The Malabar naval exercise involving Indian, American and Japanese navies will begin on Thursday off the coast of Japan, amid growing Chinese military muscle flexing in the disputed South China Sea.
During the nine-day exercise, the three navies will conduct complex maritime operations in the surface, sub-surface and air domains with a particular focus on anti-submarine warfare, officials said.
A significant number of aircraft, naval ships and submarines of the three navies will be part of the annual exercise, considered a major war game in the region.
The 23rd edition of the exercise is taking place in the midst of a major standoff between Vietnam and China in the South China sea.
On July 4, Chinese survey vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8, escorted by a large number of ships, began marine seismic surveys near several offshore oil blocks, which according to Vietnam, fall within its exclusive economic zone.
Vietnamese diplomatic sources said the Chinese ships came close to areas where India’s ONGC has oil exploration projects.
The defence ministry said the Malabar exercise beginning Thursday would endeavour to further strengthen naval cooperation and interoperability among navies of India, Japan and the US.
It said two frontline Indian naval ships – guided missile frigate Sahyadri and anti-submarine warfare corvette Kiltan – are participating in the exercise.
In addition to the ships, a ‘P8I’ long range maritime patrol aircraft will also be part of Indian platforms at the drill.
“The exercise would encompass conduct of complex maritime operations in the surface, sub-surface and air domains, and focus on anti-submarine warfare, anti-air and anti-surface firings,” said an official.
The US Navy is being represented by USS McCampbell, a Los Angeles-class attack Submarine and a ‘P8A’ long range maritime patrol aircraft.
Japanese Navy will deploy its Izumo class helicopter destroyer JS Kaga, guided missile destroyers JS Samidare and Choukai and a ‘P1’ long range maritime patrol aircraft.