The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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US war games shift to offensive gear

New Delhi, Oct. 26: Boats and helicopters from a US Navy landing platform ship and Indian troops from amphibious craft will this week “raid targets” on a Konkan beach-head, signalling a shift of gears and a move from defensive mode to offensive mode in joint military exercises.

Soldiers from the 2/4 Marine Regiment of the US and the 9 Sikh Light Infantry of the Indian Army will seek to stealthily attack “enemy assets” — such as jetties and oil rigs — and protect their own vessels in one of the scenarios drawn up for the sixth episode in the Malabar series of exercises.

“This is one of the most complex naval exercises we have had with any country,” a senior naval officer said.

“The sea-borne landing is an offensive tool but it is also made to take relief to disaster-hit islands and places. The idea is that Indian and US forces should be able to come together quickly even if they sail some distance from each other and mount an operation.”

Last year, the two navies involved their aircraft carriers for the first time in the Malabar exercises.

Coinciding with Malabar-06 is Shatrujeet (victory over the enemy), which is primarily meant to be an army drill in the junior officers’ wing of the Infantry School in Belgaum. But the same company of Marines who will “assault” on the beach near Goa will shift to Belgaum for counter-terrorism drills in an urban setting.

The 2/4 Marines and the 9 Sikh Light Infantry soldiers will be “mixed up” before being assigned the drills, a senior naval officer said.

The US Navy’s Expeditionary Strike Group-05 deployed for the exercise comprises the USS Boxer (a landing platform deck with helicopters), cruiser USS Bunker Hill, destroyers USS Benfold and Howard, US Coast Guard cutter Midgett, Canadian frigate Ottawa, a nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Providence and a P3C maritime surveillance aircraft operating out of Goa.

The Indian Navy vessels would be the INS Mysore (destroyer), guided-missile frigates INS Beas and Ganga, a replenishment tanker, the INS Shakti, a submarine, the INS Shankul, Coast Guard ship Samar, IL38 and TU 142 reconnaissance aircraft, the Sea Harrier fighter aircraft and the INS Gharial, a large landing ship tank.

The Indian Army contingent in Malabar has been specially trained in sea-borne landings from the INS Gharial. Ships like the Gharial are meant specifically for an infantry assault from the sea but are also used in disaster-relief missions.

The infantry drill called Shatrujeet in Belgaum comes just a month after the Yudh Abhyas (training for war) exercise in Hawaii in which contingents of the US and Indian armies and air forces participated. That, too, focused mainly on counter-terrorism in an urban setting.

During Shatrujeet, the 2/4 Marines will engage with soldiers from the Indian Army’s 21 Punjab Regiment from the 54 (Bison) division. The Indian contingent will be led by Colonel Vijay B. Nair and the US Marines by Major Scrabeck.

“The terminal objective of Shatrujeet is to develop and refine interoperability at the functional level,” a senior army official said.

The drill will be held against a background of a UN mandate in which both Indian and US forces are involved.

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