Australian, Indian navies build bonds during anti-submarine warfare exercise

Australian, Indian navies build bonds during anti-submarine warfare exercise

Mandeep Singh

Australia and India strengthened cooperation and interoperability between their navies during AUSINDEX-19 in April 2019, according to officials.

“Australia clearly sees India in the top tier of our international relationships,” Australian High Commissioner to India Harinder Sidhu, said. “With both countries having extensive maritime zones in the Indian Ocean and significant maritime capabilities, it makes sense for Australia and India to do more together to ensure that the Indian Ocean remains free, open and inclusive.”

The largest joint maritime exercise to date between the two countries, AUSINDEX-19 focused on anti-submarine warfare (ASW). Each navy deployed four ships and one submarine for the biennial exercise, which was held April 2-14, 2019, in and around Visakhapatnam, a port city on India’s eastern coast.

ASW exercises have taken on increased significance in recent years as China has enlarged and modernized its fleet of nuclear submarines. China’s subs are capable of locating and attacking targeted vessels at a distance from its coast of up to 2,000 nautical kilometers, a 2018 report by the Rand Corp. estimated.

Capt. Darren Grogan, commanding officer of the HMAS Success, said that AUSINDEX-19 marked the largest historical deployment of Australian forces to India. He called India “a significant security partner for Australia in the Indian Ocean and broader Indo-Pacific region.”

Over 1,000 Australian personnel and a comparable number of Indian personnel participated in AUSINDEX-19, the third iteration of the exercise. More than 50 U.S. and 20 New Zealand military personnel participated as observers.

India and Australia signed the bilateral Framework for Security Cooperation in 2014, which expanded defense ties between them and set the stage for strategic dialogues, high-level meetings, staff talks and training exchanges, Commissioner Sidhu’s office reported. The first AUSINDEX was held in Visakhapatnam in 2015.

AUSINDEX-19 included three parts: a five-day harbor phase at Visakhapatnam featuring the sharing of best practices by subject matter experts, cross-deck visits, operational planning, sports and cultural events; a five-day operational sea phase in the Bay of Bengal; and a two-day additional harbor phase to plan the next iteration of the exercise, according to an Indian Navy news release.

The sea phase “included a series of advanced warfare drills in all three dimensions comprising anti-submarine warfare exercises, air defense exercises, anti-surface warfare exercises including live-fire drills, replenishment at sea, and cross-deck flying [pictured],” the Indian Navy said.

For the exercise, the Royal Australian Navy deployed an amphibious assault ship, the HMAS Canberra; frigates HMAS Newcastle and HMAS Parramatta; replenishment tanker HMAS Success; and a conventional (nonnuclear) submarine, HMAS Collins. The Indian Navy deployed a multirole destroyer, INS Ranvijay; a multirole stealth frigate, INS Sahyadri; a missile corvette, INS Kora; an ASW corvette, INS Kiltan; and its own conventional submarine, INS Sindhukirti.

Australia deployed the following aircraft in the exercise: an ASW-equipped P-8A Poseidon, a Boeing surveillance plane; an Airbus MRH-90 transport helicopter; and other ASW helicopters, the Indian Navy reported. India flew its own ASW version of the Boeing Poseidon, the P8I, along with helicopters, jet trainers and maritime patrol aircraft.

Mandeep Singh is a FORUM contributor reporting from New Delhi, India.