Revolution in South Asia

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India-U.S. military exercises begin

Posted by Ka Frank on October 27, 2009

Indo-US joint exercises begin at Agra, Babina

BS Reporter,  New Delhi,  October 20, 2009

Indo-US military collaboration has taken a big step this month, with the launch today of Exercise ‘Cope India-09’, a five-day joint exercise between the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the United States Air Force (USAF) at the Air Force Station, Agra, even as an even bigger exercise between the two countries’ armies, ‘Yudh Abyas 2009’ rolls on at Babina, Madhya Pradesh, in a 17-day programme which concludes on October 29.

The Yudh Abhyas partnership exercise commenced in 2004, at Chaubatiya in the Himalayan foothills, and was followed in 2005 with US Army contingents coming to train with Indian troops at the Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School in Vairangte, Mizoram. In Yudh Abhayas 2006, Gorkha troops went to Hawaii for training. In 2009, Indian Army soldiers from the 31st armoured division are working with US counterparts from Hawaii, in a multi-echelon, full-spectrum, combined operation.

“The size and scope of this combined exercise is unparalleled and will be characterised not only by realistic and challenging training, but by regular athletic, academic and cultural exchanges,” said Lt Col Jim Isenhower, Commander, 2nd Squadron, of the US 14th Cav Regt.

The two joint exercises are on amid fulsome praise from both sides about each other’s military prowess. This year’s Yudh Abhyas involves 1,000 military personnel and 17 Stryker vehicles, the largest deployment of these outside of Iraq and Afghanistan for the US Pacific Rim forces. Along with the 17 Strykers, the US will showcase the Javelin Anti-Tank Missile system, employed to defeat current and future threat armored combat vehicles.

During the exercise, participants will engage in a variety of missions, from joint planning and manoeuvre execution, a variety of artillery ranges, to cordon and search operations, as well as search and rescue training.

There is healthy respect in the US military about Indian peacekeeping capabilities, as well as search and rescue capacities, used in counterinsurgency. “The broadened and unprecedented scope of Yudh Abhyas stands as a testament to the growing people-to-people and military-to-military ties of the US and India, one of the key pillars of the expanded US-India strategic partnership,” said US ambassador Timothy Roemer.

He also addressed the biggest irritant in US-India military relations — equipment supply — squarely, when he said, “I know some are apprehensive about reliability of the United States as a supplier of military equipment to India. I can tell you that our relationship is far different than it was even a few years back. The Indo-US relationship has come a long way since then and this is a different world today.”

2 Responses to “India-U.S. military exercises begin”

  1. CPSA said

    Ka Frank, thanks for all the great posts!

  2. Ka Frank said

    More on the joint India-US military exercises

    October 27, 2009

    At an old British base, US and India train for new wars. Indian and American troops at Yudh Abhyas ’09, a joint exercise between forces of the two countries, in Babina on Monday.

    After a tough fight, Indian forces manage to capture Abu Abida, the dreaded warlord who, with the covert support of a neighbouring state, had been pushing in heavily armed insurgents to subvert the country. As the terrorist is escorted out of the war zone with the help of American forces, the convoy is attacked by militants trying to free him. Within minutes, Indian and US Army soldiers mount a rescue mission, pummelling the enemy village with tank and Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) fire. US troops are air-dropped by Indian helicopters to mop up the remains.

    The setting might as well be Iraq or Afghanistan, where US troops face such situations on routine basis, but this is in fact a nondescript firing range 400 km south of Delhi where the two countries have just concluded their largest ever army exercise. Incidentally, the Babina range has a past dating back to the British days — its full form is British Army Base in North Asia.

    While joint foreign deployments may be some time off, the most complex war game between the two countries has made one thing clear — India and US can now operate together in a hostile environment like Iraq or Afghanistan and deliver the goods.

    “I will be comfortable going with the Indian Army anywhere, anytime,” said Lt Gen Benjamin Mixon, Commander, US Army, Pacific at the conclusion of a 15-day exercise that involved over 300 US troops and 17 Stryker ICVs brought in from Hawaii.

    And he has reason to be confident. Before capturing Abida, the two armies launched an audacious attack on “an insurgent base”, complete with the destructive firepower of T-90 tanks, Stryker ICVs and bunker-busting capabilities of the US Javelin missile.

    If Malabar 2007 was the turning point for Navy-Navy ties between the two countries and Red Flag 2008 redefined the relation between the two air forces, the anti-terror Yudh Abhyas that featured tanks, UAVs, ICVs, anti-tank missiles and heliborne operations has taken Army-Army ties to a new level.

    There are a number of firsts in the exercise — the first mechanized infantry exercise, the largest deployment of Stryker ICVs outside Iraq and Afghanistan. But the important thing is that the two armies can now mount a joint armoured strike, take down terror camps and operate jointly in a counter-insurgency environment.

    The Indian Army, however, was at pains to clarify that the war game was not directed against anyone. Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen A S Sekhon said it was “purely and purely” a training exercise.

    While the Indian Army was complimented for its professionalism and interoperability was the buzz word, what made the difference between the two forces was technology. The US Army brought in its latest anti-tank ‘fire and forget’ Javelin missile, a generation ahead of the wire-controlled Milan still used by the Indian Army. The ‘fire and forget’ technology is something that the Army is looking for and the experience with the Javelin will help in making a qualified choice.

    Similarly, the Raven mini-UAV used by US forces to get real time pictures of the battlefield is also something new for the Indian Army. Again, India is looking to buy similar infantry UAVs at the earliest and the experience of using them in a war game would give an insight into the product.

    Tactics used by US forces in Iraq, where the Stryker unit taking part in the exercise was deployed six months ago, were a learning experience for Indian soldiers. Expertise in bunker-busting, destroying buildings and taking on enemy camps with armoured vehicles may not be needed within the country but it doesn’t hurt to learn.

    “The lessons we learnt are from the American experience in Afghanistan, particularly in terms of technology,” Sekhon said.

    For US forces, the learning stemmed from the experience of Indian forces fighting insurgencies in the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir for decades. Some of the exercises carried out were on themes and terms that are very common in the Indian context. The two armies carried out a Road Opening Party (ROP) operation, something that the Army does on a daily basis in Kashmir — clearing mines, IEDs and possible ambushes along a road. Another thing practised was cordon-and-search operations in a hostile village.

    “We would be able to work together as militaries. If there was a contingency, we would be better prepared to deal with it,” said Mixon.

    India and US have conducted eight exercises under the Yudh Abhyas series that kicked off in 2004. The first Yudh Abhyas commenced at Chaubatiya in the Himalayan foothills, and was followed in 2005 with US Army contingents training with Indian troops at the Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School in Vairangte, Mizoram. In Yudh Abhyas 2006, Indian troops went to Hawaii for training. In 2007, there were two exercises, both at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. In 2008, the exercise shifted back to Hawaii.

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