A three-week exercise in northern Australia is testing the ability of US and Australian forces to move troops and equipment hundreds of miles in the event of a regional crisis or humanitarian disaster.
Exercise Koolendong, which runs until August 2 in two Australian states, began Monday in the Northern Territory. The US Marine Rotational Force – Darwin, Australian Army 1st and 13th Brigades and Royal Australian Air Force 36th, 37th and 75th Squadrons are simulating a crisis response, the Australian Department of Defense announced on Monday.
The exercise allows Australian forces and Marines to practice combined arms littoral combat, Australian Army Colonel Marcus Constable, Commander of Headquarters Northern Command, said in the statement. Littoral fights take place near or on the shore.
“We are deploying significant forces by land, air and sea to the training areas of both [Western Australia] and the [Northern Territory] including Mount Bundy Training Area, RAAF Base Curtin and Yampi Sound Training Area,” Colonel Christopher Steele, who leads the Marines in Darwin, said in the statement.
The entire 2,200-man Marine Rotational Force participates; he began a six-month rotation in the Northern Territory in March, according to Captain Joseph DiPietro, spokesman for the force.
The exercises call for moving troops and vehicles 650 miles from Darwin to Broome, 1,000 miles north of Perth in Western Australia, he said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
“The distances over which we train at Koolendong replicate the long distances and austere environments we might operate in throughout the Indo-Pacific,” he said.
Koolendong is likely a test of the logistics behind deploying units like the Marine Corps’ new Littoral Regiment to defend the Indo-Pacific’s archipelagos, Ross Babbage, Australia’s former deputy defense secretary, said in an e -mail Tuesday.
“This would likely involve company-sized units (100-120 troops) inserted into real or simulated short-range anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, as well as all situational awareness systems. .. that would be needed to make the concept work,” he said.
Australia’s large exercise areas are particularly useful for this type of testing, he said.
According to Carlyle Thayer, professor emeritus at the University of New South Wales and lecturer at the Australian Defense Force Academy.
“The most logical forward base for these forces would be in the Philippine archipelago,” he said in an email on Tuesday.
The US Army’s Logistics Support Ship 3, Gen. Brehon B. Somervell, will move vehicles and troops from Darwin to Broome, DiPietro said.
The rotational force’s MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor planes are also moving personnel beyond the range of Marine helicopters, he said.
“It’s a big job and there’s a lot to test and sort through to make sure it can work,” Babbage said.