The Indian Navy will participate in a two-day mega naval exercise with the US naval carrier strike group Ronald Reagan in the Indian Ocean region from Wednesday, in reflection of the growing operational cooperation between the two navies.
The Indian Air Force said it also will participate in operational engagements with the US Navy in the exercise with the US Carrier Strike Group (CSG) which is currently deployed in the Indian Ocean Region.
The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, providing a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
Indian subcontinent is buzzing
India's maritime strategy is in focus, with the Indo-Pacific being at the centre of geopolitics. The country's geographic location makes it a key player in the Indian Ocean, making the role of the Navy critical.
The Indian subcontinent is buzzing with activity and the Indian Navy is closely watching as the events unfold. India has been cleanly observing China as it has increased its presence in the Indian Ocean since 2008.
China's string of pearls strategy
What's more concerning is China's investment in big-ticket maritime infrastructure, especially deep water ports.
China is following a string of pearls strategy, using investments as a tool it plans to encircle India by building naval ports. The Chinese already control the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka.
India fears that the Chinese military could end up using such ports for military purposes, a fear that is shared by major nations around the world.
India, Japan, Australia and the United States are working together in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue to counter China's rise.
India alone is taking steps to counter China's growing deployments by stepping up its own overseas deployments. India has secured agreements with other nations for military access to their bases.
US 7th Fleet in action
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.
The US 7th Fleet is the largest numbered fleet in the world, and the US Navy has operated in the Indo-Pacific region for more than 70 years, providing ready forces to its allies in order to prevent conflict.
Nimitz class aircraft carrier
Indian Naval ships Kochi and Teg along with a fleet of P8I maritime surveillance aircraft and MiG 29K jets will participate in the drills, Navy officials said.
"The Indian Naval warships along with aircraft from Indian Navy and Indian Air Force will be engaged in joint multi-domain operations with the carrier strike group comprising Nimitz class aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Halsey and Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser USS Shiloh," Indian Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal.
The two-day exercise aims to strengthen the bilateral relationship and cooperation by demonstrating the ability to integrate and coordinate comprehensively in maritime operations.
IAF to take part with Jaguars and Su-30 MKI fighters
"High tempo operations during the exercise include advanced air defence exercises, cross deck helicopter operations and anti-submarine exercises. The participating forces will endeavour to hone their war-fighting skills and enhance their interoperability as an integrated force to promote peace, security and stability in the maritime domain," Madhwal said.
"Indian Navy and US Navy regularly undertake a host of bilateral and multilateral exercises which underscore the shared values as partner navies, in ensuring commitment to an open, inclusive and a rule-based international order," he said.
The IAF said the assets to be part of the exercise would include Jaguars and Su-30 MKI fighters, AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) and air-to-air refueller aircraft.
US to field F-18 fighters
In a statement, it said the US CSG is expected to field F-18 fighters and E-2C Hawkeye aircraft.
"The exercise will be carried out south of Thiruvananthapuram, on the western seaboard, over two days," the IAF said.
"The exercise with the US CSG will focus on multiple areas including enhancing aspects of interoperability, nuances of international integrated maritime search and rescue operations and exchange of best practices in the maritime airpower domain," it added.
USS Ronald Reagan took part in 'Ex-Malabar 2018'
India has been on constant alert for the last few years with Chinese presence visible in waters across the Indo-Pacific. In 2018, Indian Navy along with US Navy and Japan Marines took part in 'Ex-Malabar 2018'.
A diverse range of activities took place when the exercise was conducted as the Indian Navy was represented by INS Kamorta as Fleet Tanker INS Shakti and Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft P8I.
The US Naval forces included the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan with its air wing; two Ticonderoga class cruisers, USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville.