India, US and Japan today kicked off their largest joint naval exercise involving some of the largest ships, including US carrier USS Nimitz, India's lone carrier Vikramaditya and Japan's helicopter carrier Izumo, aimed at helping to maintain a balance of power in the Asia-Pacific against increasing show of strength by China.
The 21st edition of the annual exercises, Malabar -17, being held off India's east coast from 10 to 17 July 2017, are the largest since India and the United States launched the exercise in 1992. Japan joined the naval drill later.
The US-India naval exercises have steadily grown in scope, complexity and participation into a multifaceted exercise with the participation of Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF).
The three countries have been concerned about China's claims to almost all of the waters of the South China Sea, and more broadly, its expanding military presence across the region.
Naval co-operation between India, US and Japan primarily aims at improving interoperability amongst the three navies as well as developing common understanding and procedures for maritime security operations.
The scope of Malabar-17 includes wide-ranging professional interactions during the Harbour Phase at Chennai from 10 to 13 July 2017 and a diverse range of operational activities at sea during the Sea Phase from 14 to 17 July 17. The thrust of exercises at sea this year would be on Aircraft Carrier operations, Air Defence, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Surface Warfare, Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS), Search and Rescue, Joint Manoeuvres and Tactical procedures. In addition, officials from the three countries will be flown onboard the ships at sea on 15 July 2017.
The Indian Navy has lined up its aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya with its air wing, guided missile destroyer Ranvir, indigenous stealth frigates Shivalik and Sahyadri, indigenous ASW corvette Kamorta, missile corvettes Kora and Kirpan, one Sindhughosh class submarine, fleet tanker INS Jyoti and Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft P8I.
The US Navy is represented by ships from its Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and other units from the US 7th Fleet. The US Navy forces include the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier Nimitz with its air wing, Ticonderoga-class cruiser Princeton, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers Kidd, Howard and Shoup along with integral helicopters, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine and one Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft P8A.
The exercise will witness separate interaction between Indian Navy and US Navy Special Forces and Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams at the IN Marcos training base INS Karna at Visakhapatnam. The JMSDF is represented by JS Izumo, a helicopter carrier with SH 60K helicopters and JS Sazanami, a missile destroyer with SH 60K integral helicopter.
''MALABAR-17 marks a major milestone with participation of 16 ships, two submarines and more than 95 aircraft, towards strengthening mutual confidence and inter-operability as well as sharing of best practices between the Indian, Japanese and US Navies.
''The exercise is a demonstration of the joint commitment of all three nations to address common maritime challenges across the spectrum of operations and will go a long way in enhancing maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region, for the benefit of the global maritime community,'' a defence ministry release stated.