Exercise Malabar – 2015; A trilateral naval war game.

A flotilla of the most modern and deadliest vessels has set sail stealthily in the Bay of Bengal.    F-18 Hornets and E-2 Hawkeye aircraft are taking off from the United States Navy’s ultimate weapon of power projection ‘USS Theodore Roosevelt’, a Nimitz class Aircraft carrier.  The carrier is being closely escorted by its Battle Group consisting some of the latest surface combatants of the US Navy. Sailing inch to inch with the US fleet is India’s flotilla of modern vessels. There is frantic activity in the skies and the vessels have pulled in close, a move attempted only if an evident threat is foreseen. These vessels themselves have deployed their ASW helicopters and are scanning the vast waters of Bay of Bengal.

Backing the US and Indian Navy is a modern destroyer from the Japan Maritime Self Defense. Above in the skies, the ultimate submarine hunters; Boeing P8I/A ASW aircraft are scouring every inch of these sprawling temperate waters for an unknown threat that has questioned the sanity of the water the multi-national flotilla is sailing in. Hundreds of feet below water, the crew of USS City of  Corpus Christi, a Los-Angeles class N-Powered attack submarine are glued to the SONAR systems in search of the unknown contact which has been constantly trailing the flotilla. So far the enemy has been successful in pulling off a perfect stealth cover over its activities.

Credit - Net

Sailing stealthy a couple hundred of feet below water and making its way through the underwater canyons, INS Sindhudhwaj, a kilo-class submarine is making steady progress towards its strategic target, a multinational flotilla led by USS Theodore Roosevelt. The skipper of the submarine is constantly monitoring and commanding his crew from the Con-tower or simply the Control Room. He and his men have successfully avoided detection from the vast array of ASW platforms deployed by the flotilla. The skipper has his task cut out; Clear the protective bubble of the carrier group and torpedo the vessels. The vessels are in a real time war scenario; it is as close as the forces can simulate a direct conflict. The multinational flotilla is involved in ‘Exercise Malabar’, an annual trilateral exercise involving Indian, US and Japanese Navy.

Exercise Malabar’ was constituted in 1992, as a way forward in the bilateral ties and maritime co-operation of India and America. Every year after that, India and US has met at this high end war game sharpening their skills. By 2005, the magnitude of Malabar transformed with the Navies pulling in their Aircraft carriers for the exercise. Since then it has been an exponentially boom for Malabar; the need for bilateral trust and inter-operational capability assumed great importance as the ‘Adventurous Dragon’ spread its wings in the Asian-Pacific waters. India and America faced a common enemy; China witnessed an unexpected boom in its economy. Coupled with an over ambitious prospectus for global growth; China kept crawling into international waters claiming inhabited territory along its path.

Malabar 2007 perhaps was a game changer that changed the scale of the exercise. Drawing the flank of China; Malabar was hosted with India, US and three other watch members which included China’s arch rival Japan. Malabr-2007 provided a platform for nearly 25 warships; three aircraft carriers were part of the exercise. Major war vessels from Indian, US, Japanese and also Australian and Singapore Navy were part of the exercise. China had sent ‘demarche’, a formal diplomatic representation to each of the participating state raising its concern. Thereafter India had backed down ‘Exercise Malabar’ to a bilateral exercise. America on its part had always called up on India to extend the naval event to a global affair involving the regional navies in the IOR. After the change of guard at New Delhi, there has been a hush of activity to ramp up ties with IOR nations in a direct effort to counter the growing Chinese influence. US and India are now sailing on the same vessel, where checking the PLAN is the ultimate destination come what may.

Source - Net
Sindhughosh class submarine

US and India over the years have turned out to be key security partners in the region. The level of trust and inter-operability shared amongst Indian and US Navy is huge, the relations have thrived up on mutual trust. Delhi has now showed keen interest in engaging nations in the region by hosting multiple war games with Asia-Pacific nations. In a move to stay true to its words, the Indian government has resorted to action and has invited Japan to be a permanent participant member to ‘Malabar’. The bilateral exercise has now been upgraded to a trilateral exercise involving US, India and Japan; China always wanted to avoid the conglomeration of these three nations which can prove to be a huge hurdle in its quest for regional dominance.  ‘Malabar’ in the coming year is expected to be converted to a multilateral naval exercise involving all major and littoral navies in the lucrative Asia and Pacific region.

Present day; Bay of Bengal.

Exercise Malabar -15’ hosted by India is underway from October 14-19th in the waters off Chennai.  The multi-national flotilla consisting of vessels from India, US and Japan have so far failed to lock in on the lurking threat. The threat we are talking about is INS Sindhudhwaj, a Kilo-class diesel-electric attack submarine being operated by the elite submarine wing of Indian Navy. These Russian origin submarines are considered as ‘black holes’ in deep waters. The submarine can lurk in waters undetected for days at a time.  The theme for ‘Malabar’ over the years has been countering lurking submarines. The temperate waters around India are a perfect hiding place for submarines. The temperature of the water changes drastically and mainly remains warm throughout thus allowing the subs to easily mask with its element. Nations don’t deploy their submarines in exercises until a great deal of trust is added to the equation.

The radar, acoustical and thermal signatures emitted by a certain vessel is a closely guarded secret in naval circles. These are the key factors in detecting and classifying any vessel. A successful naval campaign and submarine warfare can be realized only if this information is possessed by the naval force. Submarines prowl deep waters in search of its enemy vessel and when detected stealthy tail the vessels for days collecting these data. Indian Navy has deployed its ultimate underwater weapon, a kilo-class submarine which was acquired from Russia. These submarines are accorded as one of the most silent tubes of steels to have ever concurred the depths of deep waters. Kiloclass subs are the ultimate war machines for operations in littoral and temperate conditions. PLAN operates nearly a dozen of these submarines. The PLAN operated submarines are a major threat to the vessels operating in this region. It is also crucial that the China’s immediate adversaries train against these ultra quiet submarines. There is no other better opportunity than operating against an experienced and efficient team from the Indian navy operating the same class of vessel.

The data, experience and skill the multinational flotilla attains when searching for INS Sindhudhwaj will be crucial if at all the adversary is to be nullified in the future. USS City of Corpus Christi  is a Los-Angeles class nuclear powered attack submarine. Dubbed a competitor for the Soviet-built ‘Akula-class’ submarines, the Los-Angeles class submarines are one of the quietest N-submarines. It is crucial India and Japan is well versed in searching submarines lurking close to their territorial waters. Also scouring the waters will be Boeing manufactured P-8 long range Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) based on the 737-800 commercial liner. These state-of-the-art aircraft are a major shot in the arm for Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW).

Source - Broadsword

Carrying a potent mix of latest sensor and avionic suites the aircraft is capable of detecting even the slightest anomaly in ocean surface. The aircraft is equipped with Sonobouys which when dropped monitor the waters for the slightest noise. If a threat is detected the aircraft can deploy depth charges and torpedo’s to nullify the prowling threat. For countering any surface threats the aircraft employs Harpoon Sea Skimming missiles. India has contracted with Boeing for 12 aircraft of which seven have already entered service under the naval aviation wing. America has fielded its P8A Poseidon aircraft to operate alongside India’s P8I Neptune; it is a unique opportunity for naval aviators to operate alongside and trim their skills jointly. The aircraft will be operating from INS Rajali, Arrakonam; a shore based facility for Indian Navy’s LR-Surveillance aircraft.

After successfully training their guns for ASW operations, the navies will then concentrate on polishing their skills with Surface combatants. A total of eight combatants are involved in the exercise. Leading the forces will be the 104000 tonne, USS Theodore Roosevelt. Operating alongside the carrier is surely a major boost to the experience of the regional navies. The navies will put up a despicable show of military-military co-operation acquired through their long time thriving trust. Elaborate plans for executing tactical operations with cross-platform involvement have also been drawn up. The exercise will inch further with the navies sharpening their skills in visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations on suspected vessels. This is a key part in thwarting piracy attempts and forms a major chunk of activity during Anti-piracy operations.

Having to guard the gigantic aircraft carrier, the flotilla will train in air defense and high value unit defense exercises. Navies will also train in surface warfare, mine detection and disposal, gunnery and photo exercises. The fleet replenishment tanker deployed by the Indian Navy will replenish the multination warships during the course of the exercise. As part of increasing the trust and rapport amongst the crew members; liaison officers will be embarked on cross platform and communicational operations.

Combatants for ‘Exercise Malabar – 15

Host India and Indian Navy

Surface Combatants

Indian Navy

Class of the Vessel Type of the Vessel Tonnage of the vessel in metric ton. Weapon Package
Rajput

 

 

Guided Missile Destoryer 4,974 BrahMos cruise missile.

Dhanush Ballistic Missiles.

Styx missiles.

A host of secondary weapon systems.

Shivalik

 

(INS Shivalik)

Multi role Frigate 6,200 Shtil – 1.

Klub cruise missile.

BrahMos cruise missile

A host of secondary weapon systems.

Brahmaputra

 

(INS Betwa)

Guided Missile Frigate 3,850 Barak SAM systems.

Kh-35 subsonic anti-ship missile.

A host of secondary weapon systems.

Deepak

 

(INS Shakti)

Replenishment Oiler 27,500 Primary role of keeping the warships sailing by providing necessary fuel and food supplies.

 

United States Navy

Class of the Vessel Type of the Vessel Tonnage of the vessel      in metric ton. Weapons Package carried by the vessel.
Nimitz

 

( USS Theodore Roosevelt )

Aircraft carrier 1,04,600  Can carry up to 90 combat ready aircraft. The vessel currently has 44 F/A-18 Hornets. Hawkeye E-2 aircraft and multiple helicopters for multi-role missions.
Ticonderoga

 

(USS Normandy )

Guided Missile Cruiser 9,600 RIM -66 Standard MR SAM system.

Tomahawk subsonic cruise missile.

RUM 139-A Stand-off anti-submarine weapon.

A host of secondary weapon systems.

Freedom

 

( USS Fort Worth )

Littoral combat ship 3,500 Rolling air frame missiles.

Mark 50 Torpedo.

NETFIRES PAM  Anti-Surface warfare missile

A host of secondary weapon systems.

 

Japan Maritime Self Defense Force

Class of the Vessel Type of the Vessel Tonnage of the vessel      in metric ton. Weapons Package carried by the vessel.
Azizuki

 

(JS Fuyuzuki)

Guided missile destroyer 6800 Type 90 SSM.

Sea Sparrow missile.

RUM 139-A Stand-off anti-submarine weapon.

A host of secondary weapon systems.

 

Submarines –

 

Indian Navy

Class of the vessel Type of the vessel Tonnage of the vessel in metric tonnes. Weapons package carried by the vessel.
Sindhughosh / Kilo – Class

(INS Sindhudhwaj)

Conventionally powered attack submarine. 3076 Strela SAM system.

Club-S Cruise missile. Type 53-63 passive wake homing torpedos

Test 71/76 anti-submarine, active-passive homing torpedo.

DM – 1 mines.

 

United States Navy

Class of the vessel Type of the vessel Tonnage of the vessel in metric tonnes. Weapons package carried by the vessel.
Los – Angeles

 

( USS City of Corpus Christi )

Nuclear powered attack submarine. 6144 Mk 48 torpedo.

Tomahawk land attack missile.

Harpoon anti-ship missile.

Mk 60 captor mines.

 

Aircraft –

 

Indian Navy

Aircraft Role Weapon System
P8I Neptune ASW, ASuW and ELINT. Torpedoes.

Depth charges.

Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles.

 

United States Navy

Aircraft Role Weapon System
P8A Poseidon ASW, ASuW and ELINT. Torpedoes.

Depth charges.

SLAM-ER.

Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles.

The knowledge, experience and skill set gained during this exercise will be of immense help during a war scenario. ‘Exercise Malabar’ has transformed from years and has now attained the capability to play host to multi-national navies. The Indo-US relationship is built upon trust and countering common enemies for the peace and prosperity of the world. The addition of Japan as a permanent participant member to ‘Malabar’ is a move that signifies the growing trust and need for inter-regional understanding to protect the sanity of international waters. Australia, Singapore and Malaysia operate a regional navy that could always suppress any unrest in the IOR.

060525-N-9662L-113 Santa Rita, Guam (May 25, 2006) Ð The fast attack submarine USS City of Corpus Christi (SSN 705) sails into Apra Harbor after performing a routine underway. The City of Corpus Christi is currently home ported at Naval Base Guam, and is the 18th Los Angeles-class attack submarine. U.S. Navy photo by PhotographerÕs Mate 2nd Class John F. Looney (RELEASED)

It is for the common benefit of all that ‘Exercise Malabar’ can be extended to a multinational exercise playing host to several of the navies along the Asian-Pacific belt. India and USA have stepped up efforts to curb the over ambitious PLAN and have so far succeeded in checking the onward movement of the dragons into international waters. India is on rapid modernization mode; USA and Japan have well realized their needs and have been self sufficient in fulfilling them. The partners should now concentrate on taking a step forward and start helping each other develop further in the mutual interest of each others.

 

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