SHOALWATER BAY, Queensland: Australia and the United States rehearsed precision missile strikes during war games on Saturday (Jul 22) as Canberra overhauls its military strategy in favour of long-range firepower.
A series of live-fire drills were held at the Shoalwater Bay military complex in the northeastern region of Queensland, showcasing the American-made HIMARS missile system recently sold to the Australian Defence Force.
More than 30,000 troops will take part in the biennial Talisman Sabre exercises over the next two weeks, including soldiers from Japan, France, Germany and South Korea.
The drills come as Australia embarks upon a major overhaul of its armed forces, pivoting towards long-range strike capabilities in an effort to keep would-be foes such as China at arm’s length.
Australian Army Major Tony Purdy said the HIMARS weapon – used to devastating effect by the Ukrainian military – would “provide a significant capability boost” and much-needed “long-range precision”.
HIMARS – or the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System – was developed for the United States Army by Lockheed Martin in the 1990s.
Defence bosses have praised its coveted “shoot and scoot ability” – it can be placed, fired, moved and reloaded quickly, making it more difficult for the enemy to find and target, lessening the risk to crew.
Australia’s first HIMARS are due in 2025 and are expected to come into use over the following two years.
Beijing has been keeping a close eye on the drills, which come amid increasing unease about China’s growing military muscle in the Asia-Pacific.
A Chinese spy ship had been spotted off Australia’s northeastern coast as preparations were underway, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, Australia’s chief of joint operations, told reporters on Friday.
The Talisman Sabre exercise will also see troops performing amphibious landings, air combat and maritime operations across several Australian states and territories.
Major Jimmy Sheehan, Talisman Sabre spokesperson for the US forces, said the exercise showed “increased complexity, scope, and partner nation participation”.
“Language barriers aside, it’s challenging to synchronise long-range fires from both air and land,” he told AFP.
“But today we saw service members from Australia, the US, Japan and the Republic of Korea successfully operate as a single unit from command and control to execution at the tactical level.”
Speaking of the remainder of the exercise, he added: “These initiatives and ‘firsts’ ultimately create an exercise that will enhance Australia and the US’ ability to respond to global security challenges in the region.”