Talisman Sabre 2021 (TS21) is the largest biennial bilateral combined training activity between the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the US military.
The exercise is designed to test the Australian forces in planning and conducting Combined and Joint Task Force operations and improve the combat readiness and interoperability between Australian and US forces.
TS21 ran from late June to mid-August 2021, the time frame included the initial surge of equipment and people and their subsequent departure after the exercise. Exercise activities peaked during the period 18-31 July 2021. This year's exercise was the ninth iteration and consisted of a Field Training Exercise incorporating force preparation (logistic) activities, amphibious landings, ground force manoeuvre, urban operations, air combat and maritime operations. Approximately 17,000 military personnel from seven nations participated on land, air and sea.
The exercise activities occurred in inland Queensland including Hughenden, the Charters Towers region, ADF Townsville Field Training Area (TFTA), Atherton and Mareeba coastal locations including Bundaberg, Stanage Bay peninsular, ADF Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA), Bowen, Proserpine, Ingham region, Lucinda, Forest Beach, ADF Cowley Beach Training Area (CBTA), Innisfail, Cairns and RAAF Base Scherger, as well as Evans Head in New South Wales (NSW). Increased military air traffic was seen at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales (NSW), RAAF Base Townsville and RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland (Qld) and RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territories (NT).
The goal of TS 21 showcased the ability to deliver capable, combat-ready, lethal air power on short notice by integrating the various fighter aircraft of the fourth and fifth generation of the allies linking with the naval and ground units to achieve complete domination of the theatre of operations in the offensive and defensive scenarios. For the US Pacific Command, Talisman Sabre 2021 is along with Pacific Iron 21 the most important exercise in the Pacific Region. Chinese naval and air units indirectly participated in this training, as they were present to monitor the activities of this training, a behaviour that the allies are accustomed to in this training every time.
The ADF has made multiple videos and photos of the exercise. For the first time, USMC F-35B Lightning IIs were refueled by Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft. The USMC F-35Bs were therefor able to extend their time in the air while on TS21 missions, flying from the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6).
Although Scramble Magazine mainly focusses on the air elements, this exercise also saw multiple land and sea elements involved. From the 17,000 participating military personnel, around 16,000 were, divided 50/50, from Australia and the US. Both forces were also responsible for a large number of vessels. TS 21 participants were:
Australia (RAAF, Australian Army, RAN)
C-17A Globemaster III, C-27J Spartan, C-130J-30 Super Hercules, F/A-18A Hornet, F/A-18F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, F-35A Lightning II, E-7A Wedgetail, Hawk Mk127, P-8A Poseidon, AP-3C Orion, PC-21, Beech 350 King Air, MH-60R Seahawk, CH-47D Chinook, Tiger ARH, MRH90 Taipan
MV-22B Osprey, AH-1Z Viper, UH-1Y Venom, F-35B Lightning II, KC-130J Super Hercules
B-52H temporary based at Diego Garcia (UK)
MH-60M Black Hawk
HMCS Calgary (FFH-335) with a CH-148 Cyclone
JS Makinami (DD-112) with a SH-60J/K Seahawk
Republic of Korea
ROKS Wang Geon (DDH-978) with a Lynx Lynx Mk99A