The Malabar exercise is taking place amid the ongoing military standoff between armies of India and China in the Sikkim section and Beijing ramping up its naval presence in South China Sea.
95 aircraft, 16 ships and 2 submarines from 3 countries are taking part in Malabar exercise
On-board INS Jalashwa: The three-nation Malabar Naval Exercise involving India, Japan and the United States maritime forces which began today, is setting a great example to the world, a top US official has said.
"I would like to say this is a strategic message to China. It (the message) would also be the same to Canada or to Republic of Korea or to Australia or to any other maritime force," US Navy Commander, Rear Admiral William D Byrne Jr told reporters after the inauguration of the five-day Malabar Naval Exercise on-board INS Jalashwa.
The US, Japanese and Indian maritime forces began the Malabar Naval Exercise-2017 aimed at "achieving deeper military ties between the three nations."
"Operating together and practising together is a good thing. It is because -- we are better together and we learn from each other. We know who we are and what is our capability. That is the strategic message to the entire world. I think, we are setting a great example here in Malabar (exercise) 2017", he said.
The Malabar exercise is taking place amid the ongoing military standoff between armies of India and China in the Sikkim section and Beijing ramping up its naval presence in South China Sea. Responding to a query about it, Flag Officer, Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command, HCS Bisht said, "it has nothing to do with Malabar Exercise."
"The Process of Malabar exercise starts a year before (its scheduled beginning) and the initial planning takes place six months in advance. The stand-off you are talking about has got nothing to do with the Malabar exercise. Through this exercise we learn from each other," he said.
Flag Officer Bisht reiterated that the joint Naval exercise would focus on the "mutual learning," "sharing of best practices" and enhancing the "inter-operability" among the three countries.
To a query on the conduct of Malabar exercise vis-a-vis the situation prevailing around North Korea, US Commander Byrne said, "There are certainly global threats. Malabar is not focused on any specified threat. It is directed towards three countries India, Japan and United States. It is not directed towards any specific country or threat."
As many as 95 aircraft, 16 ships and two submarines from the three countries are taking part in the Naval exercise.
Taking part in the trilateral naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal would be US Ship Nimitz (CVN68), guided missile cruise USS Princeton (CG59), guided missile destroyers USS Howard (DDG83), USS Shoup (DDG86) and USS Kidd (DDG100), a Poseidon P-8A aircraft as well as a Los Angeles fast-attack submarine.
Besides, Japan Maritime Self Defence Force ships JS Izumo (DDH 183), JS Sazanami (DD1 13) along with Indian Naval Ship Jalashwa and INS Vikramaditya would participate in the joint Naval exercise, an official press release said.
The 21st edition of the exercise, conducted ashore and at-sea, would include professional exchanges on carrier strike group operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance operations, surface and anti-submarine warfare.
Medical operations, damage control, explosive ordinance disposal, helicopter operations and anti-submarine warfare would also take place.
The at-sea exercise includes events such as submarine familiarisation, air defence exercises, medical evacuation drills, surface ware fare exercises, communication exercise and search and rescue operations.
Indian, Japanese and the US maritime forces have an understanding and knowledge of shared working environment at the sea.The joint naval exercise is a demonstration of a commitment of all three nations to address common maritime challenges across the spectrum of operations and will go a long way in enhancing maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region for the benefit of the global maritime community.
This year’s Malabar exercise is notable on several fronts. First, it’s the first naval exercise between the three countries to involve carriers from each navy.
The Indian Navy has dispatched INS Vikramaditya, its modified Russian-made Kiev-class carrier that was commissioned in 2013. The United States has sent the USS Nimitzsupercarrier to the exercises. Meanwhile, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force sent JS Izumo, which left Japan earlier this spring for a multiple-month-long deployment to Southeast Asia before arriving in the Indian Ocean for Malabar 2017.
The Izumo is one of two Japanese warships that are among the largest the country has operated since the end of the Second World War. Japan describes the Izumo-class vessels as “helicopter destroyers” and not aircraft carriers; the warships are not equipped to launch fighter aircraft, but could likely be retrofitted for short-take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variants of the F-35B. The Izumo is joined at Malabar 2017 by JS Sazanami; both vessels recently joined U.S. Nimitz-class supercarrier USS Ronald Reagan for bilateral exercises in the South China Sea.
Excluding the three carriers from each nation, at least fourteen other warships and submarines from the three nations are participating in this year’s exercise. Additionally, the Indian Navy has sent P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft to this exercise, underlining the anti-submarine warfare focus this year. The United States has also sent a P-8A Poseidon aircraft to the exercise.
Notably, Australia, a former Malabar participant, is not participating in Malabar 2017, despite interest from Canberra earlier this year. India and Australia held a separate bilateral naval exercise in June and the United States and Australia just concluded the latest iteration of their major bilateral exercise, Talisman Saber 2017. Australia had joined India, the United States, Japan, and Singapore for the 2007 iteration of the Malabar exercise, drawing a sharp reaction from China, which perceived the multilateral drill that year as a threatening signal of oncoming containment of its ambitions by like-minded democracies.
Malabar 2017 consists of both ashore and at-sea activities. The activities ashore, which are being held in Chennai, “include subject matter expert and professional exchanges on carrier strike group operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance operations, surface and anti-submarine warfare, medical operations, damage control, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), helicopter operations, and visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations,” according to a statement by the U.S. Navy.
The at-sea activities include “liaison officer professional exchanges and embarks; a photo exercise; submarine familiarization; high-value unit defense; air defense exercises; medical evacuation drills; surface warfare exercises; communications exercises; search and rescue exercises; helicopter cross-deck evolutions; underway replenishments; gunnery exercises; VBSS exercises; and anti-submarine warfare.”
The anti-submarine warfare focus of this year’s Malabar also carries subtext given the ever-increasing and regular operation of Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy submarines in the Indian Ocean. Since 2015, at least, Chinese Shang-class and Song-class submarines have been deployed in the Indian Ocean, raising concerns for India. China has, in the meantime, also broken ground on its first overseas naval base in Djibouti.