As the weather turned unpredictable and rain came pelting down, the trilateral Naval exercise Malabar 2017 between India, the United States and Japan had spectacular ending on Monday, with 15 ships coming up in a formation in the Bay of Bengal, around 90 miles from the Chennai coast.
Around 10 a.m., USS Nimitz of the U.S., India’s aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, and Japan’s helicopter carrier and its largest warship JS Izumo, came up side by side in a symbolic manoeuvre, with smaller ships in the group following in tow. Malabar 2017 featured 95 aircraft, 16 ships and two submarines, making it one of the largest naval exercises in the region in recent times.
Navy officials dismissed suggestions that the exercise was aimed at China. They maintained that the operation was to uphold freedom of movement, enforce the rule of law, and address common maritime challenges in the region. “We are increasing interoperability and that is going to be the key,” Rear Admiral William D. Byrne Jr. Commander, Carrier Strike Group, 11, U.S. Navy, told reporters on board the U.S. aircraft carrier. A floating mini-city with 5,000 personnel on board, USS Nimitz is nuclear powered and has desalination plants for its water requirements. It is capable of operating about 90 aircraft at a time, an official on board the ship said.
“Perhaps in the future, if we have to come together for real — be it for a disaster relief effort or an anti-piracy operation or, God forbid, if there is an actual crisis in the Indian Ocean, the Japanese would come to assist, the US Navy would come to assist and because of Malabar, we will know each other better, we will be able to cooperate better, and meet any maritime challenges we might face,” Mr. Byrne said.
Rear Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta, Flag Officer Commanding, Eastern Fleet, Indian Navy, said complex operations were performed this year and that had been quite beneficial. “It is one of the largest exercises in recent times. We have conducted exercises in all dimensions of warfare — from anti-submarine to anti-surface air operations. The level of complexity has been higher. Our procedures have been streamlined. We are a bit more comfortable and confident working with each other across the spectrum,” Mr. Dasgupta told The Hindu.
The U.S. Charge D’Affaires, Marykay L. Carlson said Malabar 2017 was a message for the whole world about cooperation, and not specifically aimed at any one country.
Over the past few days, the three Navies have undertaken a series of operations, including cross-deck flying operations that require a high level of interoperability, communication and coordination. India’s MiG 29K fighter jets and the US’ F-18 fighter aircraft undertook composite formation flying to enhance interoperability, according to information released by the Indian Navy.
INS Jyoti, undertook replenishment operations at sea with the USS Shoup, and Sazanami of the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force, passing hoses to the U.S. and Japanese Navies for transfer of oil.
Preparations for the next edition of the tri-nation naval exercise will begin soon, Mr. Dasgupta said.