The Australian Department of Defense (DoD) released the first image of the Australian air force’s encounter with a Chinese spy ship, which was believed to be attempting to gather sensitive information about the international Exercise Talisman Sabre.
An aerial photograph, which the Defense Department shared with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, depicts a RAAF P-8 Poseidon plane flying over a Chinese surveillance ship en route to Australia.
The image was captured last week from a different Australian military aircraft. The Chinese warship is the Dongdiao Class Auxiliary General Intelligence (AGI) vessel, spotted in international waters located within the Coral Sea.
On July 23, the Chinese vessel, identified with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) fleet designation number 793, was reportedly positioned off the Queensland coast, potentially as far south as Shoalwater Bay.
Its presence raised suspicions that it might be attempting to gather sensitive information on the international Exercise Talisman Sabre.
“An aerial photograph showing an RAAF P-8 Poseidon plane flying over a Chinese surveillance ship as it headed towards Australia last week has been obtained by the ABC” https://t.co/W8YcUMvg8P
— Andrew Greene (@AndrewBGreene) July 23, 2023
Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, the Chief of Joint Operations, informed the ABC that he authorized the deployment of a P-8 surveillance aircraft on the morning of July 20 to establish communication with the Chinese ship.
“It [P-8 surveillance aircraft] located the AGI, we hailed the AGI, we got a courteous response as you’d expect in normal interactions in international waters,” General Bilton added.
Bilton further elaborated that while the Chinese surveillance ship engages in passive data collection, the Australian forces will adapt and adjust their operations accordingly.
He emphasized that they do not wish to divulge certain sensitive aspects of their training and possess methods to effectively employ their forces without compromising those confidential elements.
Talisman Sabre Military Exercise
Previously, Australian defense and security experts anticipated that Beijing would send two spy ships to Talisman Sabre this year, considering the extensive scale of the exercises conducted across Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and the east coast of Australia.
Since 2017, China’s Navy has been proactively deploying at least one Auxiliary General Intelligence (AGI) vessel for the explicit purpose of engaging in surveillance operations during each of the biennial training drills, according to the Australian media.
This regular pattern of deploying AGI vessels to snoop on these exercises indicates a continuous effort by China to closely monitor and gather information on the military activities and capabilities of the United States and its allied nations.
This year’s Talisman Sabre exercise involves the significant participation of 30,000 personnel from 13 countries.
With its expanding scale and heightened sophistication, the exercise reflects the current US strategic planning in deterring potential military action by China against Taiwan.
To achieve this objective, the United States aims to strengthen its network of alliances in the region and bolster the interoperability of its military forces with friendly nations.
The exercise is specifically designed to allow soldiers to practice various military operations, including amphibious landings, ground maneuvers, air combat, and maritime operations.
Additionally, the exercise emphasizes logistics, allowing the US to test its capabilities in rapidly deploying troops and equipment across the Pacific region.
Originally a joint effort between the US and Australia, the Talisman Sabre exercises have since evolved. The current iteration, marking the 10th version, involves the participation of militaries from 13 nations, the largest number ever, and will span across a wider geographic area.
Japan is also participating in the two-week-long military exercise and even test-fired its Type-12 anti-ship missile for the first time in Australia. Germany is also joining for the first time, allowing its troops access to expansive new training grounds.
Additionally, several military forces from Pacific island nations, where there has been ongoing competition for influence between the US and China, are participating in the exercise. This includes the participation of countries like Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Tonga.
Furthermore, four nations, including India, are sending observers to the exercise. Meanwhile, Chinese experts have characterized the ongoing military exercise, the largest of its kind, as a “paper tiger.”
Chinese state media has accused the United States of aiming to encircle China in the Indo-Pacific region by involving countries like Australia and other allies in the ongoing military exercise. They assert that this “unprecedented” exercise aims to prepare for future military conflict.