US, Indian and Japanese Maritime Forces Participate in Malabar 2017

Indian Navy Vice Adm. Harish Bisht, commanding-in-chief, Eastern Naval Command; Rear Adm. Koji Manabe, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Escort Flotilla 3 commander; and Rear Adm. Brian Hurley, US 7th Fleet deputy commander, shake hands after a Malabar 2016 press conference at US Fleet Activities Sasebo

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Washington, DC – Ships from the Indian Navy, Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and US Navy were conducting the at-sea phase of Exercise Malabar, this week.

Ships will spend the at-sea phase of Malabar in the Philippine Sea to advance the participating nations’ military-to-military coordination and capacity to plan and execute tactical operations in a multinational environment.

“At its core, originally, Exercise Malabar was started (in 1992) as a bilateral exercise between the Indian Navy and the US,” said Capt. Jason Gilbert, US Naval attaché to India. “The Japanese (JMSDF) became a permanent partner in 2015, and we are now starting to see the benefits of Malabar being a trilateral exercise,” Gilbert added.

“It’s great to see the details and planning from the harbor phase (of Malabar) come to fruition at sea,” said Lt. Cmdr. Brent Jackson, executive officer of the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) that is participating in Malabar. “It’s amazing to see thousands of tons of steel come together on the water and operate as seamlessly as we had planned,” noted Jackson.

Malabar this year builds on progress made during previous exercises, improving participating nations’ abilities to conduct joint operations, and improve trilateral coordination and capacity.

“We have a variety of exercises planned for the at-sea phase of Malabar,” said Gilbert, adding, “We are doing the full spectrum of things that you can possibly do at sea in a short period of time. The more we can understand how each nation works together translates into easier facilitation of operations in the future.”

Areas of proficiency that are being exercised include surface events; visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) exercises; subject matter and professional exchanges; maritime patrol and reconnaissance scenarios; and anti-submarine warfare operations.

“Mobile Bay is out here to be a strong partner in supporting our allies in the exercises’ upcoming operations,” said Jackson. “Both during the harbor phase, and now at sea, we are part of a much larger team and we look forward to executing our mission together as professionals.”

Jackson added that three nations coming together to conduct complex, multi-national operations and maintaining presence helps to preserve peace and stability in the region and further enhances maritime partnerships between allied nations.

“Interoperability is crucial, because if we ever have to work together in a real-world scenario, we will have had the necessary training and preparation to the point where our operations become second nature,” said Gilbert. “Working together is what Malabar is all about.”

Welcoming Ceremony and In-port Phase

Earlier on June 10, JMSDF hosted the welcoming ceremony for the Indian Navy shortly after the last Indian ship, INS Kirch, pulled into port, mooring alongside other Indian naval vessels and near its American and Japanese counterparts. Afterwards JMSDF Escort Flotilla 3 Commander Rear Adm. Koji Manabe, US 7th Fleet Deputy Commander Rear Adm. Brian Hurley and Indian Navy Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command Vice Adm. Harish Bisht, took questions from local media about the exercise.

“I’d like to sincerely thank my Indian and Japanese counterparts for making it possible for the US Navy to once again partner with your fine maritime forces and professionals so we can better learn from one another and strengthen our friendships, which in the end is really what this exercise is all about,” said Hurley in his opening remarks.

“The seas are continuous, India can be a neighbor of Japan, Japan can be a neighbor of India,” said Bisht. “There is always enough scope for expansion as far as maritime security is concerned.”

Malabar would be composed of two phases, an in-port phase that was carried out in Sasebo and the ongoing at-sea phase in the Philippine Sea. The navies were training together in areas such as maritime patrol and reconnaissance operations, surface and anti-submarine warfare, medical operations and visit board search and seizure operations.

Indian Navy fleet tanker INS Shakti (A 57), missile corvette Kirch (P 62) and stealth multi-role frigates INS Sahyadri (F 49) and INS Satpura (F 48), Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH 181) and US Navy guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 13), were earlier in Sasebo for the in-port phase of the exercise.

Malabar began as a bilateral American-Indian exercise in 1992 but has included Japan since 2007. A trilateral maritime exercise, Malabar is designed to enhance dynamic cooperation between Indian Navy, JMSDF and US Navy in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. The exercise allows for practical training, while exchanging skills and cultures, and helps to increase the understanding of multinational operations.

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