India Begins Multinational Naval Exercise Milan, Deploys Two Carriers

February 20, 2024 7:17 PM
Courtesy of Indian Navy

The Indian Navy deployed two carrier battle groups to the Bay of Bengal for New Delhi’s multinational naval drill Exercise Milan 2024.

INS Vikramaditya (R33) and INS Vikrant (R11) and their accompanying escorts, as well as other Indian Navy warships, maritime patrol aircraft and drones, are slated to participate in one of the region’s largest multilateral naval drills from Feb. 19 to 27.

Exercise Milan – whose name is based on the Hindi word for unification – began in 1995 with the navies of Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia participating. Since then, the biennial naval drills have ballooned as New Delhi’s maritime engagement increased. Divided into in-port and at-sea phases, Milan 2024 will host more than 50 participating nations, 35 vessels, 50 aircraft and various delegations. This is a marked increase from 39 participants in 2022’s iteration.

Notable non-Indian Navy vessels partaking in 2024’s drills include the USS Halsey (DDG-97), HMAS Warramunga (FFH-152), JS Sazanami (DD-113), KRI Sultan Iskandar Muda (367), IRIS Dena (75), Varyag (011) and Marshal Shaposhnikov (543).

Before 2020, the drills took place within the Andaman Nicobar Command, the Indian military’s theater command responsible for defending New Delhi’s islands directly adjacent to the strategic Strait of Malacca, which separates the Indian Ocean region and the Pacific. With the exercise’s influx of participants, India moved the drills to the Eastern Naval Command’s area of responsibility at the port city of Visakhapatnam.

Milan 2024 will be the first time India’s indigenously built aircraft carrier participates in an international exercise. Commissioned in 2022, the 45,000-ton Vikrant is expected to carry a plethora of Indian and foreign aircraft from the United States, Russia and France. Last year, India chose Dassault Aviation’s Rafale-M over Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet for the carrier’s air wing.

According to an Indian Navy press release on the exercise, Milan is a “congregation of friendly navies” and describes participants as “friendly foreign countries.” In Milan 2024, notable participants include Quadrilateral Security Dialogue countries the United States, Japan and Australia, as well as traditional partners such as Russia.

China, which most Indians view as the country’s most pressing threat, was not invited to the exercise. Three years ago, New Delhi and Beijing fought each other in a violent clash in the Himalayas that left multiple dead, wounded and captured on both sides.

In recent years, the Indian Navy has bolstered its efforts as the People’s Liberation Army Navy has been increasing its presence in the Indian Ocean region. From deploying submarines and spy ships to seizing a strategic port in Sri Lanka, China’s push into India’s backyard has raised the alarm for the Indian Navy. Last year, it was reported that the service was eyeing an additional aircraft carrier and a force of 160 ships by 2030.

Aaron-Matthew Lariosa

Aaron-Matthew Lariosa

Aaron-Matthew Lariosa is a freelance defense journalist based in Washington, D.C.

Get USNI News updates delivered to your inbox