PHOTOS: Inside the warfare unfolding on our doorstep
As workers fill office buildings, children head off to school and malls are packed with shoppers; they are oblivious to the lethal, modern warfare taking place just 30 minutes from Townsville.
It's all part of a simulated warfighting training exercise for Townsville's 3rd Brigade, with the live fire attack using armoured vehicles, armoured personnel carriers, helicopters and dismounted soldiers.
The brigade's graduated training exercise, Exercise Long Khanh, is the culmination of a number of smaller training exercises that have taken place over the past month as part of Exercise Brolga Run.
Commander of the 3rd Brigade, Brigadier Kahlil Fegan, said the training activity simulated a high-end warfighting task typically seen overseas.
"Everything we're seeing is live fire, everything is lethal and everything (here) is what we'd be deploying and using if we found ourselves in a warfighting environment overseas," he said.
"I've rotated thousands of soldiers through the training that we've conducted up here over the last month, but (involved in Exercise Long Khanh) is a combined arms combat team.
"Just over 100 soldiers will actually be physically doing the assault on the ground but what you can't see is hundreds of soldiers who are directly or indirectly supporting that attack.
"What we've been able to achieve out here in this austere and robust environment is a significant increase in the level of standards and capabilities that we're able to deploy, so this is the first of this size for the 3rd brigade this year."
Engaging several roles including signallers, snipers, joint fires control operators and company commanders, tanks were used to clear a number of mine obstacles to allow infantry to secure an area.
Heavy artillery could be heard around the attack area, with helicopters used to remove "casualties".
The end task is to train a combat team that is certified to conduct high-end warfighting in a complex environment.
The live fire attack exercise was named after The Battle of Long Khanh, which took place during the Vietnam War between June 5 and 7, 1971.
Brigadier Fegan said the exercise had been a significant display of the capabilities of the Australian Defence Force.
"It's reinforced in my mind that the Australian soldiers, if not one of the best, are arguably the best trained soldiers available quite possibly anywhere in the world," he said.
"Not only that, it reinforced just how lucky we are in the 3rd Brigade, residing in Townsville, to have a world-class training area within half an hour's drive of our barracks.
"Conducting Exercise Brolga Run … has given me the opportunity to live out here with the soldiers in the field and I must say I've been very, very surprised and impressed by the high standards our soldiers have."
Firing a javelin missile a rarity
Monday's exercise included the very rare firing of a highly specialised, self-propelled missile, the javelin.
With a maximum effectiveness of 2000 to 2500 metres, the javelin is typically used in a combat team attack scenario and is fired on high value targets such as tanks.
It is described as a "niche capability".
The missile is hooked on to a sighting system to warm up, before a seeker is activated which cools the missile down. the tracker is then locked on to the heat signature or target before pressing the button and letting it go.
Corporal Thomas Meloury-Jones said those tasked with firing the javelin may only do it once in a decade long career, with exercises during Brolga Run including blank fire exercises only.
He fired his first one in 2014.
"For the guys this is probably going to be the only opportunity in their career to fire the jav," Corporal Meloury-Jones said.
"We've got a simulator back on base which is a computer set up that hooks into the clue itself, the clue being a sighting system that hooks onto the javelin.
Each firing of the javelin costs around $120,000.
Defence playing by the COVID-19 rules
When it comes to COVID-safe plans, nobody is exempt - not even the army.
Monday's live fire exercise was conducted in accordance with state government COVID-19 regulations, changing how training is done and making things look a little different.
Mitigation strategies were put in place, and in exercises leading up to Monday's attack during Exercise Brolga Run, the number of people in the field at any time was reduced.
It's meant rotating soldiers through training activities to remain compliant with restrictions.
With many elements from other states ruled out, Brigadier Kahlil Fegan said he was confident whatever they lacked through physical teams or people on the ground had been replicated through other means.
"Normally we'd love to be able to have a bit more of a joint flavour, that is particularly our air force elements," he said.
"Also the 6th Brigade, which is dispersed throughout Australia but predominantly in South East Queensland, they have some very specialist niche capabilities we love to work with physically whenever we can and we've been unable to do that on this exercise."
Brigadier Fegan said while the 3rd Brigade expected to provide some form of relief to southern states in the future, when that would occur was yet to be confirmed.
"We've always got force elements within the 3rd Brigade that are trained, ready, set aside and able to meet government requirements," he said.
Originally published as PHOTOS: Inside the warfare unfolding on our doorstep