Captain David Fileman is an Army helicopter pilot working in an Air Force squadron and deployed on the multi-national Exercise Talisman Sabre (TS21). 

Posted to the 1st Aviation Regiment as an Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter Tiger pilot, Captain Fileman has been on exchange with No. 4 Squadron since 2019.

He has been flying Pilatus PC-21 aircraft and providing training to Joint Terminal Air Controllers on how to call in close air support. 

He said working directly with other nations on the massive 17,000-person TS21 was great for training, including basics such as how to speak on the radio. 

“Talisman Sabre is a really good chance for us to not just work with Army elements, but with other foreign military forces as well, especially when we are practising how we provide close air support,” he said.

“Radio communications can be challenging sometimes, but especially when you throw in differences in languages. 

“For example, what an American will call a dam might be something completely different than what we’d call a dam. It can lead to confusion when you are both talking about the exact same thing, but using completely different words, which have completely different meanings.

“So exercises like Talisman Sabre give us the opportunity to learn those little nuances that you wouldn’t have thought about, unless you actually worked with that nation. 

“Actually, if you fly with an American exchange, some of them will brief you at the start saying, ‘Hey when I say this, I mean this; it’s an English word, we might just have a different meaning to what you will think’.”

Having come from Army himself, Captain Fileman said No. 4 Squadron was unique in that all the pilots have had a variety of different experiences that helped broaden all of their skill sets. 

“Our pilots all have a range of different backgrounds at No. 4 Squadron. We have people who flew F/A-18 Hornets for example, P-3 Orion, DHC-4 Caribou and we even have a lateral transfer that used to fly Atlas Cheetahs,” he said. 

“From my perspective, the biggest difference between working in the two services I would say is that for Air Force, aviation is their primary focus; it’s all devoted to aviation and the organisation is built around that. Where in Army, aviation is a supporting role to their primary focus, which is the solider on the ground. 

“I think No. 4 Squadron is a nice mix between the two, bringing the air component and the land component together. So it’s great to be here in Townsville, doing just that for the exercise.”

TS21 has ramped up flying operations out of RAAF Base Townsville. See more information here: Exercise Talisman Sabre - heightened military flying operations - Townsville | Royal Australian Air Force

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Exercise Talisman Sabre 2021