Malabar (naval Exercise)
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Malabar Naval Exercise

Ships of the United States, India and Japan in the Bay of Bengal
An Indian navy MIG-29K Fulcrum aircraft flies over USS Nimitz
  Permanent partners in the Malabar naval exercise
  Past non-permanent partners in the Malabar naval exercise

Exercise Malabar is a quadrilateral naval exercise involving the United States, Japan , Australia, and India as permanent partners. Originally begun in 1992 as a bilateral exercise between India and the United States, Japan became a permanent partner in 2015.[1] Past non-permanent participants was Singapore. The annual Malabar series began in 1992 and includes diverse activities, ranging from fighter combat operations from aircraft carriers through Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercises.[2]

With the decision to include Australia in the drills by India in 2020, it will be the first time all members of the regional grouping known as the Quad will be engaging militarily.


The first naval exercise, named Malabar-I, between India and the United States was held in May 1992.[3] Three exercises were conducted before 1998, when the Americans suspended exercises after India tested nuclear weapons.[4] However, the United States renewed military contacts following the September 11 attacks when India joined President George W Bush's campaign against international terrorism.


In 2002, the exercises comprised basic passing maneuvers among naval vessels, anti-submarine exercises and replenishment-at-sea drills.


In 2003, US warships USS Fitzgerald  and USS Chosin ; US submarine USS Pasadena ; Indian guided missile frigates INS Brahmaputra and INS Ganga; Indian submarine INS Shalki and aircraft conducted anti-submarine warfare tactics.[5]


In 2004, Malabar participants included advanced assets like the USS Paul F. Foster (DD-964), USS Alexandria , a Los Angeles-class submarine, US Navy P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, and the SH-60B Seahawk LAMPS MKIII helicopter. This enabled both navies to engage in submarine familiarization exercises, a key capability for anti-submarine warfare collaboration.


In 2005, Malabar featured the participation of the aircraft carriers USS Nimitz  and INS Viraat. During a month of operations, US and Indian forces collaborated on a wide variety of tasks ranging from a joint diving salvage operation to a 24-hour 'war at sea' simulation that saw the two forces engage in mock combat.[6][7][8]


In 2006, the USS Boxer  Expeditionary Strike Group (BOXESG) comprising 13 ships including amphibious ships, cruisers, destroyers, and the US submarine USS Providence  as well as Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) participated in the exercise. It was the first time a United States Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) led the exercise. The addition of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Midgett (WHEC 726) and an Indian Coast Guard Patrol Ship allowed for the exchange of Coast Guard practices between nations in maritime law enforcement, anti-piracy operations, pollution control, search and rescue, and VBSS support. During the second phase, BOXESG pulled into several Indian ports, including Mumbai and Goa. The stop offered BOXESG a chance to experience Indian culture, re-supply, and support a Habitat for Humanity project. The visit gave leadership a chance to discuss future Malabar exercises and interoperability between the three nation's armed forces.


A pair of Indian Air Force Jaguars flying in formation beside a pair of Indian Navy Sea Harriers and a pair of U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets, flying over the Indian Navy aircraft carrier INS Viraat during Exercise Malabar 2007.

Malabar 2007 was the ninth Malabar exercise and was the first one to be held outside the Indian Ocean, off the Japanese island of Okinawa.[9][10][11]

Besides interception and dissimilar air combat exercises, it featured surface and anti-submarine warfare, maritime interdiction and visit, board, search, and seizure operations to counter piracy and other non-state acts at sea. On 4 September 2007, the naval exercise included 25 vessels from India, the United States, Japan, Australia and Singapore in the Bay of Bengal. This was the first time a joint exercise of this scale involving 25 vessels was conducted. The exercise was previously a bilateral India-US engagement that was expanded for the first time.

India's Left parties that have criticised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government on the India-US civilian nuclear deal had vehemently protested the exercise, seeing it as another sign of the growing closeness between the two countries. At one time, the Indian government was known to have considered postponing or canceling the exercise but the Indian Navy put its foot down, saying the logistics involved made any delay impossible.

China, which did off not officially comment on the exercise, was known to be unhappy over the event as it was being conducted in the Bay of Bengal for the first time. China has been cultivating naval cooperation with Bangladesh and Myanmar to gain access to the Bay of Bengal and has been strengthening military cooperation with Sri Lanka. In June, China had issued a 'demarche' to India, United States, Japan and Australia seeking details about their four-nation meeting, termed a Quadrilateral Initiative. India and Australia had quickly assured Beijing that security and defence issues did not form part of the meeting's agenda.[12]

The US Navy had the largest representation during Malabar 2007 with 13 warships, including the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz that was protested[13] when it dropped anchor off Chennai in July. The other vessels included the conventionally powered carrier USS Kitty Hawk, the nuclear submarine USS Chicago , two guided missile cruisers, and six guided missile destroyers. Eight warships, including the aircraft carrier INS Viraat, represented the Indian Navy. The other warships were the destroyers INS Mysore, INS Rana and INS Ranjit, fleet tanker INS Jyoti (A58) and a corvette INS Kuthar. Viraat's Sea Harrier jets and Sea King helicopters, and the Indian Air Force's Jaguar deep-penetration strike aircraft were also seen in action. Australia was represented by a frigate and a tanker; Japan by two destroyers; and Singapore by a frigate.[9][10][11]


From 19 October 2008, Exercise Malabar 08, the twelfth of the series, was conducted in the Arabian Sea. The purpose of Malabar 2008 was to promote increased inter-operability between the United States and India, with a special emphasis on maritime interdiction, including counter-piracy and counter-terrorism operation.[14]

Rear Admiral Anil Chopra, Flag Officer Commanding, Western Fleet (FOCWF), noted:

"This greatly enhances our two navies' interoperability, which is very important to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, as well as issues of maritime security and piracy."[15]

The US Navy was represented by the USS Ronald Reagan 's Carrier Strike Group Seven. In addition, one submarine, USS Springfield , and one P3C Orion aircraft also participated in the exercise.[2][16] Joining Carrier Group Seven were the fast combat support ship Bridge and the nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine Springfield and a P-3C maritime patrol aircraft.[14][15] Indian naval units included guided-missile destroyers Mumbai and Rana; the guided-missile frigates Talwar, Godavari, Brahmaputra, and Betwa; the replenishment tanker Aditya; and a Shishumar-class diesel-electric submarine.[2][14]


The Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and U.S. Navy expanded their maritime partnerships during exercise Malabar 2009, held off the coast of Japan between 29 April and 3 May 2009.

The features of Exercise Malabar 2009 were: o Visit, Board, Search & Seizure (VBBS) techniques o Surface warfare maneuvers o Anti-submarine warfare o Gunnery training o Air defense

The ships involved from India were INS Mumbai (D62), INS Khanjar (P47), INS Ranvir (D54) and INS Jyoti (A58).

The ships from Japan were JDS Kurama (DDH144) and JDS Asayuki (DD132).

The ships from the US were USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), USS Chafee (DDG 90) and the USS Seawolf (SSN 21).[17][18]


Ships, submarines and aircraft from the United States Navy's Seventh Fleet arrived in Goa, India, 23 April to begin Exercise Malabar 2010 hosted by the Indian Navy.

"The U.S. Navy and Indian Navy are natural partners and friends who share a mutual desire to ensure security and stability in this region," said Rear Adm. Kevin M. Donegan, Commander, Battle Force Seventh Fleet. "A high-end exercise like Malabar strengthens our growing naval relationship and the interoperability between our two professional maritime forces."

Training conducted at-sea included surface and antisubmarine warfare, coordinated gunnery exercises, air defense, and visit, board, search, and seizure drills. Sailors took part in professional exchanges and discussions while at-sea and on shore. United States Navy personnel participated in a community service project during the port visit to Goa.

United States forces participating in Malabar included the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67), Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Chafee (DDG 90), Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Curts (FFG 38), Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Annapolis (SSN 760), P-3 Orion aircraft, SH-60 helicopters and a Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) special forces detachment.[19]


U.S. Carrier Strike Group Ronald Reagan with the Indian Navy

The Malabar Series of Exercises 2-10 April 2011 were held off the Okinawa coast.[20] India had stopped involving more countries in the exercises after China, in 2007, sent demarches to all the participants of a five-nation naval exercise held in the Bay of Bengal. With the Japanese participation in 2009 raising no political storm, India was once again agreeable to the idea of allowing the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force to participate.[20]

Carrier Strike Group Seven participated in Malabar 2011.[21] United States naval units initially included the guided-missile destroyers Sterett and Stethem; the guided-missile frigate Reuben James; and nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Santa Fe (SSN-763). Indian naval units included the guided-missile destroyers Delhi, Ranvijay, and INS Ranvir ; the corvette INS Kirch ; and the replenishment tanker Jyoti.[21][22][23]

The at-sea portions were conducted in the western Pacific Ocean, east of the Luzon Strait, and east of Okinawa. The exercise's location coincided with the Indian Navy's western Pacific deployment.[21]

Malabar 2011 was designed to advance United States-Indian coordination and operational capacity. Exercise events included liaison officer professional exchanges and embarks; communications exercises; surface action group exercise operations; formation maneuvering; helicopter cross deck evolutions; underway replenishments; humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; gunnery exercises; visit, board, search and seizure; maritime strike; air defense; screen exercise and anti-submarine warfare.[22] United States and Indian navy ships ended the exercise on 9 April 2011.


INS Shakti replenishing USS Carl Vinson during Exercise Malabar 2012.

Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1 of the US Navy, comprising[24]USS Carl Vinson, embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey participated in the 10-day exercise. Military Sealift Command's fast combat support ship USNS Bridge also provided support for the exercise.[25]

The frigate INS Satpura, destroyers INS Ranvir and INS Ranvijay, and corvette INS Kulish represented the Indian Navy, along with Indian Navy replenishment oiler INS Shakti .[24][26]

The exercise took place in approximately 450 nautical miles of sea and air space, and offered the opportunity for the United States and Indian naval services to conduct communications exercises, surface action group (SAG) operations, helicopter cross-deck evolutions, and gunnery exercises. The participants split into two SAGs, with Bunker Hill leading one and Satpura leading the other. Carl Vinson and CVW-17 provided air support for the exercise.[24]


Indian Navy-US Navy bilateral exercise, MALABAR 2013 commenced on 5 November 2013 and continued until 11 November 2013 in the Bay of Bengal. Events planned during the 'At-Sea' phase included professional exchanges and embarkations; communications exercises; Surface Action Group operations; leapfrogs; helicopter cross-deck evolutions; gunnery exercises; Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW).

Participation from the US Navy includes the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85) and a P-3 Orion aircraft. Indian Navy participation includes the indigenously built frigate INS Shivalik (F47), the guided missile destroyer INS Ranvijay (D55) and Tupolev Tu-142 Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft.[27]


Ships of the Indian, Japanese and the U.S. Navies sail together during Exercise Malabar 2014.

Exercise Malabar 2014 commenced on 24 July 2014 at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan. This edition of MALABAR was a trilateral one involving the navies of India, Japan and the United States. The exercise involved Carrier strike group operations, Maritime patrol and Reconnaissance operations, anti piracy operations and Visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) operations, Search and rescue exercises, helicopter cross-deck landings, Underway replenishment, gunnery and anti-submarine warfare exercises, and Liaison officer exchange and embarkation.[28]

The Indian Navy was represented by INS Ranvijay (guided missile destroyer), INS Shivalik (stealth frigate) and INS Shakti (fleet tanker). Two destroyers along with a P3C Orion and a ShinMaywa US-2 were participating from the Japanese Navy. From the U.S. Navy one submarine (SSN), two destroyers, one tanker along with one Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft participated. One United States Navy Carrier Strike group (CSG) based on the Nimitz class carrier USS George Washington joined for the sea phase of the exercise.[28][29]


On 26 January 2015, the U.S. President and Indian Prime Minister agreed, in a joint statement, to upgrade exercise Malabar.[30]India invited Japan to be a part of exercise, held in the Bay of Bengal. Since 2007, India has only hosted Exercise Malabar when the US and India are the two participating parties. Malabar 2009, 2011, and 2014 all took place off the coast of Japan and included the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces.[31] The exercise was undertaken by the three countries in the Bay of Bengal from 15 October 2015 till 19 October 2015.[32]

The Indian Navy was represented by INS Sindhuraj (diesel-electric submarine), INS Ranvijay (guided missile destroyer), INS Shivalik (stealth frigate), INS Betwa (guided-missile frigate) and INS Shakti (fleet tanker). The Japanese Navy sent destroyer JS Fuyuzuki. From the U.S. Navy came the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt , the USS Normandy, Freedom-class littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) and Los Angeles-class submarine USS City of Corpus Christi (SSN-705).[33]


The 2016 Malabar exercise was conducted on 26 June 2016. This time, Japan was also a part of the exercise.[34]


Ships from the Indian Navy, JMSDF and the US Navy in the Bay of Bengal during exercise Malabar 2017

The 2017 Malabar exercise was the 21st edition of the exercise and conducted from 10 to 17 July 2017. This edition involved navies from India, USA and Japan. The exercise included a harbor phase at Chennai from 10 to 13 July 2017 and a sea phase from 14 to 17 July 2017 in the Bay of Bengal. This edition focused on Aircraft Carrier operations, Air defense, Anti-submarine warfare (ASW), Surface warfare, Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS), Search and Rescue (SAR), joint and tactical procedures. There was also joint training between the naval special forces of the Indian and US Navies at INS Karna, Visakhapatnam. A total of 16 ships, 2 submarines and 95 aircraft participated in this exercise.[35][36] It was the first exercise between the three countries which involved three aircraft carriers.[37]

The Indian Navy was represented by the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and its air wing, a guided missile destroyer INS Ranvir, two indigenous stealth frigates INS Shivalik and INS Sahyadri, an ASW corvette INS Kamorta, two missile corvettes INS Kora and INS Kirpan, one Sindhughosh-class submarine, fleet tanker INS Jyoti and a Poseidon P8I aircraft.[35]

The American Navy was represented by the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and its air wing, a guided missile cruiser USS Princeton, three guided missile destroyers: USS Howard, USS Shoup and USS Kidd, a Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine and a Poseidon P-8A aircraft.[35]

The Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) was represented by a helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH 183) and its air wing and a missile destroyer JS Sazanami (DD1 13).[35][38]


The 2018 Malabar exercise was conducted from 7 to 16 June 2018 off the coast of Guam in the Philippine Sea. This was the 22nd edition of the exercise and the first time it was held on United States territory. The exercise is divided into two phases. The harbor phase was held from 7 to 10 June at Naval Base Guam, and the sea phase from 11 to 16 June. The exercise focused on onshore and at-sea training, aircraft carrier operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance operations, visit, board, search and seizure operations and professional exchanges.[39] Based on news reports, India refused Australia participation in the exercise to avoid posturing it as a military group against China.[40]

The Indian Navy was represented by stealth frigate INS Sahyadri; AsW corvette INS Kamorta and fleet tanker INS Shakti and a Boeing P-8I Neptune aircraft.[41]

The U.S. Navy was represented by aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan with its air wing; two guided missile cruisers, USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville; two guided missile destroyers, USS Benfold and USS Mustin; a Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine and a Poseidon P-8A aircraft.[41]

The Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) was represented by a helicopter carrier JS Ise and its air wing; two missile destroyer JS Suzunami and JS Fuyuzuki; a Kawasaki P-1 patrol aircraft and a diesel-electric attack submarine.[41]


American, Indian, and Japanese ships participating in Malabar 2019

At the Japan-India Annual Defence Ministerial Dialogue held at Tokyo on 2 September 2019, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya announced that Malabar 2019 would be held in Japan from 26 September to 4 October 2019.[42]

The Indian Navy was represented by stealth frigate INS Sahyadri, AsW corvette INS Kiltan and a Boeing P-8I Neptune aircraft. The Indian Navy contingent was led by Rear Admiral Suraj Berry, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet.[43]

The U.S. Navy was represented by USS McCampbell and a Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft. The JMSDF was represented by helicopter destroyer JS Kaga, guided missile destroyers JS Samidare and JS Choukai, and a P1 aircraft.[43]


The 24th edition of Malabar exercise, delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, is expected to be held in mid-November.[44]

It was decided that Australia shall also be a part of the Malabar Naval exercise, in view to support a free, open and rule based Indo Pacific.[45]

Quadrilateral grouping of US, Japan, India and Australia are sending their warships for the Malabar Exercise in November, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E Biegun on 20th October said that Quad should be "more regularised", and at some point "formalised" with the passage of time.[46]

See also

International relations


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