Indian Navy’s major operational level exercise TROPEX for the year 2023, conducted across the expanse of the Indian Ocean Region over a duration of four months from November 22 to Mar 23, culminated this week in the Arabian Sea.
Set in the Indian Ocean including the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, the theatre of operations for the exercise extended approximately 4300 nm from North to South up to 35degree South Latitude and 5000 nm from the Persian Gulf in the West to North Australia coast in the East, spanning an area of over 21 million square nautical miles. TROPEX 23 witnessed the participation of approximately 70 Indian Navy ships, six submarines and over 75 aircraft.
The culmination of TROPEX 23 brings to an end an intense operational phase for the Indian Navy that commenced in November 2022.
As part of the final Joint Phase, the defence minister spent a day at sea onboard the newly commissioned Indigenous Aircraft Carrier Vikrant on 6 March. He reviewed the Indian navy’s operational preparedness and material readiness wherein the Navy demonstrated operational manoeuvers and various facets of combat operations, including deck operations of indigenous LCA and live weapon firings.
The most significant part of the Tropex-23 is the ‘Weapon Workup Phase’. This phase includes ordnance deliveries, including missiles, torpedoes and rockets from frontline warships, aircraft, and submarines.
How did the Indian navy show its naval firepower in the TROPEX -23?
The navy included all its surface combatants’ assets, including destroyers, frigates, corvettes as well as submarines and aircraft. Through such a complex exercise, the IN intended to validate the efficacy of operational logistics and interoperability with other services.
The exercise took place in different phases, both in the harbour and at sea. Besides, the large platform dock, landing ships and landing crafts, the navy included the marine commandos (MARCOS) which special forces, artillery, and armoured vehicles from the army.
China’s incursion in the IOR
Recently, the Southern Naval Command (SNC) chief, Vice Admiral M A Hampiholi pointed out: “Chinese intrusions are not uncommon and asserted that the force was committed to protecting the country’s interest in the strategic area.”
Multiple reports indicated that multiple Chinese spy vessels have entered the Indian Ocean Region in the past few months.
Last year, China sent its ballistic missile and satellite tracking ship to Sri Lanka. The spy ship posed a serious threat to coastal security in terms of the ship’s technical capability and the purpose of its visit.
As India was concerned about the possibility of the ship’s tracking systems attempting to snoop on Indian installations along the strategic coastal line.
China has been trying to alter the maritime structure of the Indian Ocean region by strengthening its offshore military capabilities, including military alliances, and dual-use port facilities. Notably, China has been sending its combat and non-combat troops in Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) missions which include arms transfers to the region.
The theatre-level exercise—the Tropex—addresses such challenges in its cohesive approach towards naval firefighting. As it brings together all three services, including the Indian Army, the Indian Air Force, and the Coast Guard.