George Iype in Kochi
Naval cruisers, several maritime aircraft and hundreds of military personnel from the United States have arrived in Kochi to participate in the biggest-ever joint exercise of the Indian and American navies that starts off the Kochi coast on Sunday.
Code-named Malabar Exercise IV, nearly 5000 personnel from both the navies are taking part in it, which will be tactical in nature and cover all dimensions of naval warfare -- surface, sub-surface and air, a statement from India's Southern Naval Command said.
Commander Manohar Nambiar from the Southern Command told rediff.com that the preparations coordination meetings for the exercises between the US and Indian naval personnel started on Thursday and are in full swing and the exercises on the sea will continue till October 2.
The US naval personnel, however, will be in India till October 3.
He said during the exercise personnel from the Indian and US navies will be undertaking joint flying operations, anti-submarine warfare, replenishment at sea, cross-decking of helicopters, formation steaming, coordinated gun shoots and various manoeuvres.
The exercise will also see the two navies working together in a variety of skill areas, including cross decking of helicopters, formation steaming, coordinated gun shoots and anti-submarine warfare training.
Already two vessels from the US fleet -- the USS Chancellorsville and the USS Paul F Foster -- and a P-3C patrol and reconnaissance aircraft have arrived the Kochi coast participate in the first major naval interaction between India and America ever since the latter tested nuclear bombs in 1998.
The USS Chancellorsville is a Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser and USS Paul F Foster is a Spruance class destroyer of the US Navy.
A high-level American delegation has also directly flown down here from Diego Garcia to fine-tune the theatre of the biggest-ever naval exercise between India and the US.
The Indian Navy is deploying a submarine, a destroyer, a frigate and a tanker as well as maritime aircraft during the exercise. The Indian ships that are joining the American ships are INS Delhi, INS Gomati, tanker INS Aditya and submarine INS Shankul, all of them drawn from the Western Fleet.
The Indian navy is also flying its aircraft -- the Droniers, Seakings and Allouette -- during the naval warfare sessions.
Officials said that the latest Malabar exercise will include a manoeuvre called 'turnaround' that will be basically centred at the US base in Diego Garcia. In the manoeuvre, ships will have to get to port and be replenished with fuel and ammunition within a short deadline. 'Turnaround' demands and signifies a high degree of naval interaction.
The Malabar series of bilateral Indo-US military exercises began in 1992, but it lapsed after the US imposed military and economic sanctions on India in the wake of the Pokhran nuclear tests in May 1998. But early this year, India and the US announced the revival of the Malabar series of joint naval exercises pledging larger navy interaction.
The three earlier Malabar exercises were in 1992, 1995 and 1996.
In addition to participating in exercise-related planning and briefings, the crews from Indian and US navies will also engage in cultural exchanges and social activities with the exercise participants and local citizens in Kochi. On Saturday, they will visit an orphanage for children with multiple handicaps in the city.
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