Malabar 2018: The mega military exercise begins


Sayan Chatterjee

NEW DELHI : India and its two strategic partners — the US and Japan — will hold the Malabar naval exercise from next week off the coast of Guam in the Philippine Sea with an aim to deepen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region where China has been strengthening its military footprint.  Malabar 2018 will have the participation of navies from India, the US and Japan The harbour phase of the exercise between June 7-10 will feature professional interactions among all the three navies.

Deputy Chief of the Indian Naval Staff Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar said the latest edition of the annual exercise will be very significant in terms of the “scope and complexity” it was aiming at with a view to deal with threats and challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. The exercise begins days after the Pentagon in a largely symbolic move to reflect new US national priorities changed the name of the Pacific Command to the US Indo-Pacific Command.

The command is responsible for all US military activities in the greater Pacific region. It has about 375,000 civilian and military personnel assigned to the area, which includes India. Indian Navy has assigned two of its indigenously designed and built ships, the multi-purpose stealth frigate INS Sahyadri, missile corvette INS Kamorta, fleet tanker INS Shakti and long range maritime patrol aircraft P8I for the exercises.  The US Navy forces will include their Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan with its air wing; two Ticonderoga class cruisers, USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville; two Arleigh Burke class destroyers, USS Benfold and USS Mustin; a Los Angeles-class attack submarine and one Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft P8A.

Whereas, The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force would be represented by one of their Hyuga class 27,000-tonne helicopter carrier JS Ise, a Soryu-class submarine, Takanami class destroyer JS Suzunami and Kawasaki P-1 maritime aircraft for the drill.

The naval drill became annual feature only after 2002 following nuclear tensions in 1998. The Indian warships under the command of Rear Admiral Dinesh K. Tripathi, Flag Officer Commanding, Eastern Fleet, are currently on an overseas deployment to South East Asia and the Western Pacific.

According to an Indian Navy spokesperson, the three ships are scheduled to reach on Thursday for the Harbour Phase of the 22nd edition of Malabar taking place off Guam — the island in Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean under the US control.

It is for the first time the exercise is being conducted off Guam. In 2017, it was held on the Eastern Sea Board of India, off Chennai and Visakhapatnam. Over the last 26 years, the Maritime exercise has grown in scope and complexity and aims to address the variety of shared threats and challenges to maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, the spokesperson further added.

The sea phase includes a diverse range of activities at sea including aircraft carrier operations, air defence, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, visit board search and seizure (VBSS), joint manoeuvres and tactical procedures, as reported.