RAAF and USAF complete bilateral training in Talisman Sabre 2023

A USAF Globemaster is directed to park by RAAF personnel in Talisman sabre 2023
U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt Robert H. Dabbs

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) have now completed a series of multi-domain flying missions during Talisman Sabre 2023.

Talisman Sabre 2023

Talisman Sabre is a biennial strategic cooperation and joint capabilities exercise conducted between Australia and the United States. This tradition commenced in 2005 and has grown in both scale and significance with each iteration.

Talisman Sabre 2023, the tenth and largest iteration yet, saw a convergence of over 30,000 personnel from a staggering 13 countries

A New Challenge

Amidst the vast expanse of the Northern Territory and Western Australia, the RAAF and U.S. Air Force embarked on this year’s endeavor.

Talisman Sabre 23 presented an unparalleled challenge and a golden opportunity: executing agile operations across an extensive geographical canvas. The stage was set for an ambitious showcase of strategic mobility, coordination, and adaptability.


RAAF Air Commodore Pete Robinson, the Air Task Group commander, succinctly captured the essence of the challenge. As he expressed, the complexity of the exercise was manifold, given the dispersion of resources across the northern and western Australian regions.

It’s true that centralized control is more convenient, but the decentralized nature of this exercise was, in itself, a valuable trial. The stage was set for a test of mettle and the forging of new standards.

The synchronized merger of air components commenced with their departure from RAAF Base Darwin, further converging at RAAF Bases Curtin and Tindal.

These bases became the epicenters of an expansive theater of operations, where teams meticulously orchestrated large force movements.

Bilateral Mission Planning

The essence of Talisman Sabre 2023 lay in its ability to amalgamate diverse aircraft capabilities into a unified force. This feat, however, was not accomplished overnight; it was the result of meticulous bilateral planning.

The sanctum of this planning was RAAF Base Darwin, serving as a crucible of ideas, strategies, and decisions. Forward units seamlessly converged to discuss, debate, and decide—the hallmark of a true team.

A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) E/A-18G Growler from No. 6 Squadron, RAAF Base Amberley, taxis to launch during Talisman Sabre 23, at RAAF Base Tindal, Northern Territory, Australia, July 22, 2023. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Robert H. Dabbs)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Desmond Jackson, the Raptor Intelligence chief of the 19th Fighter Squadron, emphasized the significance of bilateral mission planning, saying:

“It brings all of the players to one common space where they can discuss gameplans, capabilities, leadership styles, thought processes and levying experiences in order to ensure a thorough mission planning process and ultimately, mission success.”

Taking to the Skies

Once the meticulous planning was etched into the annals of preparation, the aircrews took center stage. The skies bore witness to the spectacle of aircraft like the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, KC-46 Pegasus, and the RAAF F-35A Lightning II, among others.

The U.S. Air Force KC-46 and the RAAF KC-30As executed mid-air refueling—extending the reach and endurance of every aircraft. On the ground, the bilateral team worked in harmony, fueling diverse airframes side by side.

A Glimpse into the Future

Generating large sorties with many aircraft to accomplish bilateral training objectives is a normal day’s work in executing Talisman Sabre in the Northern Territory and west Australia.

The exercise continues to grow and become larger and more complex for the air component in future iterations.

“I’ve been the lead for the United States Air Force for Talisman Sabre since 2019. Just in that short amount of time, I’ve seen the relationship between the RAAF and USAF strengthen to the point where we know exactly who to call when faced with a challenge,” said Col. Brian Baldwin, 13th AEW commander.

“We have friends that help us overcome those challenges more quickly, and I can’t wait to see how our combined team gets after new challenges in the next Talisman Sabre.”

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 5 Min Read
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