|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
Two prominent military exercises kicked off back to back on November 13. ‘Tiger Triumph’, the Indo-US tri-services exercise under aegis of HQ Integrated commenced on India’s eastern seaboard, in the Bay of Bengal and will continue till November 21. It may be recalled that addressing the gathering during the ‘Howdy Modi’ in Houston on September 22, 2019, President Donald Trump had said, "In November the US and India will demonstrate dramatic progress of our defence relationship, holding the first ever tri-service military exercise between our nations, it is called 'Tiger Triumph', good name". Trump also said that the two countries have conducted defence hardware trade around USD 18 billion over the last 10 years and many more defence deals were in the pipeline. Final Planning Conference (FPC) for India-US Tri-Services Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) was held at Headquarters Eastern Naval Command from 16 to 20 September and was attended by delegates from the US Navy and the Marine Corps and representatives from the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force. Both the teams from the US and India also visited the campsite at Kakinada and conducted table-top exercises as preparatory activities.
In Exercise ‘Tiger Triumph’, the US is fielding its amphibious warship USS ‘Germantown’, troops from its 3rd Marine Division and a Special Forces reconnaissance team. India is fielding its amphibious warships INS ‘Jalashwa’ and INS ‘Airawat’, survey ship INS ‘Sandhayak’, P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, troops from two infantry battalions, and Mi-17 helicopters and rapid action medial teams (RAMT) from the IAF. According to an Indian Navy spokesman, “The exercise is aimed at developing interoperability for jointly conducting HADR operations, which is in consonance with the growing partnership between India and the US”. The ‘harbour phase’ is at Visakhapatnam from November 13 to 16 and the second phase in Kakinada from November 17 to 21. During the ‘harbour phase’, troops will embark and ships prepare to sail for the ‘sea phase’ to undertake maritime, amphibious and HADR operations. On reaching Kakinada, the exercise will witness relief forces being landed as part of the HADR exercise phase. A joint command and control centre is being established by Indian Army and US Marines at the HADR exercise area.
This is the second time India has deployed assets and manpower for a joint exercise with a foreign country, first time being with Russia during the Exercise ‘INDRA’ held at Vladivostok in 2017. The second back to back exercise that kicked off on November 13 is a much bigger one – Exercise ‘Sindhu Sudarshan-VII’; for testing the ‘battle readiness’ of a Strike Corps in an integrated air land battle scenario. This is a major exercise in which more than 40,000 troops including Special Forces are participating with several tanks, infantry combat vehicles (ICVs), artillery guns, army air defence and attack helicopters like the ‘Rudra’ version of the indigenous advanced light helicopter (ALH). This exercise is being held on India’s western front with Pakistan. This is the second phase of the corps level exercise, exercise with troops (EWT), scheduled from November 13 to 18 between Barmer and Jaisalmer. Military maneuvers employed in the exercise will be tested, the maneuvers involving “movements of tanks, infantry combat vehicles and artillery guns to see how they can be placed in an advantageous position during a battle scenario and employing their firepower,” according to an official.
Exercise ‘Sindhu Sudarshan-VII’ for the first time will exercise the K-9 Vajra self-propelled artillery guns, which were inducted into the Army in November 2018. The Indian Army is procuring 100 of these guns, which are a variant of the K-9 Thunder being used by the South Korean army. The exercise aims to show the integration between tanks, mechanised infantry including combat vehicles, artillery guns, army air defence, attack helicopters such as the armed ALH helicopter and Special Forces. IAF assets participating in the exercise will provide close air support and combat air patrol with fighter aircraft. India has been conducting joint exercises with a host of foreign countries including the US, Russia, France, UK, China, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Maldives, Vietnam, Nepal, Bangladesh, Singapore, Indonesia, Oman, Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Seychelles, Kazakhstan, SCO, BIMSTEC and ASEAN plus. These help improve interoperability and jointness for meeting contingencies that can come up in future.