New Delhi, November 16
The Indian Navy’s Vikramaditya carrier battle group, the Nimitz strike group of the US Navy and several frontline warships from the Australian and Japanese navies will carry out a four-day high-intensity war game in the Northern Arabian Sea from Tuesday as part of the second phase of the Malabar exercise.
This exercise will involve coordinated operations of increasing complexity among the navies of the four countries which are part of the Quad or Quadrilateral Coalition, officials said.
The first phase of the Malabar exercise took place in the Bay of Bengal from November 3 to 6 and featured a number of complex drills including anti-submarine and anti-air warfare operations.
The mega exercise is taking place at a time India and China are locked in an over six-month-long bitter border standoff in eastern Ladakh that has majorly strained the ties between the two countries.
“The second phase of exercise Malabar will be conducted in the Northern Arabian Sea from November 17 to 20,” the Navy said in a statement, adding it will witness operations centered around the Vikramaditya carrier battle group and Nimitz carrier strike group.
It said the exercise “highlights enhanced convergence of views amongst the four vibrant democracies on maritime issues, and showcases their commitment to an open, inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order”.
The participation of the US strike group led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the exercise will significantly enhance its overall impact, said an official on the condition of anonymity.
The USS Nimitz is the world’s largest warship. A carrier battle group or carrier strike group is a mega naval fleet comprising an aircraft carrier, accompanied by a large number of destroyers, frigates and other ships.
In the exercise, the Nimitz will be accompanied by cruiser Princeton and destroyer Sterett in addition to P8A maritime reconnaissance aircraft. The Royal Australian Navy will be represented by frigate Ballarat along with its integral helicopter.
“The two carriers, along with other ships, submarines and aircraft of the participating navies, would be engaged in high-intensity naval operations over four days,” the Indian Navy said.
It said the exercise will include cross-deck flying operations and advanced air defence exercises by MIG 29K fighters of Vikramaditya and F-18 fighters and E2C Hawkeye from Nimitz.
“In addition, advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare exercises, seamanship evolutions and weapon firings will also be undertaken to further enhance interoperability and synergy between the four friendly navies,” it said.
Apart from Vikramaditya and its fighter and helicopter air-wings, the Indian Navy will also deploy destroyers Kolkata and Chennai, stealth frigate Talwar and fleet support ship Deepak in the exercise.
The Indian contingent will be led by Rear Admiral Krishna Swaminathan, Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet.
Indigenously built submarine Khanderi and P8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft of the Indian Navy will also showcase their capabilities during the exercise.
Last month, India announced that Australia will be part of the Malabar exercise which effectively made it a drill by all four member nations of the Quad which is primarily focusing on containing China’s military expansionism in the Indo-Pacific region.
China has been suspicious about the purpose of the Malabar exercise as it feels that the annual war game is an effort to contain its influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
The invitation by India to the Australian Navy for the exercise came two weeks after foreign ministers of the ‘Quad’ member nations held extensive talks in Tokyo with a focus on enhancing their cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
The Malabar exercise started in 1992 as a bilateral drill between the Indian Navy and the US Navy in the Indian Ocean. Japan became a permanent member of the exercise in 2015. — PTI