Malabar 2018: All you need to know about the trilateral naval exercise

Malabar 2018 Photo: Twitter/@indiannavy
The 22nd edition of the Malabar trilateral naval exercise of the US, Japan and India kicked off on June 7 at Guam in the Pacific Ocean and will continue till June 16. The Malabar exercise usually features both ashore and at-sea training. While the harbour phase was held from June 7 to June 10, the sea phase is being conducted from June 11 to June 16. The sea phase will feature live aircraft carrier operations, air defence, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS), joint manoeuvres and tactical procedures.

This is the first time that the prestigious Malabar exercise is being conducted off Guam, a major US Naval Base in the Western Pacific.

Here are the most important things that you need to know about the Malabar Naval Exercise:

How it started?

Ships Sahyadri, Shakti & Kamorta taking part in sea phase  Photo: Twitter/@indiannavy
The Malabar exercise started in 1992 as a bi-lateral one between the Indian Navy and the US Navy in the Indian Ocean. However, this joint naval exercise was suspended from 1998 to 2001 as the US imposed military and economic sanctions on India amid tensions after India conducted nuclear weapon tests in Pokhran in 1998. It was revived by the two countries in 2002, and Japan became a permanent member of the Malabar exercise in 2015.

India's big guns:

Malabar 2018 Photo: Twitter/@indiannavy
India has sent three surface warships and a surveillance aircraft to Malabar 2018. India fielded stealth frigate INS Sahyadri, anti-submarine warfare corvette INS Kamorta, and the fleet tanker INS Shakti. Along with that, there is a long-range maritime Patrol Aircraft P8I.

Big shots of the US

Among dozens of ships from the participating countries, the highlight of the US Navy were 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 and Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. Other than that, the US Navy Force included a Los Angeles-class attack submarine and one Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft P8A.

Japan's fleet

Japanese Maritime force was represented by a Hyuga class helicopter carrier JS Ise with integral helicopters, Takanami class destroyer JS Suzunami, Akizuki class destroyer JS Fuyuzuki, Japanese Maritime Patrol Aircraft P1, and a submarine.

The goal of the Malabar exercise:

Malabar 2018 Photo: Twitter/@indiannavy
Over the past 26 years, this maritime exercise has grown in scope and complexity and aims at increasing the level of mutual understanding, interoperability and sharing of the best practices among the three navies, according to the official press release of the Indian Navy. The US Navy said the Indian, Japanese and US maritime forces looked forward to working together to build upon and advance their working relationship.

The many firsts:

Indian Navy’s Boeing P-8I, the US Navy’s Boeing P-8A and the JMSDF’s Kawasaki P-1 Photo: Twitter/@indiannavy
For the first time, the officers from all three navies will function as ‘sea riders’ posted on other navies’ warships, said navy officers. Indian Navy officers will get the opportunity of operating on the US Navy Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarines and Soryu-class submarines of the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF). The world’s best three long-range maritime reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft – the Indian Navy’s Boeing P-8I, the US Navy’s Boeing P-8A and the JMSDF’s Kawasaki P-1 – will operate together during the Malabar exercise 2018.

The Australia factor:

India once again declined Australia's request to join the Malabar exercise. Australian involvement in Malabar naval exercise goes back to 2007.

In 2007, India invited Australia, Japan, and Singapore to be part of this exercise. Beijing labelled this move as an ‘anti-China coalition’ and sent demarche to US, India, Japan and Australia against the expansion of the Malabar exercise. To maintain a good economic relationship with China, Australia withdrew its name from the "quadrilateral". Earlier, in 2017, India had not allowed Australia to be part of the drill. 

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