Military Capabilities

‘Malabar’ naval war games move to Guam as drills grow in complexity

04 June 2018

Indian Navy ships participating at Exercise 'Malabar' 2018. Source: Indian Navy

Key Points

  • A trilateral naval drill involving India, Japan, and the United States will take place in waters off Guam for the first time
  • The location provides opportunity for navies to exercise with longer-range weapons, sensors, and operating concepts

In what is likely to be further indication of its growing complexity, the trilateral naval exercise that involves the Indian Navy, the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF), and the US Navy (USN) will be conducted in waters off Guam for the first time.

The annual drills, which are known as Exercise ‘Malabar’, are in their 22nd edition for 2018, and will take place from 7 to 16 June in the waters around the Western Pacific island. A harbour phase of the exercise will be conducted at Naval Base Guam from 7 to 10 June, while its sea phase will run from 11 June onwards.

The ‘Malabar’ series of naval war games began in 1992 to improve levels of interoperability between the US and Indian navies. Over the years, several other countries, including Australia and Japan, have also been involved either as participants or observers. The JMSDF became a permanent participant from 2015, and drills have taken part mostly at various locations across the Indian Ocean Region, such as the Bay of Bengal.

In a statement on the exercise, the US Pacific Fleet described Exercise ‘Malabar’ 2018 as “the latest in a continuing series of exercises that has grown in scope and complexity over the years to address the variety of shared threats to maritime security”.

“Training will focus on high-end warfighting skillsets, subject matter expert and professional exchanges, combined carrier strike group operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance operations, surface and anti-submarine warfare, medical operations, damage control, helicopter operations, and visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations”, the service added.

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