U.S.-Australian Fire Support Ships Demonstrate Combined Capabilities

Thursday, July 05, 2007
Australian and U.S. Navy escort ships demonstrated combined fire support in defense of an expeditionary strike group and ground forces ashore during Talisman Saber 2007 (TS07), which was conducted from June 18 through July 3. Two U.S. Navy destroyers, a cruiser, and three Royal Australian Navy frigates completed anti-submarine, surface and air defense exercises followed by simulated fire-support when U.S. Marines and Australian soldiers launched from the ships to the training area to engage a simulated enemy.

Talisman Saber 2007 is a joint and combined biennial exercise between Australia and the United States designed to prepare both nations in crisis action planning and the execution of contingency operations, thus improving interoperability and combat readiness. “Fire support is an important component to ensuring that our assets are protected and ultimately can achieve the mission,” said Cmdr. James J. Housinger, USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) commanding officer. “The FIT [Force Integration Training] and Talisman Saber FTX [Field Training Exercise] have provided a superb opportunity for us to apply our advanced warfighting skills in a combined setting. We feel privileged to have been able to work in a combined battle space with our Australian counterparts.”

Involved U.S. ships included USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), John Paul Jones and USS Lake Erie (CG 70), and for the Australians, HMAS Newscastle (FFG 06), HMAS Ballarat (FFG 155) and HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154). The success of the defense and fire support came in the coordination of sea echelon assets, primarily conducted from the watch floor of John Paul Jones, which acted as the sea combat commander and screen commander throughout the exercise -- an assignment usually accomplished by a destroyer squadron (DESRON) staff. Though much coordination was going on inside John Paul Jones, the watchstanders there credit other escort assets for being responsive in reporting and engaging simulated air, surface and sub-surface contacts. Overall, as the sea combat commander, Housinger was thankful for the extra detection capabilities of a combined escort screen, which was allowed the central defense command to more quickly take decisive action. All involved credited the U.S-Australian teamwork to providing the simulated defensive shield and fire power for mission accomplishment.

“It was amazing to see how well all the pieces came together between Australian ships and U.S. ships,” said Lt. Dana Beery, Paul Hamilton weapons officer. “Despite training independently, when the time came to execution, both navies functioned together as if they had always been working as one.” U.S. Navy personnel have enjoyed working with the Australian forces thus far and say it has been great training. “It is always a pleasure and very rewarding to work with the Royal Australian military forces. They are an important ally of the USA and their professionalism and execution are an example for all to follow,” said Operational Specialist 1st Class Jeff Davis (SW), a watchstander in his fourth major exercise with the Royal Australian Forces.

“I have enjoyed the time and experience coordinating the planning and defense of the combined amphibious task force. Nothing is more rewarding than making a plan and then seeing it executed flawlessly with professionalism and determination," said Davis. Both sides know they will take the lessons learned going into the future. “The training value of Talisman Saber cannot be overstated; we have learned a lot as a force and as a ship,” said Housinger. “Additionally, individuals have learned how to apply their craft better in a very dynamic environment ... I know I’m personally smarter now and a better warfighter than I was two weeks ago.”

The San Diego-based John Paul Jones and Pearl Harbor-based Paul Hamilton, both part of DESRON 15, have been working with a number of carrier strike groups in support of operations in both U.S. Central Command and 7th Fleet. For TS07, the ships were assigned to Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7 /Task Force 76 in the 7th fleet are of responsibility. ESG 7 is the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force and is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

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