BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA --
As exercise Talisman Sabre 19 comes to an end, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and Royal Australian Air Force forces were put to the ultimate test as they collectively fought a simulated enemy to gain and maintain air superiority in a high-end fight.
While one can research terms like “high-end fight” and “air superiority,” what does all that military jargon really mean?
As Col. Barley Baldwin, 13th Air Expeditionary Group commander, representing the U.S. Air Force forces in Australia, recounts, “The U.S. Air Force is a product of its own success. Over the past two decades, we have flown relatively [unimpeded] in the skies above our forces.”
However, as we look to the return of strategic competitors and those that would undermine a free and open Indo-Pacific, dominating the skies is not guaranteed–not without continuing to train with our allies in complex threat scenarios never experienced before, but certainly exercised in TS19.
In a high-end fight, the U.S. and Australian air forces, alongside regional, long-time allies, will have to not only penetrate enemy airspace, but also protect our ships and set the conditions for the ground forces to ensure our coalition can dominate in a multi-domain fight. In the era of digital age warfare, our combined air forces will have to compete and win in all domains, not just in an intense aerial battle.
“Over the past few weeks, our air forces’ training focused on effectively fighting for and gaining control of the air and electromagnetic spectrum, with the goal of simulating strike weapons on both land and maritime enemy assets as part of the exercise scenario,” explained Group Captain Stephen Chappell, RAAF Amberley’s TS19 task unit commander and 82 wing commander. “Combat operations will grow in complexity and our training continues to evolve to meet this challenge.”
Collectively, the U.S. and Australia deployed complimentary combat capabilities that tackled every mission area needed to win in a future, multi-domain scenario, ranging from seamless battlefield situational awareness hand-off between the U.S. Air Force E-3 Sentry and the RAAF E-7 Wedgetail to fourth and fifth generation integration between the F-22 Raptor and the U.S. Navy and RAAF F/A-18 Super Hornets. Not to mention the employment of electronic warfare platforms like the RAAF E/A-18 Growler and the reliable, deep-penetrating B-52H Stratofortress.
By deploying the right combat capability to the exercise, the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and RAAF met significant milestones and achievements that furthered the interoperability of our forces.
For the first time in the Indo-Pacific region, a RAAF KC-30A refueled the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor. With this initial test and training hurdle overcome, the U.S. and Royal Australian air forces have another viable option for extending the power projection capabilities of the F-22 in the Indo-Pacific.
Also, during the past three weeks, the combined, joint air forces continued to develop a common understanding for the survivability and detectability of fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft and advanced the integration between air and maritime forces in a denied environment.
“Talisman Sabre 19 provided the ideal platform for the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and RAAF to integrate air and sea operations to train for the high-end fight. Although the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy train together in many other exercises in the region, this iteration of Talisman Sabre was unique because it allowed our combined and joint forces to focus on countering a denied air and maritime environment,” added Baldwin. “Going forward, in future Talisman Sabre iterations, we intend to further the progress made here by advancing the interoperability between combined air force and navy capabilities to ensure we can collectively access any denied space.”
So, for Talisman Sabre 19, what does it mean to exercise for a high-end fight and achieve air superiority? In laymen’s terms, it means the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and RAAF will continue to develop and evolve training for scenarios against near-peer competitors, where freedom of movement in the air and sea is not guaranteed. In the high-end fight, joint, combined forces will have to fight to own the airspace above land and sea, as well as collectively penetrate denied air and maritime spaces with an orchestra of well-trained, tried and tested, airpower that seamlessly integrates across services and cultures to rapidly dominate in all domains.