The second phase of Malabar naval drills, to be conducted from November 17 to 20, will be more elaborate and complex than the first one as it will involve the participation of Indian and American aircraft carriers. It will witness operations centered around the Vikramaditya carrier battle group and US strike group led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz. It is for the first time over a dozen years that the four nations India, US, Japan and Australia are participating in such a large naval exercise in the Northern Arabian sea. The four countries also form the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad, and their coming together for a major wargame sends a strong message to China at a time when India and China are involved in an over six-month-long bitter border stand-off in eastern Ladakh that has majorly strained the ties between the two countries.
The exercise highlights enhanced convergence of views amongst the four vibrant democracies on maritime issues, and showcases their commitment to an open, inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order. Aircraft carriers of India and the U.S. will take part in Phase-II of Exercise Malabar 2020, also consisting of Australia and Japan. The two carriers, along with other ships, submarine and aircraft of the participating navies, would be engaged in high intensity naval operations for over four days. The Indian Navy’s Vikramaditya carrier battle group, the Nimitz strike group of the US Navy and several frontline warships from the Australian and Japanese navies will carry out a four-day high-intensity war game in the Northern Arabian Sea. A carrier battle group or carrier strike group is a mega naval fleet comprising an aircraft carrier, accompanied by a large number of destroyers, frigates and other ships. These exercises include cross-deck flying operations and advanced air defence exercises by MiG-29K fighters of Vikramaditya and F-18 fighters and E2C Hawkeye from Nimitz. The USS Nimitz is the world’s largest warship. The Nimitz will be accompanied by cruiser Princeton and destroyer Sterett in addition to P8A maritime reconnaissance aircraft. The Royal Australian Navy will be represented by frigate Ballarat along with its integral helicopter.
Advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare exercises, seamanship evolutions and weapon firings will also be undertaken to further enhance “interoperability and synergy” among the four navies. The Phase-I was held in the Bay of Bengal in the first week of November.