Amphibious interoperability – Exercise Talisman Saber

ESSENTIAL to Australia’s preparation for the Navy’s two new Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships is participation in maritime exercises such as the recent Talisman Saber, a major international exercise with a strong focus on maritime operations, and in particular amphibious operations. With the LHDs this will be a new role for the RAN, once the ships are delivered and worked up to operational status. So, any close involvement with US naval forces in such exercises is a huge advantage to the RAN.

Held every two years and centred upon the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in central Queensland, the exercise traditionally provides a realistic scenario for certification of the US Marine Corps’ 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

Talisman Saber 2013 was even more significant from an amphibious perspective, as it was an important step in the development of an Australian amphibious capability which is due to achieve Final Operating Capability in 2017.

Although a lot of hard work has already occurred to prepare the Army and Navy, TS13 can arguably be regarded as the ‘discovery’ phase of the amphibious capability, which will be delivered by the two ‘Canberra’-class LHD ships now under construction.

By 2015, Navy will have one LHD in service and planning is underway for the amphibious ‘development’ phase. By Talisman Saber 2017 the Navy will have both ships ready to certify the capability in the ‘verification’ phase.

This year’s exercise is more than just an amphibious exercise, however, with more than 28,000 personnel taking part along with 15 US Navy ships, 11 RAN vessels and ground forces from the Australian Army, US Army and US Marine Corps. In the skies above the SWBTA, RAAF and USN Super Hornet strike jets battled a fictitious enemy while Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters provided close air support for troops.

Towards an amphibious capability

When Talisman Saber is conducted in 2015 it will be a major step in the development of an indigenous amphibious capability and the first LHD, HMAS Canberra, will play a significant role in the exercise as doctrine, processes and procedures are tested on the road to Final Operating Capability two years later.

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