Tribune News Service
New Delhi, November 16
India and the United States will field their largest warships at the Malabar naval exercise starting in the Arabian Sea on Tuesday. The 1,00,000-tonne USS Nimitz and 49,000-tonne INS Vikramaditya — both sea-going aircraft carriers — will lead the exercise.
The Japanese and Australian navies will join the exercise, the first such event for the four countries since 2007. Spread over four days (November 17-20), this is the second phase of the exercise. The first phase was conducted in the Bay of Bengal from November 3-6.
The mega exercise is taking place at a time when India and China are locked in an over six-month-long border standoff in eastern Ladakh that has majorly strained ties between the two countries.
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. As per the Indian authorities, the second phase “will involve coordinated operations of increasing complexity between the navies of the four nations”. Joint operations will be centered around Vikramaditya carrier battle group and Nimitz carrier strike group. The two carriers, along with other ships, submarines and aircraft of the participating navies, would be engaged in high-intensity operations over four days.
These 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. Advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare exercises, seamanship evolutions and weapon firings will also be undertaken to further enhance inter-operability and synergy between the four navies.
The exercise will be led by Rear Admiral Krishna Swaminathan, Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet.