Malabar-2020 naval exercise concludes in Arabian sea

New Delhi (NVI): The second phase of Malabar maritime exercise, which saw the participation of navies from four QUAD countries — India, US, Japan and Australia — to counter the growing assertiveness of China in the Indian Ocean Region, concluded at the Arabian sea today.

The last day of second phase saw Indian MiG-29K and American F18 fighter jets carry out simulated attacks and coordinated firing on a surface target in the Arabian sea. The second phase of the four-nation maritime exercise also witnessed naval war games featuring India, the United States, Japan and Australia.

Navies of 4 QUAD nations in action during second phase of Malabar-2020.

With this, the 24th edition of the annual naval exercise, which was hosted by the Indian Navy in two phases, came to a close.

It is pertinent to mention here, that the exercise holds utmost importance in the wake of China’s unilateralism in the Indo-Pacific region. The joint exercise by the QUAD group of nations is a key instrument of deterrence for a free and open Indo-Pacific region, keeping China in mind.

Notably, this is the first time in years, that all four members of the alliance are taking part. The exercise also took place amid escalating tensions between India and China over Ladakh border issue.

Earlier, Phase 1 of the exercise involving participation by Indian Navy (IN), United States Navy (USN), Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN), was conducted off Visakhapatnam in Bay of Bengal from 3-6 November.

India, Japan, US and Australia navies during phase 1 of the Malabar exercise.

The second phase was conducted in the Arabian Sea from 17-20 November, PIB’s Defence Wing said in a release.

Phase-1 witnessed participation of Indian Navy units with United States Ship (USS) John S McCain, Australian Ship (HMAS) Ballarat with integral MH-60 helicopter, and Japan Maritime Self Defence Ship (JMSDF) Onami, with integral SH-60 helicopter.

Indian Navy’s participation in this phase was led by Rear Admiral Sanjay Vatsayan, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet and included destroyer Ranvijay, indigenous frigate Shivalik, Offshore Patrol Vessel Sukanya, Fleet Support Ship Shakti, submarine Sindhuraj, P8I and Dornier maritime reconnaissance aircraft and Advanced Jet Trainer Hawk, the Defence Wing said.

During Phase 2, the four navies participated in joint operations centered on the Vikramaditya Carrier Battle Group of the Indian Navy and Nimitz Carrier Strike Group of the US Navy.

The two aircraft carriers, along with other ships, submarine and aircraft of the participating navies, engaged in high intensity naval operations including cross-deck flying operations and advanced air defence exercises by MIG 29K fighters of Vikramaditya and F/A-18 fighters and E2C Hawkeye from Nimitz.

US Navy’s Strike Carrier Nimitz was accompanied by cruiser Princeton and destroyer Sterett in addition to P8A maritime reconnaissance aircraft.  The Royal Australian Navy and JMSDF were represented by frigate Ballarat and destroyer Murasame respectively, along with their integral helicopters.

Indian Navy’s participation in Phase 2 was led by Rear Admiral Krishna Swaminathan, Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet and included aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, indigenous destroyers Kolkata and Chennai, stealth frigate Talwar, Fleet Support Ship Deepak and the integral helicopters of these warships, indigenously built submarine Khanderi and P8I and IL-38 maritime reconnaissance aircraft.

In addition to ‘Dual Carrier’ operations, advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare exercises, seamanship evolutions and weapon firings were also undertaken during both phases of MALABAR 2020, demonstrating the synergy, coordination and inter-operability between the four friendly navies.

The Malabar series of exercises, which began as an annual bilateral naval exercise between India and the US in 1992, has seen increasing scope and complexity over the years. The 24th edition of MALABAR, conducted in a ‘non-contact at sea only’ format in the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic, was reflective of the commitment of the participating countries to support a  free, open, inclusive Indo-Pacific as well as a rules-based international order.

-ARK