Australian Army officer Lieutenant Andrew Davis from 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, takes aim on the combat marksmanship range at Mount Stuart military training area on March 7, 2017.
Australian Army officer Lieutenant Andrew Davis from 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, takes aim on the combat marksmanship range at Mount Stuart military training area on March 7, 2017. News Corp Australia

Military exercise may be cancelled after soldiers' deaths

THE Department of Defence is refusing to confirm whether a major international training exercise, set to begin next month, will go ahead following the deaths of two soldiers.

The Army has suspended training activities across its combat brigades while it reviews risk assessment processes and training safety management.

It comes after Private Jason Challis was killed this week during a live-fire exercise at Mount Bundey Military Training Area, about 115km southeast of Darwin.

Pte Challis' death came a week after Trooper Stuart Reddan, 21, died when a tree branch fell on him while he was a passenger in an armoured personnel carrier at Shoalwater Bay and days after five Townsville soldiers were injured in two incidents at High Range.

Defence Minister Marise Payne said the Army would progressively return to training once a review was complete into the incidents, and Brigade Commanders and Army leadership were satisfied that the necessary procedures and protections are in place.

With no timeline set for the review, speculation is growing as to whether Exercise Talisman Sabre 17 will go ahead as planned.

This year will be the seventh time the exercise has been conducted and will involve over 30,000 Australian and US defence personnel in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area and Mount Bundey.

Personnel and assets will also operate from Australia in Darwin, Townsville, Brisbane and Canberra, and from the United States in Hawaii, Indiana, Virginia, Colorado and Washington.

The Department of Defence yesterday refused to answer questions about whether the training exercise suspension will postpone or impact the ADF's part in TS17, scheduled to take place from late June through to late July 2017.

News Corp Australia

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