India, Japan, Australia, US kick off Exercise Malabar - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 27 August 2021

India, Japan, Australia, US kick off Exercise Malabar

Absence of aircraft carriers and participation of three maritime reconnaissance aircraft, suggests emphasis will be on anti-submarine operations


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 27th Aug 21


The four countries that have formed the Quadrilateral grouping (The Quad) – the US, India, Japan and Australia – began the annual maritime Exercise Malabar in the Philippine Sea on Thursday. The sea phase of the exercise will run till August 29.


This is the 25th edition of Exercise  Malabar, which began in 1992 as a bilateral exercise, featuring the maritime forces of the US and India. In 2015, the entry of the Japanese navy made it a trilateral exercise. Last year, Australia also joined Malabar, making it a quadrilateral exercise. 

Malabar is viewed by Beijing as an anti-China grouping by a “Concert of Democracies.” However, public statements from the participating countries express an intention to safeguard the global commons and freedom of navigation, rather than joining forces against a common enemy.


On Thursday, the US Navy said: “Malabar is an annual maritime exercise that enhances planning, training, and employment of advanced warfare tactics between the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Indian Navy (IN), Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF), and the US Navy which demonstrates the commitment between like-minded nations to upholding a rules-based maritime order in the Indo-Pacific.”


“Exercise Malabar-21 would witness complex exercises including anti-surface, anti-air and anti-submarine warfare drill, and other manoeuvres and tactical exercises. The exercise will provide an opportunity for participating navies to derive benefit from each other’s expertise and experiences,” read a statement from New Delhi.


Phase 1 will also feature operations by Naval Special Warfare forces to address irregular maritime threats and enhance integration with traditional naval forces.


The Indian Navy is participating with two warships: Multi-role stealth frigate, INS Shivalik; and the Kamorta-class anti-submarine warfare corvette, INS Kadmatt. The Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) is fielding three capital warships: Izumo-class multi-role destroyer JS Kaga; and two Murasame-class destroyers, JS Murasame and JS Shiranui. Australia is sending the Anzac-class frigate HMAS Warramonga.


The US Navy is sending one of their most capable submarine hunters, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Barry. Underway logistics (replenishment at sea) is being provided by the Military Sealift Command’s underway replenishment oilers USNS Rappahannock and USNS Big Horn.


Also participating are maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft from three countries, including an Indian P-8I, a US Navy P-8A and a Japanese P-1.


The total absence of aircraft carriers and helicopter carriers, and the participation of three maritime reconnaissance aircraft suggests that the emphasis during Malabar 2021 will be on anti-submarine operations, rather than on air operations.


For the four participating navies, which will have the job in any regional conflict of bottling up Chinese submarines in their bases during wartime, collaborative anti-submarine operations will be of prime importance.


The four participating navies will also have the opportunity to rehearse communication drills and interoperability. India’s signature of the “Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement” (COMCASA) agreement with the US in September 2018 has already opened the doors for the tactical communications needed for such operations.


Elements of the four navies routinely operate together in the Indo-Pacific, fostering a cooperative approach toward regional security.


“The conduct of the exercise while observing health protocols during the Covid-19 global pandemic is a testimony to the synergy between the participating navies and our shared vision for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region,” stated the Indian Navy.

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