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India & US to Upgrade Malabar Navy Drill
Dec 22, 2016

India and the US are planning to further upgrade their already expansive and top-level Malabar annual naval exercise in which now Japan has also became a regular participant with a renewed thrust on anti-submarine warfare operations.

The Indian Security Establishment has been keeping a close watch on the increasing forays by Chinese nuclear and conventional submarines in the Indian Ocean Region and they tracked atleast six Chinese Submarines in the Indian Ocean Region, with an operational turn-around stop mainly at Karachi, over the last four years. 

  • India and US want to make the 21st Malabar exercise, which will be held in the Indian Ocean next year, bigger and more complex.
  • India is extensively using its P-8I aircraft, which are packed with radars and armed with deadly Harpoon Block-II missiles, MK-54 lightweight torpedoes, rockets and depth charges, to keep tabs on Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean Region. 

Strong Chinese Protest

The US would like to include other countries like Australia in the Malabar war games on a regular basis to build interoperability in the Asia-Pacific region. But China views any such ‘naval grouping’ as a move to contain it, and had lodged a strong protest against the Malabar exercise in the Bay of Bengal in 2007 when it had been expanded to include Japan, Australia and Singapore.

The India government had then restricted the Malabar to just a bilateral endeavour with the US whenever it was held near Indian waters. Japan was included only when the exercise was held in north-western Pacific in 2009 and 2014. 

But after it came to office in 2014, the NDA government has made Japan a permanent fixture in the Malabar series. Japan took part in the exercise held in Bay of Bengal in October 2015 as well as in the western Pacific in June 2016.

India has been cranking up the strategic partnerships with both US and Japan, with maritime cooperation emerging as a major thrust area.

With the US a new bilateral maritime security dialogue as well as navy-to-navy talks on anti-submarine warfare have been set in motion now.

Exercise Malabar-16: In consonance with India’s ‘Act East Policy’ and growing relations among India, US and Japan, Indian Navy ships Satpura, Sahyadri, Shakti and Kirch took part in the 20th edition of Exercise Malabar-16 with the US Navy and Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF). 

  • Indian Navy and US Navy have regularly conducted the annual bilateral exercise named ‘Malabar’ since 1992. 
  • Since 2007, Malabar has been held alternatively off India and in the Western Pacific. 
  • The 19th edition of the MAlabar-15 was conducted off Chennai and included participation by the JMSDF.
  • The 20th edition of the exercise Malabar-16 was conducted from 14 to 17 June 2016 with the harbour phase at Sasebo from 10 to 13 June  and the sea phase in the Pacific Ocean from 14 to 17 June. 
  • The primary aim of this exercise was to increase interoperability amongst the three navies and develop common understanding of procedures for Maritime Security Operations. 
  • The scope of Malabar-16 included professional interactions in harbour and a diverse range of activities at sea, including complex surface, sub-surface and air operations.

India: The Indian Navy ships participated in the exercise were from the Eastern Fleet—INS Sahyadri and INS Satpura, indigenously built guided missile stealth frigates, INS Shakti, a modern fleet tanker and support ship and INS Kirch, an indigenous guided missile corvette. The ships have embarked one Sea King 42B ASW helicopter and two Chetak utility helicopters.

The USA: The US Navy was represented by ships from CTF 70 of the USN 7th fleet, which is based at Yokosuka, Japan. The CTF will include the aircraft carrier USS John C Stennis (CVN 74), Ticonderoga class Cruiser USS Mobile Bay and Arleigh Burke class destroyers USS Stockdale and USS Chung Hoon, all with embarked helicopters. In addition, one nuclear powered submarine, carrier wing aircraft and Long Range Maritime Patrol aircraft also took part in the exercise.

Japan:
The JMSDF was represented by JS Hyuga, a helicopter carrier with SH 60K integral helicopters and Long Range Maritime Patrol aircraft, besides other advanced warships for specific parts of the exercise. Additionally, the Special Forces of the three navies interacted during the exercise. 

Malabar–
16 was another significant step in strengthening mutual confidence and inter-operability as well as sharing of best practices between the Indian, Japanese and US Navies.


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