Even as North Korea was launching its first ICBM experts deem capable of striking the US mainland and Canada on Independence Day,4 July 2017,the US and Australia were getting their largest joint exercise,Talisman Sabre 2017,off the proverbial launch pad.The drills,a major effort to train their forces in planning and conducting Combined Joint Task Force operations to improve the combat readiness and interoperability between the respective forces,are held every two years,the Australian Department of Defence said.*
TS17 is focused on mid-intensity high-end warfighting.This seventh iteration of the event will involve more than 33,000 US and Australian troops.It will consist of force preparation activities;amphibious landings;parachuting;land force manoeuvres;urban operations;air operations;maritime operations;and coordinated firing of live ammunition and explosive ordnance from both small arms and artillery,as well as naval vessels and aircraft,ADOD continued.*
Most of TS17's field training will occur in Shoalwater Bay Training Area,near Rockhampton,Central Queensland.Other sites include Mt.Bundy Training Area south of Darwin,Northern Territory,as well as Darwin itself,Townsville,Brisbane and Canberra in Australia;and Hawaii,Indiana,Virginia and Washington in the US.The drills began in late June and run through late July.*
Admiral Harry B. Harris,Commander,US Pacific Command,recently noted at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Brisbane that the North Korean threat covers the entire Indo-Asia-Pacific Region since its missiles point in every direction:
North Korea made this clear when it threatened Australia with a nuclear strike just a couple of months ago.*
Other APAC regional threats concerning the US and Australia that were cited by ADM Harris are China's growing militarisation of the South China Sea and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant's alarming expansion into the Philippines.ADM Harris summarised the current exercise thusly:
TS17 is a realistic,high-end and challenging exercise that provides endless opportunities for our nations to innovatively prepare for our shared regional and global security challenges.*
New Zealand is also sending a contingent to the drills.