India-U.S. military exercise solidifies interoperability in Alaska’s icy terrain
An annual exercise involving hundreds of Indian and United States Soldiers training in Arctic conditions “strengthened mutual confidence, interoperability and enabled sharing of best practices,” the Indian Army said in late October 2021.
The 17th iteration of Yudh Abhyas, which ran for two weeks at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, included cold weather survival, medical evacuation by air, mountaineer training, small-arms marksmanship and a field training exercise in the Chugach Mountains, according to a U.S. Army news release. (Pictured: Indian and United States Soldiers conduct weapons training with a MAG 58 machine gun during exercise Yudh Abhyas 21 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska in October 2021.)
Troops also used a drone-buster gun to jam the frequency of a drone during counter-unmanned aerial systems training, as well as a remotely operated vehicle to detect and dismantle improvised explosive devices, the New Delhi-based news agency Asian News International reported.
“We have learned the best practices, techniques and procedures which have evolved from operating in these conditions,” said Brig. Parag Nangare, commander of the Indian Army’s 136th Infantry Brigade Group, according to the U.S. Army.
The exercise came as the Indian Army prepares for another harsh winter along the nation’s disputed Himalayan border with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the site of deadly clashes between the two militaries in June 2020. Multiple rounds of negotiations have failed to settle the standoff along the 3,400-kilometer Line of Actual Control, and thousands of troops remain massed on both sides of the de facto border, over which India and the PRC went to war in 1962.
Shortly after Yudh Abhyas concluded, the Indian Army began airborne drills in the border region to test and validate its rapid-response capabilities, including troop and equipment movement, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported.
“India stood up to China after the border row erupted, and now the Army is sending a message that the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] should not underestimate Indian military capabilities,” retired Lt. Gen. BS Jaswal, former commander of India’s Northern Army, told the Hindustan Times. “Such drills have been conducted in the past but on a smaller scale.”
Yudh Abhyas is evidence of “the growing military cooperation” between India and the U.S., according to the Indian Army. As the bilateral exercise began, the nations’ navies were conducting drills in the Bay of Bengal along with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Navy as part of Malabar-2021.
In September 2021, an Indian Air Force delegation traveled to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, for the annual India Executive Steering Group conference with U.S. Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), where senior leaders from both nations plan for future engagements, according to a PACAF news release.
“India is a very important partner to the United States, especially in today’s challenging geopolitical landscape,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James Jacobson, deputy commander of PACAF. “And the strength of our relationship with the Indian Air Force is a key pillar in ensuring a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. We look forward to further expanding our engagements and compatibility in the years ahead to ensure the peace, security, and prosperity of the region.”
About 350 Indian Soldiers and 400 U.S. Soldiers participated in the 2021 edition of Yudh Abhyas, which marked the Indian Army’s first visit to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in 11 years, according to the U.S. Army. “Two weeks ago, we met as strangers,” said U.S. Army Col. Jody Shouse, commander of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division. “We share a bond of friendship and the knowledge that when needed, we will be there for each other.”
IMAGE CREDIT: ALEJANDRO PENA/U.S. AIR FORCE