The opening ceremony for Exercise Talisman Sabre 2019 has been held in the Port of Brisbane on the USS Ronald Reagan to formally launch Australia’s largest bilateral exercise with the US.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the exercise was designed to enhance combat readiness and interoperability between Australian and US armed forces.
“This premier military engagement reflects the strength of the Australia-US alliance and the closeness of our military to military relationship,” Minister Reynolds said. “Exercise Talisman Sabre will involve more than 34,000 personnel from Australia and the US.
“Forces from Canada, Japan, NZ, and the UK will be embedded alongside ADF personnel, and delegations from India and the Republic of Korea will observe the exercise. Eighteen nations from across the Indo-Pacific region have also been invited to an international visitors program.”
An uninvited visitor will also observe the exercise - the ADF is reportedly monitoring a Chinese surveillance ship in international waters off Queensland.
"We're tracking it," Lieutenant General Greg Bilton said at the opening of the exercise. "We don't know yet what its destination is but we're assuming that it will come down to the east coast of Queensland and we'll take appropriate measures in regards to that."
According to the ABC, the Type 815G Dongdiao-class electronic surveillance ship is the same type as a vessel that observed the 2017 exercise. China routinely monitors foreign war games, including last year's Ex RIMPAC.
Sources also told the ABC that the Chinese ship is particularly interested in Japan's participation in Talisman Sabre, which involves a deployable amphibious brigade created last year to respond to a potential crisis in the Senkaku Islands. The islands are disputed between Beijing and Tokyo.
The bilateral exercise is the culmination of extensive and ongoing local community engagement throughout the exercise area.
“Talisman Sabre would not be possible without the generous cooperation of the local community including landowners, governments and traditional owners," Minister Reynolds added.
The majority of Talisman Sabre 2019 activities will take place in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area and surrounding state forests near Rockhampton. Other events will occur around Stanage Bay and the Capricorn Coast, Whitsunday region, Mackay region, Bundaberg and surrounding region, the Townsville Field Training Area and the Evans Head Air Weapons Range in NSW.