An enduring feature of the military aspect of India-U.S relationship has been the Malabar-series of Naval exercises. Started in 1992, with the aim of being an annual engagement, things came to an abrupt end owing to the imposition of U.S sanctions on India in 1998, following India's testing of the designs of its Nuclear weapons. After a gap of 4 years, the exercises resumed in 2002 & have been taking place annually since then, so far.
Primarily a bilateral exercise, the scope & participation in the Malabar war-games have, in subsequent years, expanded with the invitation extended to other Navies of the region to take part. Thus, 2007 saw the largest such participation, when Navies of Australia, Japan & Singapore sent their warships for this engagement. This coming together of nations with which China often shares a testy relationship, with territorial disputes involved in a few cases, perturbed the dragon nation to no small extent. Either owing to the subsequent Chinese reaction or due to unrelated issues, in the subsequent years these exercises have not had participation from the other Navies, with the exception of Japan which sent its warships, again in 20091. After confirming its participation for the 2011 edition of the Malabar series of exercises, Japan had to withdraw, owing to the tragic Tsunami that struck the island nation that year.
The nature of skills & engagement that these exercises seek to hone & fine-tune vary each year, with nature of missions being carried out increasing in their level of challenge. These range from joint anti-piracy operations, vital considering the situations in some of the sea lanes, missions involving submarines, fleet replenishment exercises, air combat operations launched from aircraft carriers - both nation having a long and distinguished history of Carrier operations, among others.
This year India played host to Exercise Malabar 2012, the area of operation being in the Bay of Bengal spread over a 450 nautical miles extent. Besides offering participant nations an opportunity to observe & learn from practices of their counterparts, these exercises also work towards developing inter-operability between each other - an increasingly vital feature, considering commonality of threats faced & significant overlap of interest & "values" cherished & held by each.
The U.S. side was represented by the U.S. Navy's Carrier Strike Group 1 belonging to the 7th fleet, which included,
- USS Carl Vinson [CVN 70] - Nimitz-class Aircraft Carrier & its complement of Air wing including the F/A- 18E/F Super Hornet & E-2 Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning [AEW]
- USS Bunker Hill [CG 52] - Ticonderoga-class guided missile Cruiser
- USS Halsey [DDG 97] - Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer
- USNS Bridge [T-AOE 10] - Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship
- USS Louisville [SSN-724] - Los Angeles-class submarine
- Lockheed P-3C Orion - Anti-Submarine & maritime surveillance aircraft
The Indian Navy. on the other hand, fielded
- INS Satpura [F48] - indigenously designed and locally manufactured Shivalik-class stealth frigate [Project 17]
- INS Ranvir [D54] & INS Ranvijay [D55] - Rajput-class Guided Missile Destroyer of Russian origin
- INS Kulish [P63] - Kora-class Corvette of indigenous design, built within India
- INS Shakti [A57] - Deepak-class fleet tanker, acquired from Italy
Some of the activities performed by during the exercises included,
- Communications exercises
- Surface action group [SAG] operations
- Helicopter cross-deck evolutions
- Gunnery exercises
- Replenishment at sea of Aircraft Carrier USS Carl Vinson by fleet tanker INS Shakti
- Anti-piracy missions
- Carrier-launched aircraft sorties
- Maritime patrol & reconnaissance
- Anti-submarine warfare [ASW]
The exercises that commenced on April 9th, concluded after a week-long engagement on the 16th.
Some stunning visuals of the warships that took part in the exercises. Goes straight on to my desktop as wallpapers.
Indian Navy Helicopters in action during the exercises
- Chetak Helicopters [Aérospatiale Alouette III]
- Kamov Ka-31 Helicopters
1 = India's bilateral military engagements with these countries continue
image source: www.navy.mil