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Indian Air Force and Navy join US Navy for Passage Exercise in the Indian Ocean

SU-30MKI-g4sp heavy class, long-range, multi-role, air superiority fighter and strike fighter, in Indian Air Force insignia. (G4sp/WikiCommons)
June 24, 2021

The United States Navy’s lead Carrier Strike Group has engaged with the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy since June 23 on India’s western seaboard south of Thiruvananthapuram for multi-spectrum interoperable drills, according to the Government of India.

Indian Air Force shared images of the drills on Twitter.

The Indian Navy’s principal vessels and IAF frontline jets are engaging in separate drills simultaneously with capital assets of the U.S. Navy, including the nuclear-powered supercarrier USS Ronald W. Reagan. The Nimitz class supercarrier, which the U.S. consoled as the flagship of the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Strike Group 5 (CSG 5) and assigned to the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

For India, the joint drills are of utmost strategic importance, since the exercise with the defense forces of friendly foreign countries operating in the IOR is an embarking chapter in alliance-like operations.

The numerous vessels taking part in the joint multi-domain operation include 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, MiG-29K carrier-based multirole fighter aircraft, the USS Ronald Reagan, USS Halsey, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, and USS Shiloh, a Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruiser.

“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,” a spokesperson for the Indian Navy said.

An official added, “The high tempo operations during the joint exercises include advanced air defence exercises, cross deck helicopter operations and anti-submarine exercises.”

The drills allow participating forces to hone their warfare skills and enhance their interoperability as an integrated force to promote peace, security, and stability in the maritime domain.

“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,” the spokesperson said.

High ranking officers of the Indian Air Force command taking part in the exercise said 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 aircrafts. Also taking part in the drills are the U.S. Navy’s air assets, which include F-18 jets and E-2C Hawkeye AEW&C aircrafts. This is the first time both countries shared their Early Warning Airborne assets in the drill.

“The IAF has extensive experience in maritime operations in the IOR. This has been consolidated over the years by the conduct of exercises from the country’s island territories, including participation in international exercises” IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Ashish Moghe said. “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.”