Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Pakistan Naval Exercise "Aman 2009"
After completion of the harbor phase, the sea phase of the Naval Exercises named “Aman 2009” hosted by Pakistan Navy started last Monday. The 10-day exercise, which began March 5, is designed to improve maritime security in the region, strengthen international partnerships and highlight the importance of maritime cooperation. As part of this exercise, ships will conduct search-and-rescue operations, surface exercises, submarine warfare, air-defense training, explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) exercises and participate in foreign officer exchanges. The exercise also includes replenishment at sea, formation display of helicopters and fly past by Pakistan Navy’s Fokker Atlantic, P3C Orion and Mirage aircraft.
There is also an “anti submarine” exercise involving Sea King helicopters with Pakistan Navy commandos on board PNS Tipu Sultan.
As many as 13 ships of nine countries including Pakistan are taking part in the four-day sea phase. They include United States, China, France, Britain, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Japan.
The countries that are participating as observers are: Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Egypt, Gambia, Germany, Indonesia, Jordan, Libya, Maldives, New Zealand, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sudan, Thailand, Vietnam, Azarbaijan, Kazakistan and Kenya.
"This exercise provides U.S. and international forces the opportunity to work together and train across the spectrum of naval disciplines," said Capt. Rick Williams, U.S. 5th Fleet Maritime Operations Center director. "Aman 2009 will improve the interoperability and tactical proficiency between coalition nations and enhance our navies' effectiveness in supporting maritime security objectives."
U.S. ships participating in the exercise include Boutwell, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), all assigned to U.S. 5th Fleet.
Pakistan is an integral member of the Combined Maritime Forces headquartered in Bahrain and has commanded Combined Task Force 150 twice, most recently November 2007-February 2008. Pakistan is also an important regional partner of the United States and plays an important role in helping provide security and stability to the region.
Maritime Security Operations (MSO) enhance stability in the maritime environment, which promotes global prosperity. These operations complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or illicit material.
Along with the US, the Chinese Navy is also a big participant. A Chinese naval force, composed of the destroyer Guangzhou, a helicopter and 10 members of the marine corps is taking part in the exercises, according to Chinese spokesman Huang Xueping.
Prior to Aman 2009, the world’s biggest Coalition exercise "Bright Star 2007" took place in the Mediterranean, where Navies of Egypt, Pakistan, Britain, Turkey, Greece, USA and Italy participated in the sea phase.
The Indian Navy also conducts regular joint exercises with other nations and the most recent one was with Japan off Mumbai coast in August, 2008, just prior to the Mumbai attacks for which the terrorists allegedly entered the the metropolis by sea route.
In comparison with the relatively small Pakistan Navy, the Indian Navy is the world’s fifth largest navy. It is proud of its "blue water" capability to operate on the high seas away from the Indian shores to project India's "combat power" in the Indian ocean to impress neighbors and to "safeguarding our maritime interests" , according to the Indian Navy's official website. It is a three-dimensional force consisting of sophisticated missile-equipped warships, aircraft carriers, minesweepers, advanced submarines and the latest aircraft in its arsenal. India's Naval forces are maintained and supported by modern dockyard facilities with state-of-the-art technology. The Indian Navy has two major Naval bases at Mumbai and Visakhapatnam on the two coasts of India.
The Chinese PLA Navy, the other major power in Asia, has ambitious plans to become the world's largest force but it currently lacks any aircraft carriers. There are strong rumors that China is building its own aircraft carriers for addition to its navy in the near future. It has become clear that the Chinese Navy is beginning to challenge the presence of the US Navy in its coastal waters. Recently, there was an incident between the US and Chinese navy ships in South China Sea in which each nation protested the other side's behavior. The confrontation between a United States naval vessel and five Chinese ships is the “most serious” military dispute between the two countries since a midair collision in 2001 forced an American surveillance plane to land on Hainan island, the director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, said Tuesday before the US Senate Armed Services Committee. China accuses the US of spying on the Chinese navy in South China sea, and wants it to stop.
While Pakistan is working with China, France and the US to build up its Navy, Indian Navy continues to rely on Russian help. Last year, the BBC reported that there have been issues related to the acquisition of the aircraft carrier named Admiral Gorsckov by the Indian Navy. From a negotiated price of $700m, the Russians subsequently demanded $1.2bn with delivery delayed till 2013. Around the same time, the Indian Navy refused to accept an upgraded diesel-powered submarine after delays in the installation of a missile system from Russia.
As the smallest of the three branches of Pakistan's armed forces, Pakistan Navy objectives were summarized well by a former PNS deputy chief Rear Admiral Afzal Tahir, who said in 2001 that "The Pakistan navy continues to strive hard to make up for the deficiencies and achieve a qualitative edge over a numerically superior enemy (India)."
A quick comparison with Indian Navy, the world's fifth largest, shows that Pakistan Navy is quite capable of inflicting significant damage on the Indian Navy in case of hostilities in the Arabian Sea. The Indian Navy has 16 submarines. Pakistan Navy has ten, some are brand new. Indian Navy has 27 war ships, Pakistan Navy has ten. The aging Indian Aircraft Carrier Viraat (expected to be replaced by Russia's refurbished Admiral Gorshkov) can still be a menace, and it will have to be dealt with effectively, if it attempts to blockade Pakistan’s sea lanes or ports in the unlikely event of war that Pakistan and India came close to fighting in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks in late 2008.
Conducting multinational naval exercises such as Aman 2009 is a desirable part of international military diplomacy enhancing Pakistan's standing in the world. Aman 2009 naval exercises also present an excellent opportunity for Pakistan Navy personnel to train with some of the top navy professionals in the world, and stay abreast of the latest developments necessary for the small Pakistani force to effectively perform its mission of maintaining peace and security in the Arabia sea.
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