Talisman Sabre

US Marines training at Shoalwater Bay in the 2007 Talisman-Sabre exercises

US Marines training at Shoalwater Bay in the 2007 Talisman-Sabre exercises

Combined Exercise Talisman Sabre (spelt Saber in American English) are joint military training exercises held every two years by Australian and United States armed forces as a part of the ‘war on terror’.

Talisman Sabre exercises are conducted in 6 locations in northern and central Australia, as well as in the Coral Sea and the United States.  Most of it happens at Shoalwater Bay and surrounds, both on- and off-shore.

Freshwater Bay in the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area

Freshwater Bay, Queensland, located in the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area

The Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area, cordoned off by Australian Defence Forces in the 1960s, comprises some four-and-a-half thousand square kilometres of the Queensland central coast known for its natural beauty and environmental sensitivity.

This year’s exercise is the fourth of its kind.  Although officially commencing in July 2011, it began weeks before, possibly to avoid the civil society protests it has attracted in the past.

A Talisman Sabre-issued factsheet says this year’s exercise will involve “combined Special Forces operations, parachute drops, amphibious (marine) landings, land force manoeuvres, urban and air operations and the coordinated firing of live ammunition.”

Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, Australia

Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, Australia

This year, as with previous Talisman Sabre exercises, a large number of loosely affiliated peace and environment groups will join together in a Peace Convergence centred on Rockhampton near the Shoalwater Bay Training Area to protest.