Doorstop interview, Shoalwater Bay, Queensland

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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23 July 2023

SUBJECT: Talisman Sabre.

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Welcome to Shoalwater Bay to the 10th and largest iteration of Talisman Sabre, 13 nations participating in these exercises with 30,000 troops from our allied nations. And we've just seen an awesome demonstration of firepower here from different weapons platforms from different nations. But importantly, all using the same battlefield command and strategy centre to aim for those targets. And that's what Talisman Sabre is all about, preparing for interoperability, preparing for cooperation between our defence forces.

Earlier in the day, I joined our international visitors who travelled on a Chinook from Gladstone out to HMAS Adelaide and saw first-hand the wonderful work and the interoperability between our navies that's going on in the marine space and the littoral operations. Today we've seen evidence of the work that's happening in the cooperation, that's happening in the land domain. Some of the capability that we've seen here this morning is recommendations from the Defence Strategic Review that Australia will be purchasing into the future to bolster and improve our capability, particularly the HIMARS demonstration that we just saw and the K9s as well. So, thank you to all of the partner nations that have been involved in these very important exercises. They'll continue for the next three weeks, and the outcome will be improved cooperation, improved interoperability, and improved battle readiness for the Australian Defence Force and our allies.

Now we've got Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, he’s Chief of Joint Operations Command, he's going to say a few words and then I'll take some questions.

Lieutenant General Greg Bilton: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the live fire exercises, it’s an important part of the exercise in the sense its tests our coordination. So, while you've seen some weapon systems fire, what you haven't seen behind the scenes is the multinational command and control and coordination for targeting and planning that comes with being able to execute it. So, I'd ask you to use your imaginations and think about that multinational team working together, identifying the target, passing the targeting data, and then engaging the target. And so much of the learning is before the weapon systems is even fired. Thank you very much for your presence today.

JOURNALIST: Maybe for the Lieutenant General, is there an explanation for what happened with the Japanese missile?

Lieutenant General Bilton: Yeah, at this stage I haven't had a full readout. So, there's a shortened window where we've got air clearance because it goes actually to a very high altitude and the radar as I understand it wasn’t able to acquire the drone adequately that we could safely fire that missile. So, we will just go back and work with them, it took us six hours yesterday to work through some challenges with the radar. But I don't have the full technical explanation. Right now, a very short window, we missed the engagement window because we couldn’t acquire the target accurately enough to be confident of a safe firing.

JOURNALIST: Is that a major problem? An example of how multi-domain was demonstrated today, something that really ties it together?

Lieutenant General Bilton: So, it's combination of the air effects, and the land effects, you saw the AC-130. It's firing a number of different weapons systems, a 105mm capability and a 30mm cannon capability and then you're combining, and this is a little artificial in the sense of seeing when in sequence, what would actually happen on the battlefield seemed much more of a coordinated and, and simultaneous set of firings. And what you're trying to do is achieve effects against a target to neutralise it in multiple domains. So, the aircraft would have been firing at the same time the artillery was and today you saw the artillery firing where the aircraft was flying, they weren't firing together. These are safety constraints.


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