First phase of Malabar naval exercise begins in Bay of Bengal

Malabar exercise to commence in Arabian Sea tmrw
(File photo)

New Delhi (NVI): The first phase of quadrilateral naval exercise – Malabar 2020, commenced off Visakhapatnam in the Bay of Bengal today. With an eye on China, the navies of four Quad countries — India, the US, Japan, and Australia — will participate in the crucial naval drill to push for free and fair Indo-Pacific and enhanced interoperability in the region.

The exercise will witness the resolve of the four countries towards an open Indo-Pacific and countering the growing Chinese assertiveness in the region.

The naval exercise, being conducted from Nov 3 to 6 will showcase high-levels of synergy and coordination between the 4 friendly navies, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement yesterday.

The 24th edition of the naval exercise is scheduled in two phases. Phase 1 of the exercise involves participation by the Indian Navy (IN), United States Navy (USN), Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF), and Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

Phase 2 of MALABAR-20 is scheduled to be conducted in the Arabian Sea in mid-November 2020, as per the MoD.

MALABAR series of maritime exercises commenced in 1992 as a bilateral IN-USN exercise. JMSDF  joined MALABAR in 2015. The 2020 edition will now witness the participation of the RAN in this joint maritime exercise, the ministry said.

Phase-1 will witness the participation of Indian Navy units with United States Ship (USS) John S McCain (Guided-missile destroyer), Australian Ship (HMAS) Ballarat (long-range frigates) with integral MH-60 helicopter, and Japan Maritime Self Defence Ship (JMSDF) Onami (Destroyer) with integral SH-60 helicopter.

The Indian Navy participation in Phase 1 will be led by Rear Admiral Sanjay Vatsayan, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet. Indian Navy units participating in the exercise include destroyer Ranvijay, frigate Shivalik, Off-Shore Patrol Vessel Sukanya, Fleet Support Ship Shakti and submarine Sindhuraj. In addition, Advanced Jet Trainer Hawk, long-range maritime patrol aircraft P-8I, Dornier maritime patrol aircraft, and helicopters will also be participating in the exercise.

The exercise, being conducted as a ‘non-contact, at sea only’ exercise in view of COVID-19 pandemic, will showcase the high-levels of synergy and coordination between the friendly navies, which is based on their shared values and commitment to an open, inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order. MALABAR 20 Phase 1 would witness complex and advanced naval exercises including surface, anti-submarine and anti-air warfare operations, cross deck flying, seamanship evolutions and weapon firing exercises, the MoD said.