Reported as Five-nation naval exercise begins:
The navies of the United States, Australia, India, Japan and Singapore have begun a massive naval exercise, codenamed "Malabar", in the Bay of Bengal.Also covered here:
Thirty-four ships and submarines from the five countries have joined the six-day exercise, about 100 nautical miles off the Andaman archipelago.
Some analysts say the war games are an attempt by these countries to contain China's growing power.
The participants deny this, but Beijing has expressed its concerns.
"This will perhaps be the biggest ever peace-time joint naval exercise in Asia," Indian navy spokesman Captain Vinay Garg said.
Two super-carriers of the US navy - USS Nimitz and USS Kitty Hawk of the Pacific fleet - will be joined by India's lone aircraft carrier, the INS Viraat, in the exercise.
A US nuclear submarine, USS Chicago, is also taking part.
India has denied claims that the exercise is aimed at China. "This is simply directed at ensuring security of the sea lanes of communication," Deputy Defence Minister Pallam Raju said.
The six-day exercise has been fiercely opposed by India's left-wing parties, who see it as "India's growing subservience" to the US.
A total of 27 ships and submarines from the United States, Australia, Japan and Singapore joined seven from India in the Bay of Bengal, at the northwestern entrance to the Malacca Strait, for the six-day exercises.UPDATE: Meanwhile, across the Indian Ocean, another naval exercise reported here:
Some 160 fighter planes backed by reconnaissance aircraft, will be constantly in the air during the wargames.
The exercises will also touch the Malacca Strait, a 805-kilometre channel between Malaysia and Sumatra that accounts for 60 per cent of the world's maritime energy transport.
It is the first time that South Africa's new submarine and two of the four new frigates -- the SAS Amatola and the SAS Isandlwana -- have been involved in a combined exercise.
Other South African Navy ships as well as aircraft of the South African Air Force will also be involved in taking on Nato's Maritime Group One.
Besides the Portuguese, frigates from Canada and The Netherlands as well as ships from Germany, the United States and Denmark also form part of the Nato flotilla.
The Nato group is travelling around the African continent making port calls at several African nations, but it is only with the SA Navy that it is conducting full naval exercises.
"It is expected that these exercises will inspire mutual confidence and respect between Nato maritime forces and the South African Navy, allowing for even greater cooperation in possible future combined exercises or operations," a Nato statement on the exercise explains.
"The deployment aims to demonstrate the alliance's continuing ability to respond to emerging crisis situations on a global scale and foster close links with regional navies and other maritime organisations," Nato said.
But while the exercise might have a conventional naval warfare flavour to it, it also includes boarding of ships and other exercises that would help the South Africans and Nato cope with the real threat in African waters these days.
Piracy, armed robbery and terrorism activities on the high seas are increasingly becoming a threat.
The International Maritime Bureau reports that piracy and armed robbery increased by 37% in the second quarter of 2007 compared with that of 2006.
The total number of attacks in the first six months of 2007 was 126, many in African waters.
In Nigeria, 19 incidents have been reported, including the boarding of 15 vessels and one hijacking. Forty crew members were kidnapped and 24 taken hostage.
In Somalia, 17 incidents were reported. Eight vessels were hijacked and 85 crew members taken hostage.
Another sign of the increasing importance of a security operation in African waters comes from the US Navy, which plans from 2008 to have a "big-deck" presence in the Gulf of Guinea.
"My aspiration is to have a ship there 365 days a year," said Admiral Harry Ulrich, commander of US Naval Forces Europe and Africa.
The South African Navy has long held the position that its new fleet would be used for anti-piracy and anti-poaching operations.
The training with Nato is its first big joint operation to discover how this might be carried out
UPDATE: For "pk" the arrow points to the Gulf of Guinea. You know, where all that oil from Nigeria heads out to sea...(click on the map to enlarge)
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