Who’s the enemy?

Giant military exercise does not serve Australian interests

Operation Talisman Sabre (OTS) is getting underway today (Friday) at Shoalwater Bay in Queensland – the biggest military exercise in our country’s history, involving 20,000 US and 7,500 Australian troops live-firing in counter-insurgency operations and live-bombing from aircraft.

It comes as figures obtained for the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS) at the University of Sydney show Australia gets much better value from investing in its traditional strengths of diplomacy and peacekeeping.

OTS is the latest stage in the development of a ‘Joint Combined Training Center’ aimed at increasing the ‘interoperability’ of US and Australian forces. The cost of the exercise itself is estimated at over $60m. This is on top of money Australia has spent with an American weapons company, Cubic, on training instrumentation and ‘live’ video monitoring systems which allow real-time battle images and data to be tracked from thousands of kilometres away – a further $70m.

At the same cost, $130m, Australian troops are present, by invitation and/or international agreement, in seven countries and on two monitoring missions, deployed to uphold peace and security in accordance with UN mandates. Without this giant military exercise, Australia could use the savings to double its peacekeeping efforts, to good effect around the world.

OTS will see the new hi-tech equipment used in simulated urban warfare in a specially built ‘training town’. Defence say the installation is ‘non-culturally specific’ and the scenarios for the exercise are ‘fictional’. Associate Professor Jake Lynch, Director of CPACS, said: “Defence should come clean and tell us who the enemy is in this exercise. There is no country on earth where Australia’s interests would be better served by invading alongside US forces than by diplomacy and peacekeeping”.

Senator Kerry Nettle (Greens, NSW) said: “Exercises like Talisman Sabre make the chances of Australia following the US into wars like Iraq all the more likely. We need a new relationship between our two countries, based on independence and respect for human rights”.

Paddy Gibson of the Stop the War Coalition said: “These troops are preparing for aggressive warfare. They are training to kill in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are demanding the troops leave Iraq and stop the exercises”. Gibson and Lynch will attend a protest outside the Defence Plaza in Sydney, at 270 Pitt Street, at 0800 on Friday, June 15, organised by the Stop the War Coalition.

Media Contacts: Christian Bolwell (Sen Nettle’s office) 0411 638320; Jake Lynch (CPACS) 0420 980010 or 02 9351 5440; Paddy Gibson (Stop the War Coalition) 0415 800586.

Notes for editors:


*Cost of Operation Talisman Sabre: estimated at $60m – source, Anti-bases Coalition
*Cost of equipment purchased by ADF from Cubic:
Excerpted from ‘Taking troop training to a new level’, by Bruce V Bigelow, San Diego Union-Tribune, March 9, 2007:
Much of the technology in the upcoming Talisman Sabre exercise was supplied by Cubic’s defense applications business. Cubic has long provided US forces with its training systems. Sales to the Pentagon account for about 75 percent of the company’s defense business, said Jerry Dinkel, president and chief executive of Cubic Defense Systems.

In 2003, Cubic won a $45.6 million contract to provide ‘Land 134’, a ground-combat training system for Australia’s armed forces, Dinkel said. In February, Cubic announced it also would provide a $10 million air-combat training system in time for the joint war games, scheduled for June.

‘One thing that makes it unique is how much integration will take place’, Dinkel said. ‘Talisman Sabre will be a first in terms of the extent of air and land forces, and to some extent naval forces, that are involved in the exercise’. If all goes according to plan, the technology will enable military command centers throughout Australia and in Hawaii, Virginia and Florida to monitor the training exercises as they unfold.

The system also will be sophisticated enough to enable troops on the ground to call in simulated airstrikes by ground-support aircraft.

The 1,000-square-mile military training area north of Brisbane features diverse terrain, including mountainous areas, rain forests, coastal dunes, mangrove swamps and an extensive coastline for amphibious operations. During the training, each soldier wears a harness that features a GPS electronic tracking device and a host of laser sensors.

Laser transmitting devices are mounted on Army-issued weapons, which are equipped to fire blanks to add realism to the training. Each time a soldier fires his rifle, the laser emits a burst of coded data that enables the system to determine who fired and whether the shot was a hit or miss, and assess casualties. The system can even assess personnel casualties based on their proximity to simulated hand grenades, artillery rounds, bombs and missiles.

Under a smaller contract awarded in February, Cubic said it also is installing its training instrumentation system in a new urban-operations training facility that the Australians built at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area”.

full text at http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/business/20070309-9999-1b9cubic.html

Cost of ‘Land 134’ published at US$45.6m = AUD$54.2m
CPACS estimate of two further contracts US$15m = AUD$17.8m
Total = approximately AUD$72m
Australian peacekeeping missions

Australian missions in peacekeeping and peacebuilding, in accordance with international agreements and/or UN mandates, with costs for 2006-7 (supplied by Defence):

OP PALADIN – ADF commitment (12 personnel) to United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) UN Security Council mandated Operation.
Actual Estimate
2005-06 2006-07
$0.758m $0.811m

OP MAZURKA – ADF Commitment (25 personnel) to the Multinational Force of Observers (MFO) – established to oversee the Camp David Accords 1978 this is not a United Nations mission.
Actual Estimate
2005-06 2006-07
$0.606m $0.639m

OP TOWER which was preceded by OP CHIRON in 2005-06 – ADF Commitment (4 personnel) to UN Assistance Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) – UN Security Council mandated Operation.
Actual Estimate
2005-06 2006-07
$0.318 $0.314m

OP AZURE – ADF Commitment (15 personnel) to UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) – UN Security Council mandated Operation.
Actual Estimate
2005-06 2006-07
$1.021m $1.074m

OP PALATE II – ADF Commitment (1 person) to UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) – UN Security Council mandated Operation.
Actual Estimate
2005-06 2006-07
$0.026m $0.005m

OP Valient – ADF Commitment (1 person) to deployment of the Republic Fijian Military Forces (RFMF) to the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) – UN mandated Operation.
Actual Estimate
2005-06 2006-07
$0.021m $0.003m

OP Astute – ADF is also involved in operations in Timor Leste and this falls in the peace building post conflict category. It also assists UNMIT execute its mandate:

1999-00 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07
$598.1m $798.5m $632.9m $579.3m $554.0m $27.4m $23.9m $120.8m

Operations in the Solomon Islands (Operation ANODE):

2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07
$90.4m $27.6m $12.9m $11.1m

Total for 2006-07 (estimate) = $134.746m

Global Peace Index

Australia was ranked 25th out of 121 countries in the recently published Global Peace Index (www.visionofhumanity.com) For comparison, Norway was top, New Zealand number two, the US number 96. Australia was out-performed by most other developed countries, mainly in Europe and Asia. The categories where Australia lost out were all to do with fighting external wars – deployment of troops, the number of wars fought and the level of military sophistication.

1 Comment »

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