The ninth iteration of the biennial Talisman Sabre military exercise conducted by the U.S. and Australia got underway last month and will continue to August.
Talisman Sabre 21 consists of 17,000 troops from the U.S., its NATO allies Britain and Canada, host nation Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. The last four were formerly NATO Contact Countries and since 2012 have been members of the military bloc’s Partners Across the Globe. All but New Zealand recently participated for the first time in the U.S.-led Sea Breeze NATO exercise in the Black Sea. This year NATO members France and Germany and India and Indonesia have sent military observers for the extensive war games.
The U.S. has provided forward-deployed ships from the Expeditionary Strike Group 7, along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, which recently participated in an exercise to “evacuate casualties from a ground conflict” in Okinawa, Japan where it is based.
The commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 7 said, in what could only be an allusion to China: “Emerging events in the Indo-Pacific region underscore the importance of presence to ensure a rules-based international maritime order. Talisman Sabre 21 allows the U.S., alongside partners and allies, to further enhance our ability to respond to any contingency as part of a joint or combined effort in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
U.S., Canadian and British military personnel are in the South Pacific to guarantee “a free and open Indo-Pacific region.” Someone may want to remind U.S. Navy, which provided the quote, of Britain’s historic role in the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaya/Malaysia, Hong Kong and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region and that of the U.S. in the Philippines before casually employing terms like free and open in relation to their designs on the area.
Talisman Sabre exercises, led by the Australian Defence Force, have been held since 2005 and have included over 30,000 troops at times. They are the largest joint Australian-American military maneuvers.
A U.S. Navy report on the exercise addeds this to confirm its purpose: “Partner nations will train together to operate and sustain each other in a contested maritime environment, conducting integrated amphibious and air defense operations….”
The commodore of U.S. Amphibious Squadron 11 said the war games are designed to conduct “effective and intense training to ensure our forces are capable, interoperable, and deployable on short notice.” And as the navies of the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan and South Korea “integrate throughout this exercise” they will “develop more innovative ways to fight…”
The U.S. Army website details that, in what it described as a historic first, U.S. troops based in Guam and Japan from the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command successfully shot down drone targets with Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles. The joint U.S.-Australian engagement was the “first ever Patriot surface-to-air missile firing on Australian soil.“
Australia, Japan and South Korea represent (to date) the Asia-Pacific, or as the Pentagon now prefers it, the Indo-Pacific wing of the international interceptor missile system that is also based in the Middle East and, in the most advanced degree, in Europe.
Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles are stationed in South Korea and Japan has sea-based (and was slated to have land-based) Standard Missile-3 IIAs.
In April Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that his government will spend $747 million ($580 million American) to upgrade four military bases in the north of the country and to increase and expand war games with the U.S. of the sort currently underway. The funds used for the above purpose are part of military plans that envision the expenditure of $270 billion in the next ten years to improve what are described as long-range strike capabilities.
Australia is the southern tip of an arc of U.S. military alliances and bases that extends north to Guam and then to South Korea and Japan. One that is pitted against China.