U.S. and Australian Troops Relied on Internet Chat Rooms to Conduct Joint Exercise

Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit land on the beach aboard Landing Craft Utility 1646 during a beach assault in support of Talisman Saber 2013.

Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit land on the beach aboard Landing Craft Utility 1646 during a beach assault in support of Talisman Saber 2013. US Navy

Backpack satellite radios also played a key role.

Navy and Marine Corps units participating in the recent joint Talisman Saber exercise in Australia relied on Internet chat rooms and portable satellite radios for operational command and control.

The USS Blue Ridge, command ship of the 7th Fleet, controlled the exercise while the USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault ship, launched helicopters and tilt-rotor MV-22 Ospreys off its flight deck and amphibious vehicles from its well deck. The operation, which ran from July 15 through Aug. 5, included 18,000 U.S. and 9,000 Australian military personnel.

The ships, along with the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, operated off the northeast coast of Australia with Marines conducting operations ashore in partnership with Australian Army units near Townsville.   

The Blue Ridge packs six powerful satellite communications systems connected to seven onboard networks, which in normal operations feed information to 600 unclassified, 450 secret and 50 top secret terminals. The satellite systems provide a combined uplink throughput of 20 megabytes per second and 116 megabytes per second downlinks.

During Talisman Saber, the ship took on another 300 personnel, including 92 Australians. Capt. Susan BryerJoyner, 7th Fleet assistant chief of staff for communications, said in a telephone interview from the Blue Ridge that she beefed up the network with 22 unclassifed, 37 secret and seven top secret workstations along with 50 thin clients running the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System, known as CENTRIX, for use by Australian personnel.

Plain vanilla Internet chat stands out as the “favorite tool” for communications on the Blue Ridge and among ships and forces under its control, BryerJoyner said, noting “it’s quick and easy” with battle watch standers communicating through chat rooms dedicated to their area of interest.

The Blue Ridge also features five secret and two top secret video teleconferencing (VTC) suites. Joyner said Vice Adm. Scott H. Swift, 7th Fleet commander, used VTC on a twice daily basis to discuss face-to-face the battle rhythm of the exercise with his subordinate commanders and Australian counterparts.

BryerJoyner said that the Blue Ridge also used a technology for secure voice communications just approved for use aboard ships, Voice Over Secret Internet Protocol, developed by the Defense Information Systems Agency.

Australian Brig. Gen. David Coghlan said "We've brought together members of the army, navy and air force from around Australia and in some cases from places from around the world to join the Blue Ridge."

Coghlan, the exercise deputy commander, said, "The intricacies of coming aboard a U.S. Navy command and control ship have been challenging, but really useful and worthwhile." He added, "The level of integration with the U.S. is unprecedented and we appreciate it."

On the Bonhomme Richard, Maj. Todd O’Brien, communications officer for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, said the 2,000 Marines participating in the exercise primarily relied on satellite voice communications provided by Harris Corp.’s AN-PRC 117F backpack radios, which weigh just under 10 pounds. Maj. Todd O’Brien, the unit’s communications officer, said in a phone interview from the ship that the Marines deployed roughly 60 of these backpack radios during the exercise, which used the Navy UHF satellite fleet for communications with Marine and Australian units.

O’Brien said the exercise proved a real test of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s communications capabilities as it involved amphibious landings and then a push far inland “with multiple scenarios going on at once.”

The main infantry unit in the exercise, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines relied on VHF-FM Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System for communications between its headquarters and individual companies, O’Brien said.

During the exercise, the Marines also used HF terrestrial radios, but O’Brien said today’s Marines are rusty on the skills needed to use such gear compared to their predecessors.

The Marines started stationing troops in Darwin, Australia, in April 2012 as part of a renewed Defense Department focus on the Asia-Pacific region. O’Brien said the Talisman Saber exercise “strengthened our ties with the Australian forces.”

Correction: The initial version of this story misspelled Capt. Susan BryerJoyner's name. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.