Exercise Talisman Sabre

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A United States Marine (at left) and an Australian soldier working together during Exercise Talisman Saber 2013

Exercise Talisman Sabre (also spelled Talisman Saber, the US English alternative title) is a biennial, multinational military exercise led by Australia and the United States. Talisman Sabre involves joint exercises performed by the Australian Defence Force and the United States Military across six locations in northern and central Australia, the Coral Sea, and in Honolulu, Denver, and Suffolk, Va., though the bulk of the exercises are concentrated at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area and other locations in northern and central Australia and Australia's territorial sea and exclusive economic zone.[1]

To reflect its bilateral nature, the leadership of the exercise switches between Australia and the US every 2 years.[2] The exercise focuses on crisis-action planning and contingency response, enhancing both nations' military capabilities to deal with regional contingencies and the War on Terrorism. The exercise is historically held in odd-numbered years starting from 2005, with the tenth iteration taking place in 2023.

Annual exercises[edit]

An Australian M1 Abrams tank during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015
A US admiral describes participation in Talisman Sabre 2019
Australian MRH-90 Taipan in July 2023 on exercises for Talisman Sabre '23

Talisman Sabre 2005 was the inaugural exercise in this series, conducted 12–27 June 2005, in Shoalwater Bay, Rockhampton, Townsville, and the Coral Sea, with 16,000 US and Australian troops. Planning for the exercises began in early 2003, and the exercise was meant to combine elements from previous exercises Tandem Thrust, Kingfisher, and Crocodile. During the exercise, U.S. Pacific Command and Australian Defence Force Joint Operations Command jointly executed more than 25 landing craft, air cushion (LCAC) trips and more than 1,300 Australian S-70A Blackhawk and MH-60S Knight Hawk landings and takeoffs.[3][4]

Talisman Sabre 2007 involved 26,000 US and Australian troops over 10 June – 25 July. The exercise primarily took place at Shoalwater Bay, the Townsville Field Training Area, and the Bradshaw Field Training Area in central Queensland and in the Northern Territory. The exercise also involved the use of civilian airports including Sydney and Brisbane, and RAAF Base Amberley. A focal point of the exercises was a joint amphibious landing that involved the launch of more than 2,500 personnel from six ships early on 20 June.[5][6][7]

Talisman Sabre 2009 was conducted 6–25 July 2009, with 10,000 Australian land and naval forces and 20,000 U.S. troops. The exercise was led by the United States and was conducted primarily at Shoalwater Bay and the Townsville Field Training Area. It involved various amphibious assault exercises and ship defense exercises.[1][8]

Talisman Sabre 2011 was conducted in July 2011 and was led by Australian forces.[9][10] It incorporated "combined Special Forces operations, parachute drops, amphibious (marine) landings, land force maneuvers, urban and air operations and the coordinated firing of live ammunition."[11]

Talisman Sabre 2013 saw MV-22s deployed to Australia for the first time.[12] Involved approximately 21,000 US and 7,000 AUS personnel with Carrier Strike Group Five, Expeditionary Strike Group Seven, Royal Australian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force, and the Spanish oiler Cantabria.[13][14]

Talisman Sabre 2015 was conducted over 20 days from early to mid-July 2015 and involved up to 30,000 US and Australian troops. It was the largest combined military exercise undertaken by the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Defense forces from New Zealand (500 personnel) and Japan (40 personnel) joined the exercise for the first time this year.[15] The activities took place in the North Australian Range Complex (Bradshaw and Mount Bundy Training Areas and Delamere Air Weapons Range) and the East Australian Range Complex (Shoalwater Bay, Townsville and Cowley Beach Training Areas).[16] A large-scale amphibious landing was also conducted at Fog Bay in the Northern Territory.[17]

Talisman Sabre 2017 began in June 2017 and involved more than 33,000 Australian and US troops. Alongside the USS Bonhomme Richard, 20 other ships and over 200 aircraft took part in what was the countries' largest exercise to date.[18] Personnel from New Zealand, Japan, and Canada were embedded within Australian and United States units.[19] Additionally, the Chinese Navy deployed a Type 815G Dongdiao-class electronic surveillance ship to monitor the exercise.[20]

Talisman Sabre 2019 began in July 2019, with more than 34,000 personnel participating from 18 countries, including Australia, United States, Canada, Japan and New Zealand. The Exercise was officially launched on 8 July 2019 on board USS Ronald Reagan. Once again, the Chinese Navy sent a Type 815G Dongdiao-class ship, the Tianwangxing (Uranus), to monitor the exercise, and there was speculation that China had a "keen interest" in how Japan's vessels interacted with and operated alongside the ADF and the US forces. The F-35B also made its debut in Australia during the exercise aboard USS Wasp. It was also the first time that both Canberra-class LHDs, HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide, had operated together.[21][20][22][23][24]

Talisman Sabre 2021 was conducted in July 2021. The exercise was modified in scope and scale, with added health protection measures due to COVID-19 considerations. More than 17,000 personnel from Australia and the United States and forces from Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom, while the Australia-based personnel from India, Indonesia, France and Germany observed the exercise.[25] Additionally, MIM-104 Patriot Systems were tested in the exercise for the first time. For what was believed to be also the first time, the Chinese Navy deployed two Type 815 spy ships to observe the exercise: the Tianwangxing and her younger sister the Haiwangxing (Neptune).[26][27][28]

Talisman Sabre 2023, the 10th iteration of the exercise, began on 22 July 2023 and ran until 4 August 2023. More than 30,000 personnel from 13 nations took part, including from Fiji, France, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany. The Philippines, Singapore and Thailand also attended as observers.[29][30] Two Chinese Navy spy ships observed the exercise from coastal regions of the Northern Territory and Queensland.[31][32] In the leadup to the exercise a truck carrying an M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank crashed on the Bruce Highway in Queensland. On the night of July 28-29 an ADF MHR-90 helicopter crashed into the ocean of the coast of the Whitsundays, with four ADF personnel onboard.

Opposition and protests[edit]

Protest during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2007

There have been regular protests against the exercises since 2007.

There was opposition to Talisman Sabre 2007 from peace activists and a number of environmental groups, with environmental concerns ranging from general contamination to the purported damaging effects of sonar on local marine life.[33] The Australian and American militaries have previously recognized the environmental concerns of operating in this area, with troops undergoing environmental impact briefings before arriving at the location in 2005, and an environmental training center to be constructed before the 2007 exercise.[34]

United States Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit train at Shoalwater Bay during Talisman Sabre 2007.

In 2013 a number of protesters ventured into the live-fire zone of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area. More protestors pledged to disrupt the exercises in 2015.

Environmental concerns[edit]

There have been concerns that depleted uranium munitions, which have been linked to increased incidence of cancer[citation needed], posing significant health risks, have been used at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area during Exercise Talisman Sabre. Prior to the 2005 exercise, the Australian Department of Defence issued a press release which stated that depleted uranium "will not be used in TS05 by either Australian or US forces" and that this was "unequivocal".[35] This commitment was reiterated prior to Talisman Sabre 2009.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Tech. Sgt. Kerry Jackson. "Exercise Talisman Saber concludes". Af.mil. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
  2. ^ "Exercise Talisman Saber 2009 - Department of Defence". Defence.gov.au. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
  3. ^ Photographer's Mate 2nd Class (AW) D. Arthur Jones and Photographer's Mate 3rd Class James Bartels, USS Boxer Public Affairs (2 June 2005). "Boxer Completes Talisman Saber 2005". Navy.mil. Archived from the original on 15 April 2009. Retrieved 19 February 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "Talisman Sabre". Department of Defence. 2005. Archived from the original on 13 July 2005.
  5. ^ "Exercise Talisman Sabre". Department of Defence. 2007. Archived from the original on 6 June 2007.
  6. ^ John Pike. "Australian-U.S. Expeditionary Forces Complete Talisman Saber 2007". Globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
  7. ^ "U.S. Joint Forces Command supports Exercise Talisman Saber 2007". Aircav.com. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
  8. ^ USS George Washington Public Affairs. "George Washington Carrier Strike Group Begins Talisman Saber". Navy.mil. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
  9. ^ "About the Exercise". Exercise Talisman Sabre 2011. Department of Defence. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011.
  10. ^ "Locations". Exercise Talisman Sabre 2011: Public Environment Report. Department of Defence. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011.
  11. ^ "Factsheet1/5" (PDF). Exercise Talisman Sabre 2011: Public Environment Report. Department of Defence. 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  12. ^ "20,000 US troops descend on Australia for training."
  13. ^ "Talisman Saber 2013". Department of Defence Australia. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  14. ^ "Exercise Talisman Saber fleet prepares for battle". Department of Defence (Australia). 25 July 2013. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  15. ^ "International participation in Exercise TALISMAN SABRE 2015". APDR. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  16. ^ "Talisman Sabre 2015" (PDF). Department of Defence. Retrieved 22 June 2015.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ Doran, Mark (30 July 2015). "Beach Assault". Army: The Soldiers' Newspaper (1356 ed.). Canberra: Department of Defence. ISSN 0729-5685. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
  18. ^ "Australia, United States begin their biggest joint military exercise". Reuters. 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  19. ^ "Talisman Sabre 2017 officially opened in Sydney".
  20. ^ a b Dillon, Louis (8 July 2019). "Spy Games: All eyes on Australia as Exercise Talisman Sabre launches". www.defenceconnect.com.au. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  21. ^ "Exercise Talisman Sabre formally launched on USS Ronald Reagan". Australian Aviation. 7 July 2019. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  22. ^ Greene, Andrew (12 July 2019). "Chinese spy ship staying just outside Australia's territorial waters ahead of Talisman Sabre war games". ABC News. Retrieved 19 July 2021.
  23. ^ Greene, Andrew (14 July 2019). "Chinese spy ship reportedly arrives off Queensland coast to monitor war games with the United States". ABC News. Retrieved 19 July 2021.
  24. ^ "Couriermail.com.au | Subscribe to The Courier Mail for exclusive stories". www.couriermail.com.au. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  25. ^ "Exercise Talisman Sabre 2021 begins - Australian Defence Magazine".
  26. ^ Greene, Andrew (13 July 2021). "Chinese spy ship returns to waters off Queensland ahead of Defence's largest war-fighting exercise". ABC News. Retrieved 19 July 2021.
  27. ^ Greene, Andrew (17 July 2021). "Second Chinese spy ship approaches Australia to monitor military exercises after being 'on our radar for some time'". ABC News. Retrieved 19 July 2021.
  28. ^ Seidel, Jamie (19 July 2021). "Chinese spy ships off Australia is the 'new normal'". news.com.au. Retrieved 19 July 2021.
  29. ^ "Australian Defence Force". Exercise Talisman Sabre. Retrieved 21 July 2023.
  30. ^ "Largest ever Exercise Talisman Sabre to be held in Australia". Australian Defence Force. 16 April 2023. Retrieved 21 July 2023.
  31. ^ "Allies launch military drills in Australia as Chinese spy ship watches". The Economic Times. 21 July 2023. ISSN 0013-0389. Retrieved 21 July 2023.
  32. ^ "Two Chinese 'spy' ships to monitor Australia's Talisman Sabre military exercises". Firstpost. 21 July 2023. Retrieved 21 July 2023.
  33. ^ Friends of the Earth produced a submission to the Maunsell Public Environment Report, which has been published online Archived 20 March 2007 at archive.today by Melbourne Indymedia, 13 November 2006. This submission details the environmental and social impact the war games will have.
  34. ^ Isom Jr., PO2 Charles A. (June 2005). "Environment Gets Kid-Glove Handling During Talisman Saber '05". DefenseLINK News. Retrieved 27 November 2006.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  35. ^ Combined Joint Information Bureau (7 June 2005). "Exercise Talisman Sabre 2005: Depleted Uranium" (Press release). Department of Defence. Archived from the original on 18 May 2006.
  36. ^ "Exercise Talisman Saber 2009". Department of Defence. 2009. Archived from the original on 8 February 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2013.

External links[edit]