The U.S. has deployed 10 MV-22 Ospreys to Darwin, Australia to take part in the massive U.S.-Australia Talisman Saber exercise as the two countries expand their long-standing alliance.
It's the latest step in the overall U.S. strategy to shift its focus to the Pacific as the U.S. continues to counter China's expanding presence in the region. Last year, the first of 2,500 Marines arrived in Australia in what will be a continually rotating 6-month deployment to Australia first announced by President Obama in 2011.
Routine training exercises such as the biennial Talisman Saber activity between the U.S. and Australian militaries in the Pacific theater have taken on an intensified significance in light of the Pacific re-balance, service officials said.
“This is part of our normal theater security cooperation plan. However, the re-balancing to the Pacific is an important part of our future,” said Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, Commander Amphibious Force, 7th Fleet. “At the same time, our great Navy has been in this region for over 150 years as a pacific power -- and always will be."
Talisman Saber, a joint training exercise involving more than 28,000 U.S. and Australian personnel, includes ship-to-shore amphibious assault exercises as well as live-fire exercises, communications drills, maritime security exercises, humanitarian relief efforts as well as anti-submarine and anti-air activities.
“Talisman Saber strengthens the interoperability at the personnel level but also at the tactical and operational level because we specifically get the opportunity to do forward operations as well as forced integration training,” Harley said.
At least seven of the Ospreys will operate from the USS Bonhomme Richard Wasp-class amphibious assault ship. It is the first deployment in which the Osprey will operate from the Bonhomme Richard, Harley said.
In fact, the presence of the Osprey can change the nature of amphibious warfare by multiplying options, Harley said.
“The MV-22 Osprey’s are performing superbly. They allow for so much more capacity and bring an incredible amount of flexibility.
They allow us to bring more personnel and equipment ashore faster and farther than ever before, so this is expanding the amphibious capability of our great Navy.”
As a tilt-rotor aircraft, the Osprey can switch from a helicopter-like hover mode to a much faster airplane-mode.
The MV-22 can typically accommodate 24 combat troops and 20,000-pounds of internal cargo or 15,000-pounds of external cargo; it can go four times the range of the CH-46 Sea Knight, and has the capability to conduct aerial refueling, Navy officials indicated.
“This gives us the ability to respond in ways we have never done before. Using the Osprey you can do amphibious assaults solely using the aircraft,” Harley added.
Overall, Navy officials indicated that the joint-training exercise really help improve interoperability between the two countries.
“We do this every two years and it is designed to improve both nation’s ability to work bi-laterally and multi-laterally throughout the Asia Pacific region and globally as the exercise demonstrates the closeness of our alliance,” said Lt. Anthony Falvo, Pacific fleet spokesman.