia, and Canada.
The exercise will run from July 14 to Mid-August. Emphasizing its significance, Toropin quoted Major General Jake Ellwood, commander of Australia’s Deployable Joint Force Headquarters, who explained, “Talisman Sabre is a major undertaking from all participants and demonstrates our capacity to achieve Large-scale operational outcomes, while also dealing with a global pandemic.”
Among the operational training events included in Talisman Sabre 2021 are “amphibious landings, ground force maneuvers, urban operations, and air combat and maritime operations.” These are the essential combat capabilities needed to repel an aggressor attempting to invade islands in the region and defeat them on land.
Stars and Stripes, in a 2019 report, provides a historical dimension to the yearly military maneuvers. The first of the exercises was held in 2005 with 11,000 U.S. and 6,000 Australian troops. The article said:
“Talisman Sabre 2019, the monthlong, multinational military exercise led by the U.S. and Australia, demonstrated that the U.S. has allies ready to help keep order in the Indo-Pacific region. This year’s  version of Talisman Sabre, the eighth, was the biggest yet. While intended as a generic team-building exercise, it also sent a message to China that any attempt to assert dominance in the region will be met by a unified front, outside observers say.”
The Chinese Are Watching
Australian Defense Magazine reported that as happened in previous Talisman Sabre 2017 and 2019, the Peoples Liberation Army Navy took an interest in the exercise. One of Beijing’s spy ships lingered off the coast to monitor the activities. According to Andrew Greene, writing for the ABC Australia News Blog, the high-tech Chinese surveillance ship Tianwangxing is expected to take up a position on July 16 in waters off the coast of Queensland to keep close tabs on the multinational military activities.
New to the scheduled Talisman Sabre operational events was the live firing of a patriot long-range, all-altitude, all-weather air defense system on July 16. This missile capability is effective against tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and modern aircraft.
The U.S. deployed Patriot systems to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. According to Defense Brief, this was the first time the weapon system had been fired from Australian soil. The accompanying photo of the missile launch is courtesy of the U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. It shows the patriot missile leaving the firing tube at the training grounds at Camp Growl, Queensland, Australia. The U.S. Army 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade conducted the missile firing.
To emphasize the U.S. force projection activities in the region and to complement Talisman Sabre 2021 scheduled training events. Toropin discussed the U.S. geopolitical position in the region. According to the Military.com report:
“This year, Talisman Sabre begins just days after Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the U.S. would continue to follow a Trump-era rejection of nearly all of China’s significant maritime claims in the South China Sea and warned its leaders that any attack on the Philippines would provoke a U.S. response under a mutual defense treaty.”
Blinken’s statement is a strong and necessary assertion of America’s position in the region, to counter other less impressive U.S. national security proclamations. To that end, the U.S. Navy destroyer Benford conducted a freedom of navigation transit of the South China Sea near the Paracel Islands; islands that Beijing claims, as do Taiwan and Vietnam. The combination of steadfast Australian and U.S. leadership during Talisman Sabre 2021 and the willingness to continue to exert strong naval presence in freedom of navigation transits helps to reinforce the conviction that China is a major regional threat.
The U.S. has historically made its national security and geopolitical aims clear through its major joint forces exercise program. Large international exercises with U.S. friends and allies have effectively established American capability to deploy long distances and employ troops effectively. Additionally, working with allies and international partners creates the capability to collaborate and coordinate during combat to defeat a common enemy.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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