The 24th edition of MALABAR maritime exercise, hosted by Indian Navy (IN) in two phases, concluded in the Arabian Sea on 20 November. Phase 1 of the exercise involving participation by Indian Navy (IN), United States Navy (USN), Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN), was conducted off Visakhapatnam in Bay of Bengal from 3-6 November 2020. The second phase was conducted in the Arabian Sea from 17-20 November 2020.Phase-1 of MALABAR 2020 witnessed participation of Indian Navy units with United States Ship (USS) John S McCain, Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Ballarat with integral MH-60 helicopter, and Japan Maritime Self Defence Ship (JMSDF) Onami, with integral SH-60 helicopter. Indian Navy’s participation in this phase was led by Rear Admiral Sanjay Vatsayan, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet and included destroyer Ranvijay, indigenous frigate Shivalik, Offshore Patrol Vessel Sukanya, Fleet Support Ship Shakti, submarine Sindhuraj, P8I and Dornier maritime reconnaissance aircraft and Advanced Jet Trainer Hawk.
During Phase 2 of Exercise MALABAR 2020, the four navies participated in joint operations centered on the Vikramaditya Carrier Battle Group of the Indian Navy and Nimitz Carrier Strike Group of the US Navy. The two aircraft carriers, along with other ships, submarine and aircraft of the participating navies, engaged in high intensity naval operations including cross-deck flying operations and advanced air defence exercises by MIG 29K fighters of Vikramaditya and F/A-18 fighters and E2C Hawkeye from Nimitz. US Navy’s Strike Carrier Nimitz was accompanied by cruiser Princeton and destroyer Sterett in addition to P8A maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
The Royal Australian Navy and JMSDF were represented by frigate Ballarat and destroyer Murasame respectively, along with their integral helicopters. Indian Navy’s participation in Phase 2 was led by Rear Admiral Krishna Swaminathan, Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet and included aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, indigenous destroyers Kolkata and Chennai, stealth frigate Talwar, Fleet Support Ship Deepak and the integral helicopters of these warships, indigenously built submarine Khanderi andP8I and IL-38 maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
In addition to ‘Dual Carrier’ operations, advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare exercises, seamanship evolutions and weapon firings were also undertaken during both phases of MALABAR 2020, demonstrating the synergy, coordination and inter-operability between the four friendly navies.
The Malabar series of exercises, which began as an annual bilateral naval exercise between India and the US in 1992, has seen increasing scope and complexity over the years. The 24th edition of MALABAR, conducted in a ‘non-contact at sea only’ format in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic, was reflective of the commitment of the participating countries to support a free, open, inclusive Indo-Pacific as well as a rules-based international order.