GOA, India (NNS) -- About 2,000 U.S. and Indian navy personnel took part in Malabar 04, a training exercise off the southwest coast of India Oct. 1-9.
Malabar was designed to increase interoperability between the two navies, while enhancing the cooperative security relationship between India and the United States. The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63), the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Gary (FFG 51), the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Alexandria (SSN 757), and P-3C maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft participated from the U.S. side in Malabar. The Indian vessels included the destroyer INS Mysore, frigate INS Brahmaputra, the tanker INS Aditya and the submarine INS Shankul.
The bilateral exercise involved a number of events designed to test the abilities of Sailors on both sides. Some of these included small boat transfers, maneuvering as a group, nighttime underway replenishments, visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) drills, and the central event, a “war at sea.”
Senior leaders at Malabar said all the training and cooperation are designed to not only learn how to better work together, but also to understand each other.
“Working with each other and building friendships is what this is really all about,” said Capt. John Sorce, commanding officer of Cowpens. “Sure, we're learning about each other, but we're also learning to trust each other...it’s all about building allies and friendships so if called upon in later days, it makes it easier for us all to work together and perform together."
“If we ever have to go to battle side-by-side, we’ll go much better, having had the experience we gained this week,” Sorce said.
“It’s important for everyone to understand that we are learning as much as the Indian navy is learning," said Cmdr. Thomas Kearney, who skippers Alexandria. "I learned more about diesel submarine operations working with [the Indian submarine INS Shankul] than I would at home, because we don’t have diesel submarines in the U.S. Navy.”
This is the sixth time the Malabar exercises have been conducted. They have been increased in complexity and scope.
“The Malabar exercises between the Indian and U.S. navies started off at elementary levels of communication checks and basic maneuvers,” said Indian navy Capt. C.S. Patham, commanding officer of Mysore. “Today, we have reached a stage where the two navies are in a position to exercise in a multi-dimensional and multi-threat scenario with the presence of major combatants, which include destroyers and frigates with integral helicopters, both nuclear and diesel submarines, carrier-borne fighter aircraft and, lastly, maritime patrol aircraft.”
An example of this cohesion was evident in each exercise, according to Chief Gunner’s Mate (SW) James Burke and Fire Controlman 1st Class (SW) Michael Davidson, both assigned to Cowpens, who worked with Indian sailors on techniques involved in VBSS operations. Davidson said they went over the proper techniques for boarding a vessel, questioning the crew, and keeping their own security in mind the whole time.
“They were very willing to learn,” said Davidson, a Tupelo, Miss., native. “They learned quickly from when we boarded one of their ships earlier [in the exercise].”
“They knew the basics, and they handled themselves well,” said Burke. The White Haven, Pa., native added that watching their navy in action, he sees little difference between their abilities and those of the U.S. Navy. “I don’t see them as any different than our own Sailors,” he said. “Cultural differences aside, sailors are sailors everywhere.”
“We were thoroughly trained for this exercise,” said Operations Specialist 3rd Class Anthony Bain from Cowpens. “We were ready and we got the job done. Training with the Indian navy has been a good experience.”