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The wargame is being held just 30 to 40 nautical miles from Myanmar's Coco Islands, where the Chinese Navy is reportedly building a naval base.
"Though kills and hits will be recorded, they will never be released," naval officials said pointing out that air superiority and air defence tactics will be jointly worked out.
The IAF registered its first “kill” of the day — none less than the mighty nuclear powered Nimitz with its compliment of 85 fighters. But the young officer, on a cross attachment to the US ship, barely had time to feel proud. The battle had begun in earnest and the target now was India’s lone aircraft carrier.
INS Viraat, however, proved easy meat for the joint striking force of US F-18 Super Hornets and IAF Jaguars with the American fighters deliberately flying over the ship to drive home their air-superiority skills.
Mid-air refueling is a standard practice for any modern air power in the world. The ability of a fighter aircraft to refuel in flight not only gives it extended range to reach out to a target but also enhances its ability to stay up in the air to protect an asset.
However, when an Indian Sea Harrier fighter “buddy refueled” from an F-18 Super Hornet in the middle of the Bay of Bengal, the commander of the largest forward deployed US Navy fleet considered it to be the highlight of the six day Malabar 07-2 war games. “These are the sort of things that require really high end skills. There is no other exercise available to develop such capabilities,” Vice Admiral William Crowder, US 7th fleet commander said, minutes after explaining that the five-nation exercises are not directed towards “any particular country.”
No surprise then that the entire war game was conducted as per standards followed in NATO missions. All Indian ships were attuned to NATO standard communication frequencies, technical terminology, command structures and were even fitted with special US equipment to connect to its CENTRIX satellite communication system. Officers confirmed that a detailed NATO standards ‘MTP’ document spelling out the standards was handed to the Indian Navy earlier in the year to prepare for the exercise.
The opportunity to track and ‘destroy’ a nuclear submarine (USS Chicago) during Malabar gave the Indian Navy — more attuned to Soviet philosophy gained by the operation of a Russian nuke sub in the late 1980s — a rare close look into the tactics adopted by Western countries.
The two Indian officers onboard the Chicago too picked pointers on how to avoid detection and attack by the enemy which would come in handy when it inducts a Akula-II Russian nuclear submarine next year.