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NEWS | Aug. 1, 2023

U.S. Army M1A2 tanks train in Australia alongside partner nations for the first time

By Maj. Jessica Rovero

TOWNSVILLE, Australia - The 1st Armored Division brought the U.S. Army’s M1A2 Abrams tank to Australia for the first time to train alongside partners and allies during exercise Talisman Sabre 23.

The 1st Armored Division deployed a tank company plus personnel from Fort Bliss, Texas, and 14 tanks from the Army Prepositioned Stocks in Korea to areas in and around Townsville in early July.

According to the 1st Armored Division Commander, Maj. Gen. James P. Isenhower III, this was an opportunity to demonstrate the division’s and the Army’s power projection capabilities.

“It’s quite a logistics challenge to move equipment as heavy as a tank company,” Isenhower said. “But, as we all know, tanks are extremely decisive in large-scale combat operations; and so, we need to validate our ability to project that power over distances across the shore, into land and then employ them.”

The division selected Comanche Company, 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment as the first U.S. Army tank company to participate in Talisman Sabre.

Isenhower conducted a battlefield circulation to the Townsville Field Training Area in Queensland July 24, where he met with the Comanche Soldiers, key leaders, and others involved in the exercise. Throughout his visit he highlighted how this is the first time the Army’s tanks have participated in the exercise and the value of interoperability.

“This year is the first time we’ve used M1A2 Abrams side-by-side with different partner and allied countries that are participating,” Isenhower said. “There are all sorts of different objectives we have associated with that maneuver. Interoperability in terms of just how we speak to each other. We have very similar standard operating procedures, but sometimes a radio call or a call for fire or even a fire command can be slightly different; and so understanding those differences beforehand are really important to us.”

Isenhower noted that exercises like Talisman Sabre are critical because they allow allies and partners to work through those frictions and differences in communications and language to create a common understanding. By working through the little things, our militaries can get into the more challenging aspects of maneuvering, providing fire and maneuver, supporting fires to each other as we move in mechanized battles.

Comanche Company was initially a task organized as an attachment to Battle Group Ram of the Australian Army’s 7th Brigade for the exercise. The company joined the Australian, French, Fijian, and New Zealand units that comprised the battle group. From July 21 - 29, the company conducted operations in support of the Australian Army’s 7th Brigade.

“The level of interoperability we’ve been able to achieve with Comanche embedded inside one of our battle groups has been really a good tribute in terms of the close relationship between Australia and the United States,” said Australian Army Lt. Col. Rory Hale, chief of staff of Headquarters, 7th Brigade. “The ability to be able to plug and play assets across the coalition really increases our combat power and our effectiveness to be able to respond to any kind of conflict within the region crossing the Pacific and more broadly across the globe, if required, to form a coalition in support of global security.”

According to Hale, Battle Group Ram has had limited opportunity to exercise with tanks within the last training year, so Comanche’s attachment offered them the chance to develop an understanding of how to incorporate the armor capability into their formations.

“To have a full tank company be employed within the battle group provided a really good opportunity, for not only the battle group but right down to the lowest level of integrating infantry with tanks, particularly in urban settings and clearances,” Hale said.

The first part of the exercise also provided a different perspective for the U.S. Soldiers.

“I’m taking away an understanding of how various nations fight, not just their tanks, but also their reconnaissance and how they are working with additional smaller nations,” said U.S. Army Capt. Jadon Arend, commander of Comanche Company.

Arend highlighted the way the Australian and partner nations employed their infantry forces with the armored unit was very different from his experience of combined arms breaches at the National Training Center. He gained insight into how to implement the capabilities of a tank company for smaller-scale events within more restricted terrain.

Comanche Company will finish exercise Talisman Sabre re-task organized as a part of the Australian Army’s 3rd Brigade under the 2nd Cavalry Regiment and is a welcome addition to the gaining unit.

“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity, particularly because the Australian Army will receive M1A2s in a short time frame,” said Lt. Col. Ashley Hicks, commanding officer of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. “So, it’s a great opportunity for my team to see the A2 in action. Integrate with the team, get familiar with the platform, all of its advantages, and some of its limitations, and we’re really looking forward to that opportunity.”

The Australian Defence Force is on track to procure 75 M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tanks under the Project Land 907 Phase 2, which was approved in January 2022, and Hicks is looking forward to receiving the new platform.

“The tank is a game changer on the battlefield. The combat power and the combat multiplier our main battle tanks bring to the combat brigade and the division is absolutely unique, and having the latest capability in the M1A2 keeps us at the forefront of technology.”

In addition to seeing the M1A2 in action, Hicks identified additional benefits to having a U.S. tank company participate in the exercise alongside his unit.

“It’s the first time for our team that they’ll fight side-by-side with the U.S. tankies, and I think just seeing them in action, getting comfortable around them, that cross-talk, sharing tactics, techniques procedures, sharing ways to do battle procedure just makes it more seamless if we need to exercise or fight together in the future,” Hicks stated.

Following Talisman Sabre, the 3rd Brigade and Comanche Company will transition to a combined arms live fire exercise with a continued demonstration of interoperability by integrating a troop from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment with Comanche Company and a U.S. tank platoon into the tank squadron to live fire.