News Corp Australia
11 July 2015
There was nothing “humanitarian” about the biggest amphibious assault ever conducted in Australia when a combined U.S.-Australia-Japanese force landed on an isolated stretch of coast southwest of Darwin.
Despite the efforts of senior officers and a large team of public affairs staff to push the line about the importance of amphibious operations to disaster relief, Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015 is about high end war fighting.
Even the handout provided by the Department of Defence media spelt it out.
“When an aircraft carrier group combines with an expeditionary strike group they become a potent expeditionary force.”
That potency was on display in spades at Dundee Beach in Fog Bay as U.S. Marines, Australian diggers and Japanese soldiers stormed ashore in a fleet of semi-submerged Assault Amphibian Vehicles (AAVs) and rigid-hull inflatable boats supported by huge hovercraft carrying fighting and transport vehicles.
Overhead the assault against the fictitious rebel forces of “Monmir” who are backed by the big power “Kamaria” was supported by air power in the form of the spectacular V22
Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, Harrier jump jets and Chinook and Cobra helicopters.
The whole operation was run from four amphibious assault ships HMAS Choules and the American vessels USS Ashland, Bonhomme Richard and the destroyer USS Preble. All up about 3000 personnel to assault this pristine stretch of Northern Territory coastline.
Also involved in the 2015 exercise is the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and its vast power projection plus numerous undisclosed assets such as submarines and special-forces troops.
More than 30,000 troops will participate in the 10-day war games.
Two of the top brass observing the assault from under a shade tent on the beach, Australian commander of joint operation Vice Admiral David Johnston and commander of the U.S. 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force Lieutenant General John Wissler both reassured China and any other potential enemies that the exercise wasn’t about them.
General Wissler studiously avoided using the “China” word and said it was about interoperability and not “any specific enemy.”
“We are better together than we will ever be individually,” he said of the U.S., Australia and Japan.
Admiral Johnston was more forthcoming and said Chinese observers had joined those from 30 other nations to watch the war games.
“The exercise is quite transparent,” he said.
“We are in regular contact with Chinese officials. There’s nothing in terms of the activities to give them [China] any cause for concern.”
Meanwhile back on the beach Australian troops from the 2nd Battalion including Sapper Lewis Hambly of Grafton and Company Sergeant Major from Bravo Company Warrant Officer Class Two Clinton Bosworth were securing the beach head right alongside their U.S. Marine comrades.
The diggers came ashore from the amphibious assault ship USS Ashland aboard the 20-man AAVs.
“It was pretty rough but the exercise has been good so far,” Sapper Hambly said.
WO Bosworth said the journey was similar to an M113 troops carrier only in water.
“It was a little more cramped but the seas were flat so it was okay.”
He said life as an amphibious soldier on board ship was pretty good as well.
“Living in a cot with three meals a day is better than living in a hole in the dirt,” he said as he settled into the dirt on Native Point Beach.
The beach and its surrounds is an ancient indigenous battleground littered with sites sacred to the Larrakia people.
On hand to ensure nothing sacred was disturbed as custodian Eris Fejo.
“Skeletal remains have been found here and if we see any today then everything stops,” he said.
Mr. Fejo said defence had been very sensitive to the environmental concerns of the area.
Billowing white smoke 11 U.S. Marine Corps Assault Amphibious Vehicles (ASVs) emerged from the calm sea to disgorge 80 soldiers from the Townsville 2nd battalion and hundreds of U.S. Marines as the huge Talisman Sabre Exercise kicked off.
Marine Corps V22 Osprey vertical take off aircraft and Harrier jump jets buzzed the beach as the troops secured the landing zone.
Further along the beach VIPs sat under a shade tent as narrator Brigadier Bob Brown explained what they were seeing.
Joint Operations Commander Vice Admiral David Johnston said the exercise was transparent and was not aimed at China or anyone else.
“There’s nothing in terms of the activities to hive them cause for concern,” he said.
Commander of the Marines 3rd Expeditionary Force Lieutenant General John Wissler said the U.S. and Australia were better together than individually.
“This training will allow us to be ready,” he said.
The dull roar of the AAVs was soon replaced by the howl of a huge Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) floated ashore on a cushion of air to unload its cargo of fighting vehicles straight onto the sand of the “enemy” beach.
The 80 diggers from the 2nd Battalion made the voyage ashore from the USS Green Bay about 8km from shore.