Singapore, India naval war games mark silver jubilee with SIMBEX 2018 at the Andaman Sea

Riding the crest of 25 years of Singapore India maritime cooperation, Royal Singapore Navy and Indian Navy have started their annual war games SIMBEX at India's only Tri-Service Command on Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Singapore India Maritime Bilateral Exercise, or SIMBEX,  that started on November 10, 2018 will continue till the 21st off Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

Singapore and Indian navies are holding bilateral maritime excercices at Andaman Islands (Photo courtesy: Ministry of Defence, India
Singapore and Indian navies are holding bilateral maritime exercises at Andaman Islands. Photo courtesy: Ministry of Defence, India

The 2018 edition marks the Silver Jubilee of SIMBEX.  To mark the historical occasion, both navies are undertaking exercises over an extended geography from Andaman islands to Vishakhapatnam.  

This year, the Indian navy is being represented by the Ranvir class destroyer – INS Ranvijay, two Project 17 multirole stealth frigates – INS Satpura and INS Sahyadri, the Project 28 ASW corvette - INS Kadmatt the Project 25A missile corvettes, INS Kirch, the OPVs INS Sumedha and INS Sukanya, the Fleet Support Ship, INS Shakti, a Sindhughosh Class submarine, INS Sindhukirti, the P8I Long Range Maritime Patrol and ASW aircraft from INAS 312, Dornier 228 Maritime Patrol aircraft from INAS 311, Mk 132 Hawk AJTs from INAS 551 and integral helicopters such as the UH3H, Seaking 42 B, Seaking 42C and Chetak utility helicopters.

SIMBEX 2018 will be the largest edition since 1994 in terms of scale and complexity.
SIMBEX 2018 will be the largest edition since 1994 in terms of scale and complexity. Photo courtesy: Ministry of Defence, India

Singapore navy will showcase two Formidable Class stealth frigates - RSS Formidable and RSS Steadfast, one littoral mission vessel - RSS Unity, two missile corvettes, RSS Vigour and RSS Valiant, an archer class submarine, RSS Swordsman, ‘Swift Rescue’ a Deep Sea Rescue Vehicle(DSRV), a Fokker F50 maritime reconnaissance aircraft, embarked S70B helicopters and Scan Eagle unmanned aerial systems.  Indian Navy has recently inducted its own DSRV and proved the capability at sea on the western seaboard.

The sea phase of this year’s edition is being conducted under the Command of Rear Admiral Dinesh K Tripathi, NM, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet, who will take on the mantle of the Commander Task Group. The Deputy Commander Task Group from Singapore Navy will be SLTC Ho Jee Kien, CO 188 Missile Corvette Squadron for Sea Phase 1 and Col Lim Yu Chuan, CO 185 Formidable Class Frigate Squadron for Second Sea Phase.

Expressing pleasure at the extended maritime exercise on the Silver Jubilee of cooperation between two navies, Indian High Commissioner to Singapore Jawed Ashraf called it "a friendship of heart, values and purpose."

"Welcome Singapore Navy. Thank you for being there in unprecedented strength.  Best for the next two weeks. Looking forward to the visit of Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen to SIMBEX 2018,"  Ashraf said.

SIMBEX 2018 will be the largest edition since 1994 in terms of scale and complexity. The initial harbour phase will be held at Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands from 10 to 12 November followed by Sea Phase from 12 to 16 November in the Andaman Sea.  The second harbour phase from 16 to 19 November will be held at Visakhapatnam – ‘the City of Destiny’.

Hunting submarines – schema of formations of RSN and the Indian Navy at this year’s Singapore-India maritime Bilateral Exercise, SIMBEX, at India's Tri-Services Command, Port Blair. (Graphics courtesy: Ministry of Defence, Singapore
Hunting submarines – schema of formations of RSN and the Indian Navy at this year’s Singapore-India maritime Bilateral Exercise, SIMBEX, at India's Tri-Services Command, Port Blair. Graphics courtesy: Ministry of Defence, Singapore

Silver Jubilee Commemoration Ceremony, various professional and training interactions, 10 Km ‘Friendship Run’ during the Annual Vizag-Navy Marathon, social evening and joint cultural programmes would be held during the harbour phases to commemorate the 25th anniversary.  

Countering air threats  – schema of formations of RSN and the Indian Navy at this year’s Singapore-India maritime Bilateral Exercise, SIMBEX, at India's Tri-Services Command, Port Blair. (Graphics courtesy: Ministry of Defence, Singapore
Countering air threats – schema of formations of RSN and the Indian Navy at this year’s Singapore-India maritime Bilateral Exercise, SIMBEX, at India's Tri-Services Command, Port Blair. Graphics courtesy: Ministry of Defence, Singapore

The final sea phase would be held in the Bay of Bengal from November 19 to 21.  High-level delegations including respective Defence Ministries are also scheduled to observe the exercises including advanced weapon firings marking a new high in the series.

Targeting enemy warships – schema of formations of RSN and the Indian Navy at this year’s Singapore-India maritime Bilateral Exercise, SIMBEX, at India's Tri-Services Command, Port Blair. (Graphics courtesy: Ministry of Defence, Singapore
Targeting enemy warships – schema of formations of RSN and the Indian Navy at this year’s Singapore-India maritime Bilateral Exercise, SIMBEX, at India's Tri-Services Command, Port Blair. Graphics courtesy: Ministry of Defence, Singapore

The 25th edition will witness a diverse range of exercises at sea ranging from live weapon drills including multiple missile firings, Heavy Weight Torpedo and Medium Range Gun/Anti Submarine Rocket firings; advanced Anti-Submarine Warfare exercises, Submarine Rescue demonstrations; integrated Surface and Anti-Air Warfare; Unmanned Aerial Vehicle operations and Cross Deck Helicopter flying among others.  

The number of missiles and torpedo firings being undertaken are in fact unprecedented and perhaps the largest the Indian Navy has undertaken with any foreign Navy till date, indicative of the growing trust and operational comfort between the two navies. This year would also witness the highest numbers and variety of platforms fielded by both sides.  Over the years the two navies have increased their interoperability to a level that could be matched by few other navies.

Bilateral cooperation between Singapore and India was first formalised when RSN ships began training with the Indian Navy in 1994. What began as a modest endeavour to exchange best practices in the field of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), has in the recent years evolved into a complex high stakes exercise with both nations attaching premium in terms of time, complex advanced exercises and type of platforms involved.

Both countries have a full calendar of more than 20 bilateral mechanisms, dialogues and exercises, many of which take place annually.  In November 2015, the robust relationship between the two countries was elevated to ‘Strategic Partnership’.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in June inked many agreements including those under the ‘Defence and Strategic Partnership Sectors’ which has facilitated deployment of naval assets from bases of the other through logistics and services support.

The previous edition of the exercise was held off Singapore in the South China Sea in May 2017.

Author
Pradeep Rana
Pradeep Rana – Senior Correspondent

Pradeep Rana has worked as a journalist with news ​agencies UNI and PTI, newspapers Indian Express and The Times Of India, and television channel NHK as South Asia Correspondent. He has also worked as Media Analyst at US Embassy, and edited several magazines and a medical handbook.

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