Thursday, September 6, 2007

Naval Maneuvers: Exercises Malabar, Bold Step, et al

US Navy photo of Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in formation with the British Royal Navy's Invincible-class aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (R 06) in the Atlantic Ocean (Photo by Mass Comm. Spl. 2nd Class Jay C. Pugh)
A giant international naval exercise is under way in the Bay of Bengal, involving the armed forces of the USA and its most important allies, Japan and Australia; along with Singapore – an important friend, with which along with India, we badly need closer military relations, including a formal alliance.

Meanwhile, in the Atlantic, in late July, US aircraft carriers Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), and their strike groups of accompanying cruisers and destroyers completed Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) 07-2, “Operation Bold Step”-- together with British carrier HMS Illustrious and her strike group. Interestingly, the British carrier, for the entire exercise, embarked two US Marine Air Groups. Illustrious was also grouped with US Navy destroyers and frigates.

The Bay of Bengal exercises (Malabar 07-02) are very interesting. This is probably the largest concentration of naval power in this region since Admiral Nagumo, of Pearl Harbor fame, raided the area with his Japanese carrier force in early 1942. At least 26 vessels are involved in Malabar, including US carriers Nimitz (CVN 68) and Kitty Hawk (CV 63), and their escorting strike groups; plus submarine USS Chicago (SSN 721); along with Indian carrier Viraat and her escorts, plus the aforementioned contingents from Japan, Singapore and Australia. This is a formidable assemblage of naval power: thousands of sailors, with larger support casts assisting ashore and aloft.
And as if all that weren't enough -- there is another exercise on off the coast of South Africa, involving that country's navy, a NATO contingent with ships from Portugal, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, and yet more US vessels. (Hat tip: Eagle Speak).
The operational tempo of the US Navy seems to be very high at present. Multi-carrier exercises across the breadth of the whole planet ? The fuel costs alone are staggering, to say nothing of upkeep and maintenance obligations and expenses; and assorted personnel issues. The command and control problems are not inconsiderable either: multiple sets of exercises with a veritable menagerie of foreign navies.

I wonder if something is brewing ? No end of things to speculate about. Supposedly the Indian Ocean exercises are a giant anti-piracy/anti-terrorism drill, but that seems a bit dubious: swatting flies with sledgehammers.
Meanwhile, among other interested parties, the Chinese won't like being reminded that others can deploy powerful naval forces across their oil lifeline anytime they like; and they (and the Russians) cannot be happy about closer cooperation among the powers participating in Malabar. Also, Pakistan’s government is looking rather wobbly – another reason for the Americans to cozy up to India, as if one was needed. Then, of course, there’s Iran.

Interesting times. Hopefully not too much more interesting.


louielouie said...

I wonder if something is brewing ?

El Jefe Maximo said...

You're right LL, I did forget the economic aid component of American imperialist schemes -- sailors on leave with the spare change for the bars, knocking shops and other non-G rated entertainment. Thoughtless of me to miss this aspect of Bushhitler imperialism.