Forces gear up to combat regional terror threats

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Forces gear up to combat regional terror threats

RORY CALLINAN The Australian July 14, 2017

It’s the largest amphibious assault for Australian troops since WWII but the generals are hoping Exercise Talisman Sabre 2017 delivers another first in proving capability to deploy an emergency “9/11” style force to respond to insurgencies or other regional emergencies.

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Australian troops hit the beaches during Exercise Talisman Sabre, at Shoalwater Bay, in central Queensland.

With a deadly battle raging in the southern Philippines between government troops and Islamic State fighters, and North Korea’s military reach increasing, the joint exercise is a dry run for the Aust­ralian military to deploy a force modelled on US Marines expedit­ionary units.

Says Major General Fergus “Gus” McLachlan: “This is the sort of capability that government could deploy around the region.

“So instead of just flying in a small training team, we can take a combat team and trail alongside our partners Malaysia, Singapore and up into Hawaii, and so we will be able to bring a capacity into the region that is unprecedented.”

Asked if the operation was a reaction­ to trouble spots such as The Philippines, Major General McLachlan said it was not his place to say but it was about having options. “All I can say, and my job is the force generator for the army, (is) that what things like The Philippines remind us of is that there is still a business model where you need a modern, well-equipped army with a range of capabilities,” the head of Forces Command said during a briefing at the exercise site at Shoalwater Bay, about 80km north of Rockhampton.

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Australian troops hit the beaches during Exercise Talisman Sabre, at Shoalwater Bay, in central Queensland.

“How a government chooses to use that strategy is their business but it’s our job to give them a range of capability.” He stressed the increasing threats facing the region.

“Your adversary is getting more and more dangerous. The things that only used to be accessible to states at the high end of cyber capability, highly precise letha­l weapons, are now available to everybody,” he said. “Sadly, we are in a competition where the ­adversary gets more capable.

“Even ISIL (Islamic State), we call them hacker makers. They already­ operate in cyber space, not at a sophisticated level but at a mid level that can disrupt operations, they can make armed UAS (unmanned­ aerial systems) that can drop bombs, they have effect­ively created precision weapons.

‘‘So that’s a hybrid non-state adversary.”

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Australian troops hit the beaches during Exercise Talisman Sabre, at Shoalwater Bay, in central Queensland.

While part of the joint US, Australian and New Zealand exercise is based around a field training ­exercise, with a force assault from the ocean to take on an enemy based on land in a conventional format at Shoalwater Bay, the planners have added an asymmetrical aspect including cyber warfare, potential insurgents ­hidden among a civilian popul­ation, and civilians being used as shields.

The exercise involves 33,000 Australian and US military personnel undertaking a series of training exercises involving special forces operations, amphibious landings and maritime operations, and runs for more than a month.


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