Quad navies begin 4-day Malabar exercise off Guam

Malabar, which began as a bilateral exercise, is now one of the cornerstones of military interoperability of the Quad forces.

In the backdrop of China asserting itself in the Indo-Pacific region, the Malabar series of naval exercises involving the Quad nations of India, US, Japan and Australia began on Thursday off the coast of Guam.

Navies of the four member nations of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad — India, the United States, Japan, and Australia — are participating in the 25th edition of the Malabar Exercise, which began off the coast of Guam in the Pacific Ocean on Thursday (August 26).

Malabar, which began as a bilateral exercise, is now one of the cornerstones of military interoperability of the Quad forces, and Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said on Wednesday that the Quad’s charter is to ensure freedom of navigation for all nations.

A range of complex drills involving warships, aircraft and helicopters will be carried out during the four-day exercise, being hosted by the US Navy in the Western Pacific, officials said.

The US Seventh Fleet, in a statement, said the exercise demonstrated the commitment among the like-minded nations to uphold a rules-based maritime order in the Indo-Pacific.

The Indian Navy has deployed its stealth frigate INS Shivalik, anti-submarine warfare corvette INS Kadmatt and a fleet of P- 8I maritime surveillance aircraft in the 25th edition of the mega exercise.

The US Pacific Fleet’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry, naval special warfare forces, maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft from Task Force 72, and military sealift command’s Henry J Kaiser-class underway replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock are among the assets deployed by the US Navy in the exercise.

Malabar-21 will 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 benefit from each other’s expertise and experiences,” Indian Navy Spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said here.

The US 7th Fleet said the first phase of the exercise is an opportunity for the four Indo-Pacific navies to operate together to strengthen their skills in “combined maritime operations, anti-submarine warfare operations, air warfare operations, live-fire gunnery events, replenishments-at-sea and cross-deck flight operations.”

“Malabar 21 is an excellent opportunity to conduct multi-national training to hone warfighting and maritime security skillsets,” said Capt. Chase Sargeant, Commander, Task Force (CTF) 71 of US 7th Fleet.

In an interactive session at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command Admiral John Aquilino on Wednesday spoke about key challenges facing the Indo-Pacific and delved into China’s rapid military build-up including in the maritime domain.

Aquilino also hinted at the possibility of increasing the number of participants at the Malabar naval exercise if leaders of the four participating countries concur with it.

Following India’s invitation, Australia participated in the Malabar exercise last year that effectively made it a drill by all four member nations of the Quad. China objected to it and said the exercise is an effort to militarise the Indo-Pacific region and feels this drill is to contain its influence there.

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