Scorpeone sub to debut as second phase of Malabar exercise begins today

At the political level, a quadrilateral Exercise Malabar powerfully signals the emergence of resistance to China’s growing assertiveness. The first phase was conducted in the Bay of Bengal from November 3-6
Signalling the growing prominence of the Indian Ocean region in the security calculus of the four Quadrilateral (Quad) member-countries, their navies will conduct the second phase of joint Exercise Malabar 2020 from Tuesday to Friday in the Northern Arabian Sea.

The first phase was conducted in the Bay of Bengal from November 3 to 6. This is the first time that Exercise Malabar will be conducted off India’s eastern as well as western seaboards in the same year.

“Taking forward the synergy achieved in the recently concluded Phase 1 of Exercise Malabar 2020, which was conducted in the Bay of Bengal from November 3 to 6, this phase will involve coordinated operations of increasing complexity between the navies of Australia, India, Japan and the United States,” stated a Ministry of Defence (MoD) release on Monday.

After a relatively low-key first phase, the second phase will see the muscular participation of two aircraft carrier battle groups — centred on the US Navy’s strike carrier, USS Nimitz; and the Indian Navy’s lone carrier, INS Vikramaditya.

For the first time in a joint exercise with foreign partners, India will field its latest Scorpene submarine, INS Khanderi, which was commissioned in September 2019. The Navy’s willingness to expose this frontline platform to intensive monitoring by all participants in the exercise denotes a high level of mutual trust.

Besides INS Vikramaditya and INS Khanderi, the Indian Navy will also field two indigenous destroyers, INS Kolkata and INS Chennai, a frigate, INS Talwar, and a Fleet Support Ship, INS Deepak. The air complement will include each ship’s integral helicopters and P-8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft.

From the US Navy, the aircraft carrier Nimitz will be accompanied by a cruiser, USS Princeton and a destroyer USS Sterett. In addition, US Navy P-8A maritime reconnaissance aircraft will also participate. 

Australia will participate with the frigate HMAS Ballarat, while Japan will field a destroyer, Japan Maritime Self Defence Ship (JMSDF) Onami.

The four-day exercise will see the participants rehearsing "high intensity naval operations… of increasing complexity,” stated the MoD. “These include cross-deck flying operations and advanced air defence exercises by MIG 29K fighters of INS Vikramaditya and F-18 fighters and E2C Hawkeye from USS Nimitz.”

In its essentials, that will involve coordinating ways of controlling airspace. The E2C Hawkeye airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft, flying from USS Nimitz, would be used for detecting over-the-horizon enemy airborne threats. The information would then be passed onto Indian Navy MiG-29K and US Navy F-18E/F Super Hornet fighters, which would attack and destroy the enemy aircraft. “In addition, advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare exercises, seamanship evolutions and weapon firings will also be undertaken to further enhance inter-operability and synergy between the four friendly navies,” said the MoD.

Cooperation between the navies is also enhanced through logistics agreements that India has signed with the other participating countries and through a communications security pact and geo-spatial cooperation agreement that New Delhi has signed with Washington.

For the Indian Navy, the exercise provides a valuable opportunity to learn aircraft carrier and anti-submarine operations from the US Navy, which is the acknowledged world leader in these fields. 

At the political level, a quadrilateral Exercise Malabar powerfully signals the emergence of resistance to China’s growing assertiveness. The bilateral US-India joint exercise that first began in 1992 became a trilateral exercise when Japan joined in 2015, and a quadrilateral exercise with Australia joining this year.

“The 24th edition of Malabar, which is being presently undertaken, highlights enhanced convergence of views amongst the four vibrant democracies on maritime issues, and showcases their commitment to an open, inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order,” stated the MoD.



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