An eye in the sky
Air Force’s Sergeant Taryn Allen had a unique role and vantage point during Exercise Talisman Sabre 21 (TS21).
CAPTION: Sergeant Taryn Allen from No. 11 Squadron on board a P-8A Poseidon during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2021. Story by Flight Lieutenant Chloe Stevenson. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Emma Schwenke.
As an airborne electronic analyst, she sat in the back of a highly specialised Boeing 737 aircraft, monitoring electromagnetic emissions and radar pictures of nearby aircraft and ships to provide real-time situational awareness and information to her crew.
“My role on the P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft specialises in anti-surface warfare,” Sergeant Allen said.
“In support of a mission, we will fly out there and I will give the pilots a radar picture of the weather, any airborne contacts and any surface ships that are in the area.
“I also operate the electro optics and infrared sensor to visually identify contacts detected via radar and the electromagnetic spectrum.
“Once we’ve found surface contacts, we then analyse electromagnetic emissions detected to determine what radars they have turned on and then we can pinpoint what exact ships they are before we get there, so everyone has an idea of what’s out there.
“We also keep the aircraft safe [as we work] with other aircraft or helicopters that might be out there flying around as well.
“We get that detection on our scope and inform the pilots to ensure we avoid them.”
Sergeant Allen said the exercise was great because of the number of countries involved.
“Getting to talk to the different participating nations, including the Japanese and the South Koreans, because we’ve been flying around their ships – the Canadians, the Americans – it’s just been really interesting,” she said.
“It’s a lot nicer being able to do it in the real world rather than sitting in a simulator practising it.
‘I really enjoyed the exercise”
Sergeant Allen said participating in TS21 added complexity and realism to training. When the job’s on for real, the team needs to be able to pull together and work as a team.
“I was involved in a successful search-and-rescue mission a few months ago, 650 nautical miles off the west coast of Australia,” she said.
“An Indonesian fishing vessel was sinking and we were able to help by dropping two life rafts and survival equipment and providing surveillance while other help was able to arrive and rescue the 20 fishermen on board.
“That was quite eye-opening and one of the largest search-and-rescue missions I have been involved in.
“It was really rewarding when they were all rescued and being able to contribute to that in my role.
“Training on exercises like Talisman Sabre helps us in those situations, as it’s all about practising for that real-time mission.
“A lot of our job relies on everyone being on the same page and working together, as we are all doing completely different jobs, to give to the same outcome.
“You can have a crew that can all be amazing individually, but it’s vitally important to be able to work together as a team.
“It’s through teamwork that we get the mission done.”
There were two RAAF P-8A Poseidons deployed to Townsville for TS21 working with United States Navy Poseidon aircraft.