Air Mobile Artillery - TALISMAN SABRE 2015
20 July 2015
"Air mobile operations with the United States Marine Corps was the highlight of Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015 (TS15)."
Lt Thomas Jordan and the 8/12 Regt RAA gunners of 101 Bty based in Darwin joined the 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment (3/12) with two guns to form a combined Australian and US eight-gun M-777 battery.
Rounding out the contingent were the joint fires and effects cell from 102 (Coral) Bty and a joint fires team from 103 Bty.
The US marine artillery battalion is based in Okinawa, Japan.
During TS15 the Australian M-777s were air-lifted by US Marine CH-53 Super Stallions to conduct three air mobile operations at the Bradshaw Field Training Area (BFTA).
The Darwin gunners fired close to 500 rounds during the month-long exercise.
Lt Jordan said during TS15, 101 Bty supported Australian and US manoeuvre call-signs as they conducted the various assaults on objectives in the exercise area.
"We linked our two guns into 3/12’s Mike Bty to construct an eight-gun battery and mainly fired at depth targets and suppressed the enemy's air defences," Lt Thomas said.
"Being linked to the US regiment was a very good experience.
"The marines are very similar to us and with how they go about their business, but there are some solid differences.
"Their approach when artillery moves into a position is to dominate the area, whereas the Australian approach is to be concealed and stay within the protection threshold."
Lt Thomas said the US guns had muzzle velocity measuring equipment attached to their barrels, which was the next scheduled upgrade for the Australian M-777s.
"The new upgrade will allow the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFTADS) to calculate the required individual changes required in elevation.
"The marines have also the upgraded AFTADS terminal, but we can link our systems together, which will be our next step.
"The reason we purchased the M-777s and AFTADS to be able to have that level of interoperability."
Lt Thomas said the Australian/US relationship building on TS15 was very good.
"Most of the gunners managed to trade some form of memorabilia, such as patches of knives, and all the guys get along well," he said.
"They are like minded and all love their jobs.
"This type of exercise was a new experience for most of the soldiers and they loved it because it is not often we can get out to see impressive weapons like the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System and the considerable capabilities of the USMC.
"Occasionally 5 Avn Regt CH-47 Chinooks will come from Townsville to support the regiment, but we are unable to do it consistently, so it is good to have the capability of Marine Rotational Force – Darwin to enable us to do these type of operations."
Bdr Alex Carless, of 8/12 Regt RAA, said it was an excellent experience to integrate on the gun-line with the US marines of Mike Bty 'Mayhem'.
"We conducted bilateral dismounted operations, which gave us an opportunity to see each other's patrol drills and tactics, as well as learn from each other, and we also ran informal lessons on each other’s weapon systems," Bdr Carless said.
"The USMC gunners are very similar to Australian gunners – we share the same attitude, same jokes and same camaraderie."
Bdr Carless said TS15 was a valuable exercise.
"It wasn’t too hard and the weather was kind to us," he said.
"The air mobile operations were at a higher level to normal, as we uplifted the ammunition as well as our equipment before engaging the enemy more than 10km away from the pick-up site.
"This capability is a big step forward for the regiment and the ADF."