Naval and air forces from Australia, India, Japan and the United States conducted Exercise Malabar off the coast of Australia in August 2023. It was the 27th iteration of the multilateral exercise, which enhances interoperability while strengthening critical partnerships to uphold a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.
“Exercise Malabar reinforces our shared commitment to working together as partners in our region to ensure that we maintain a stable, prosperous and resilient region for us all to enjoy,” Royal Australian Navy Rear Adm. Christopher Smith said as drills began off the coast of Sydney.
The 12-day event included tactical drills in surface and anti-submarine warfare, air defense, special forces operations, and replenishment at sea.
The exercise also provided “an opportunity to share thoughts about what are some really challenging times right now,” U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Karl Thomas said. “And so the deterrence that our four nations provide as we operate together … is a foundation for all the other nations operating in this region.”
It was Australia’s first time hosting the exercise, which the Indian and U.S. navies began in the Indian Ocean in 1992 before expanding to include Australia and Japan. Malabar also has been held off the coasts of Guam and Japan, and in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.
“When we got together, the U.S. Navy and the Indian Navy, it was really a big step … and I think we made a great beginning,” Indian Navy Vice Adm. Dinesh Tripathi told reporters. “Move to 2007, where our Australian friends joined for the first time in the Bay of Bengal, and that signified something else: that the four nations, four democracies, can work together in the maritime domain. And that sent some signals around the world.”
Malabar came on the heels of the largest-ever Talisman Sabre, a biennial Australia-U.S. exercise that drew 13 participant countries and four observer nations to Australia, including all four Malabar partners.
Japanese and Indian naval vessels stopped in the Pacific Island Countries of Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea on their way to participate in Malabar, emphasizing the region’s strategic importance, Reuters news agency reported.
“Oceania, the island nations that are just northeast of Australia … all of our nations now are focusing on those countries,” Thomas said.
Australian assets at Malabar included the destroyer HMAS Brisbane, the landing ship HMAS Choules, a submarine, special forces, and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F-35 and Hawk 127 fighter jets, and P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. The Indian Navy deployed the destroyer INS Kolkata and the frigate INS Sahyadri. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force sent the destroyer JS Shiranui and a special boarding unit. U.S. assets included the destroyer USS Rafael Peralta, the fleet oiler USNS Rappahannock, a submarine, P-8A Poseidon aircraft and special operations forces.
The exercise provided the RAAF with “an opportunity to train against some very, very sophisticated ships — and all of the ships that are participating here are very sophisticated, high-end warfighting ships,” Smith told the Breaking Defense website.