The Guardian • Issue #2052

Australia-USA exercise Talisman Sabre: Preparing for war in Taiwan

US soldier in Shoalwater Bay during Talisman Sabre 2011.

US soldier in Shoalwater Bay during Talisman Sabre 2011. Photo: Michele Desrochers – (CC BY 2.0).

According to the Australian Minister for Defence, Richard Marles, Exercise Talisman Sabre is the largest war game ever held between the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the United States military. 30,000 military personnel will take part. The 14-day exercise, from 22nd July until 4th August 2023, will take place in Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and New South Wales. It will include large scale logistics, multi-domain firepower demonstrations, land combat, amphibious landings and air operations. Confirmed participants are Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, France, United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany.

“Talisman Sabre,” said Marles, “is a practical demonstration of our enduring Alliance with the United States, through deepening cooperation in training and innovation” (weirdly, Marles’ press release puts the capital A on “Alliance,” perhaps because respecting the USA is more important than getting the English language right).

The ADF scenario is possible conflict in the Russia-Ukraine War, and with China in Taiwan. The US Army will test its logistics in the Indo-Pacific operational theatre, considered by service officials as the most challenging in the world. Defense News writes that the US Army will deliver massive amounts of equipment across challenging terrain and large distances. Brigadier General Jered Helwig, the Army’s 8th Theater Sustainment Command commander, said at the Association of the US Army’s Global Force Symposium: “The scale is an order of magnitude higher than anything that has ever been done before. It’s been a huge undertaking.”

Logistics and sustainment are central to carving out a military role for the US Army as it seeks to encircle China in the South China Sea, and prepare its bases in the Philippines and Japan. Top military officials have said the deployment of troops and large amounts of equipment is important in the constantly contested environment.

The US Army is building a Theater Distribution Center in the Philippines where it unloaded equipment in last year’s exercise. The Center will serve as a hub for equipment and supplies to be used for future exercises in the region. The Army will also set up another distribution centre in Australia and reconfigure its centre in Japan.

The US and UK have already started training Australian personnel on the maintenance of nuclear-powered submarines, and the UK has said that it is preparing to use Australia as a depot for storing its nuclear submarines.

Helwig said, “We have to rehearse sustainment at scale and treat logistics as a warfighting function as we rehearse it as part of our campaigning.” The I Corps’ Expeditionary Sustainment Command will be set up in Townsville, Queensland and the 25th Division Sustainment Brigade will be in Darwin, Northern Territory, 2600 kilometres away. The logistics of the over-the-shore exercise will have the army take seventeen M1 Abrams tanks off its Army Prepositioned Stock Afloat ship and onto watercraft as well as 400 pieces of rolling stock, which has never been performed in an exercise of this size in the Indo-Pacific military theatre. The watercraft will land on an undeveloped beach and the tanks will roll off “Saving Private Ryan-style,” added Helwig.

In preparation for working with large numbers of US troops Australian troops have been ordered not to speak Aussie slang, as it might confuse the Americans. Such common expressions as “Mate” and “Yeah, Nah” could confuse American soldiers. Obviously they confuse easily! As part of US cultural imperialism, no order was issued to US troops for them to learn and understand Aussie slang while they are here. Perish the thought that the USA has anything to learn from or about its’ subservient “allies.”

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