India, Japan, Australia and U.S. Commence Naval Exercise Malabar 2020

Naval ships, aircraft and personnel from Australia, India, Japan, and the United States began exercise Malabar 2020 in the Bay of Bengal off India’s east coast, Nov. 3.

Hosted by the Indian Navy, this year marks the 24th iteration of Exercise MALABAR, which began in 1992 and will feature the Royal Australian Navy as they rejoin the exercise. The annual exercise advances the planning, integration and employment of advanced warfare tactics between participating nations.

This year’s exercise is being conducted as a ‘non-contact, at sea only’ exercise in view of COVID-19 pandemic.

Malabar 2020 features U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155) with its embarked MH-60 Seahawk helicopter, and Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) Takanami-class destroyer JS Ōnami (DD-111) with its embarked SH-60 Seahawk helicopter.

Indian Navy units participating in the exercise include Rajput-class destroyer INS Ranvijay (D55), Shivalik-class stealth multi-role frigate INS Shivalik (F47), Sukanya-class offshore patrol vessel INS Sukanya (P50), Deepak-class fleet tanker INS Shakti (A57) and Sindhughosh-class (Project 877EKM Kilo-class) diesel-electric attack submarine INS Sindhuraj (S57). In addition to the naval vessels, Indian Navy’s BAE Hawk advanced jet trainer, P-8I Poseidon long-range maritime patrol aircraft, Dornier Do 228 maritime patrol aircraft, and helicopters are also participating in the exercise.

During the exercise, the four participating navies will conduct a range of high-end training, including air defence and anti-submarine exercises, aviation, communications and at-sea replenishment between ships. This year’s exercise will also include specific interactions that are designed to enhance interoperability between RAN, IN, JMSDF and U.S. maritime forces.

“India, Japan, and Australia form the core of our strategic partners across the Indo-Pacific,” said Capt. Steven DeMoss, commodore, U.S. Navy Destroyer Squadron 15. “It is fitting to see our navies operate in a high end, tactically relevant exercise like Malabar. It is another opportunity to further strengthen our combined capabilities and enhance our partnerships.”

“Malabar provides an opportunity for like-minded navies, sharing a common vision of a more stable, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific, to operate and train alongside one another,” said Cmdr. Ryan T. Easterday, commanding officer, USS John S. McCain. “A collaborative approach toward regional security and stability is important now more than ever, to deter all who challenge a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

“We, the JMSDF, have been striving to strengthen partnership among the navies of friendly nations through maritime exercises such as Malabar to achieve a Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” said Cmdr. Ishidera Takahiko, commanding officer, JS Onami. “This year, it is our great pleasure that we have the opportunity to conduct the exercise with the Royal Australian Navy, in addition to the United States Navy and the Indian Navy. Despite the global COVID-19 spread, I believe Malabar 2020 will make our ties with these navies much stronger.”

Commanding officer of HMAS Ballarat, Commander Antony Pisani, RAN, said the multinational maritime exercise was an opportunity to build interoperability with key regional partners, India, Japan and the United States.

“This is an opportunity for Ballarat to participate in a high end maritime exercise with the four participating navies, increasing mutual understanding and enhancing our combined air and maritime domain awareness,” Pisani said. “HMAS Ballarat is the first Royal Australian Navy ship to participate in Exercise Malabar since 2007 and we are looking forward to the opportunity to exercise with our partners and contribute to the security, stability and prosperity of the region.”

The Phase 1 of Exercise MALABAR 20 will conclude on Nov. 6. The Phase 2 of the exercise is scheduled to be conducted in the Arabian Sea off India’s west coast in mid-November 2020.

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