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Warfighting Exercise To Help NZ Work Better With Security Partners

US troops taking part in Talisman Sabre 2015 start to embark a RNZAF C-130 airlift aircraft at Williamson Airfield in Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area in Central Queensland.
US troops taking part in Talisman Sabre 2015 start to embark a RNZAF C-130 airlift aircraft at Williamson Airfield in Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area in Central Queensland.

12 July 2015

New Zealand’s part in Australia’s largest warfighting exercise will help its forces work better with security partners Australia and the United States, senior military officials from the three countries have said.

“The training that our personnel are getting in Exercise Talisman Sabre helps us better understand how we can work together with our partners as well as within our Defence Force as we enhance combat capabilities needed to support New Zealand’s requirements and a Joint Task Force,” said Major General Tim Gall, Commander Joint Forces New Zealand.

The New Zealand Defence Force is taking part fully for the first time in Talisman Sabre, the largest warfighting exercise that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) conducts with the US military. It has deployed around 620 personnel, two ships, four aircraft including two NH90 helicopters, 22 Light Armoured Vehicles and 23 other military vehicles to Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area in Central Queensland and Fog Bay in Australia’s Northern Territory.

Although Talisman Sabre is a bilateral exercise between Australia and the United States, “New Zealand is a natural partner for Australia and its participation is vital,”  said Vice Admiral David Johnston, Chief of Joint Operations (Australia).

“We need to have that confidence that our equipment is compatible with each other, our planning processes work and we can talk and coordinate with each other. That confidence comes from training exercises like this,” Vice Admiral Johnston added.

“The fact that New Zealand is here is a great opportunity to increase that interoperability,” said US Marine Lieutenant General John Wissler, III Marine Expeditionary Force Commanding General.

“What we’re trying to do here is bring together the unique capabilities of all our forces – Australia, US, New Zealand and our Japanese partners – and ensure we can rely on each other’s capabilities, operate together and be successful in very complex operations as we have laid out in this exercise,” Lieutenant General Wissler explained.

During the exercise, the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF) NH90 helicopters are embedded within the ADF’s 16 Aviation Brigade and are operating with a dozen Australian MRH-90 and Australian Tiger helicopters. A Seasprite helicopter is also embarked on HMNZS TE KAHA and a C-130 Hercules aircraft is operating as part of the Royal Australian Air Force’s 37 Squadron.

Around 200 combat soldiers from the New Zealand Scots Squadron, Queen Alexandra's Mounted Rifles (QAMR Scots) are operating as part of the ADF's 7 Brigade. Navy frigate HMNZS TE KAHA is engaged in maritime warfare off Darwin in Northern Australia as part of the Opposing Force, while the tanker HMNZS ENDEAVOUR is tasked to help refuel the 21 ships that are taking part in the exercise.

“This exercise has given us the opportunity to demonstrate our battlefield support capability and to confirm our operating procedures in challenging and remote locations,” said Wing Commander Scott McKenzie, Commanding Officer of the RNZAF’s 3 Squadron.

“Our C-130 has been airlifting hundreds of troops across the battlefield to support land manoeuvres as well as airdropping food, water, ammunition and first aid supplies to the troops fighting the ‘ground war’,” said Squadron Leader Leigh Foster, Detachment Commander for the 25-strong contingent from the RNZAF’s 40 Squadron. 

Major General Gall said “the operations these helicopters have been conducting with the ADF have confirmed their ability to support battlefield manoeuvres and their readiness to be deployed on operations throughout the Southwest Pacific.”

Whilst the C-130 airlift aircraft has been involved in numerous disaster relief and peacekeeping missions in the Pacific, Asia and further afield, Talisman Sabre marks the first time the RNZAF NH90s have been deployed offshore.

For more information and to request interviews with NZDF personnel taking part in Talisman Sabre 2015, please contact Defence Public Affairs on 021 487 980.

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