India, Japan, US to hold Malabar naval exercise in Bay of Bengal

Navies of India, Japan and the United States will hold Malabar 2017 trilateral naval exercise off the eastern coast of India in the Bay of Bengal from July 10.

The intensive 10-day combat maneuvers is conducted to address the variety of shared threats to maritime security in the Indo-Asia Pacific and to increase the level of interoperability between three navies.

The exercise will focus on high-end warfighting skillsets, professional exchanges, combined carrier strike group operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance operations, surface and anti-submarine warfare (ASW), medical operations, damage control, special forces, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), helicopter operations, and visit board search and seizure (VBSS) operations.

The tri-lateral exercise comes at a time when Indian and Chinese troops are locked in a tense standoff near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction since mid-June. China has been also muscle-flexing in the South China Sea region deploying military assets in the artificial islands developed by them. The Indian Navy has also recorded a surge in the number of Chinese warships and submarines entering the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) over the last two months

The Indian naval flotilla participating in the exercise will be led by its sole aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and includes six to seven major warships and a Kilo-class submarine. This will be the first time the carrier, along with its aviation component, will take part in a fully-fledged combat exercise with foreign navies since it was commissioned in November 2013. India will be also deploying its Boeing P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) armed with Harpoon Block-II missiles, MK-54 lightweight torpedoes, anti-submarine rockets and depth charges.

The US naval fleet will be reportedly led by USS Nimitz (CVN-68) nuclear-powered super-carrier with its full complement of F/A-18 fighters. The ‘carrier strike group’ will include a Ticonderoga-class missile cruiser, a Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine and three to four Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers. US is also expected to deploy P-8A Poseidon MPA.

Japan is bringing its largest warship, JS Izumo (DDH-183) helicopter carrier and also another major warship for the exercise. The Izumo has an aviation component of 7 ASW helicopters and 2 Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopters.

China has deployed a Yuan class diesel-electric attack submarine and Haiwingxing intelligence-gathering ship in the vicinity to snoop on the Malabar exercise. China is extremely wary about the trilateral exercise and views any such joint exercises as a move to contain it.

Written with inputs from TNN and US Embassy PR

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