It was four against two.

Two Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 Hornets screamed overhead a naval task group, primed to launch a simulated air-to-surface attack within minutes.

But Australian frigate HMAS Ballarat and destroyer HMAS Brisbane, Canadian frigate HMCS Calgary and Republic of Korea destroyer ROKS Wang Geon were quick to unite to defend against, and defeat the multi-role fighters.

It was part of a detect-to-engage training serial held during Exercise Talisman Sabre 21 (TS21), which challenged the naval task group’s ability to respond to air or missile threats.

Lieutenant Hayden Wilkes, a Brisbane fighter controller, said the training off the coast of Queensland was a success because of the international cooperation.

“These activities enhance [our coordination] by allowing us to combine our different weapons systems and capabilities across all the different ships involved,” Lieutenant Wilkes said.

“Exercise Talisman Sabre has provided us with a great opportunity to practise our responses with our coalition partners in a complex fighting scenario.”

The Classic Hornets are operated by personnel based out of RAAF Base Tindal and have been an integral part of Australia’s air combat capability since the 1980s. 

No. 75 Squadron, the sole RAAF unit now operating the F/A-18A/B, will transition to the fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II.

Commanding Officer Ballarat Commander Antony Pisani said while the fighters were an impressive asset, they were no match for the united task group.

“Operating with our Canadian and Republic of Korea counterparts provided us with a great opportunity to work in unison to defend our maritime environment,” he said.

“It also provided us with a chance to test our collective mariner skills and showcase our interoperability – a significant focus of Exercise Talisman Sabre – while under pressure.”

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Talisman Sabre 2021