India & the U.S.

Indian Air Force and Navy conduct passage exercise with the U.S. Navy in the Indian Ocean

Published : June 23, 2021 18:22 IST

A view of USS Ronald Reagan, ahead of a passage exercise with INS Kochi during its transit through Indian Ocean Region on June 23. Photo: PTI

A spokesperson for the Indian Navy said the two-day exercise aims to strengthen bilateral relationship and cooperation between the two countries.

Frontline nuclear-powered warships, maritime surveillance aircraft and all-weather land- and carrier-based multirole fighter aircraft have all been in action as the two-day “passage exercise” involving the United States’ Navy, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy got underway on June 23 on India’s western seaboard south of Thiruvananthapuram.

Indian Naval warships and IAF fighter jets are engaging in separate drills with frontline assets of the U.S. Navy, including the nuclear-powered supercarrier USS Ronald W. Reagan. The Nimitz class aircraft carrier, the flagship of the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Strike Group 5 (CSG 5) which is assigned to the U.S. Pacific Fleet and is permanently forward deployed to the U.S’ 7th Fleet, is currently passing through the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). For India, the joint drills are a strategic outreach exercise with the defence forces of friendly foreign countries operating in the IOR.

Participating in the joint multi-domain operation with the Indian Naval Ship (INS) Kochi, a Kolkata-class stealth guided-missile destroyer built at the Mazagon Dock, INS Tej, the Russian-built Talwar-class frigate, P-8I maritime patrol aircraft, and MiG-27K carrier-based multirole fighter aircraft are the USS Ronald Reagan, USS Halsey, an Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer, and USS Shiloh, a Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruiser.

A spokesperson for the Indian Navy said the two-day exercise aims to strengthen bilateral relationship and cooperation between the two countries “by demonstrating the ability to integrate and coordinate comprehensively in maritime operations”. The high tempo operations during the joint exercises 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. Added the spokesperson: “Indian Navy and U.S. 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.”

Officials taking part in the exercise disclosed that the IAF’s operational engagements with the USS Ronald Reagan-led U.S. Navy involves the IAF’s assets from bases under four operational commands and includes Jaguar and Su-30 MKI combat fighter aircraft, the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO’s) Centre for Airborne System’s indigenously designed and developed NETRA Airborne Early Warning and Control System and Il-78 mid-air refuellers. Taking part in the drills are the U.S. Navy’s air assets which include F-18 jets and E-2C Hawkeye AEW&C aircraft.

Said IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Ashish Moghe: “The IAF has extensive experience in maritime operations in the IOR. This has been consolidated over the years by conduct of exercises from the country’s island territories, including participation in international exercises. The multi-spectral capability of the IAF in the IOR also includes Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief missions and logistics support undertaken in support of friendly nations in the region. This engagement with the US CSG offers one more opportunity to undertake joint operations in the maritime domain with a friendly foreign power.”