September 29, 2015

HMAS Sheean's visit to India and Malaysia - broader quadrilateral soundings

Submarine HMAS Sheean in Vishakhapatnam Harbour, India's Fleet Base East. Sheean participated in the binational Australia - India naval exercise (AUSINDEX-15), September 2015 (Photo courtesy Australian Defence).
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Collins class submarine, HMAS Sheean, exercised off Vishakhapatnam, in September 2015, with Australian, Indian vessels and Indian P-8I Neptune ASW aircraft.
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COMMENT

India and Australia established a bilateral Framework for Security Cooperation in late 2014. This framework included cooperation in maritime security.

In September 2015 Sheean voyaged from Fleet Base West, Rockingham, Western Australia to exercise off India’s east coast base at Visakhapatnam in AUSINDEX-15. Along with Sheean were HMAS Sirius (replenishment ship), HMAS Arunta (Anzac class frigate) and a RAAF P-3 Orion. Indian warships included INS Shivalik (frigate), INS Ranvijay (destroyer) and INS Shakti (fleet tanker). Most deadly for Sheean may have been the participation of one of India’s new P-8I Neptune (not Poseidon in Indian service) maritime patrol aircraft.


The AUSINDEX-15 was in many ways an ASW exercise which coincides with a substantial rise in Chinese SSK and SSN activity in the Indian Ocean. The exercise and others may signal a trend towards a loose quadrilateral understanding between the US, Japan, India and Australia. Chinese diplomatic and likely economic pressure (perhaps mostly on Australia) frustrated a Quadrilateral in 2007. But now militant Chinese actions in the South China Sea and East China Sea may weaken Chinese diplomatic righteousness and China's current economic downturn means China needs friends. 

Other quadrilateral, trilateral and bilateral exercises involving some of the 4 may strengthen  quadrilateral understanding, including:

-  MALABA 2015 (in October) - US, India and Japan

-  Australia hosted the Talisman Saber 2015 (July) in Queensland attended by US, Japan and also New Zealand forces

-  Biennial RIMPAC exercises around Hawaii will likely involve all 4 in 2016 with the added bonus of interacting with many other peaceful countries and also China (if still friendly) 

It will be interesting to see if Australia's new Turnbull Government, with new Defence Minister Marise Payne, has a different policy towards any quadrilateral.

HMAS Sheean then sailed to Butterworth port, Penang, Malaysia, September 2015, for R&R (Photo courtesy New Straits Times Online)
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Note Penang (state capital George Town), is a small island on northwest coast of Peninsuala  Malaysia. HMAS Sheean is then sailing, October 2015, to Sepanggar Naval Base, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia (on island of Borneo (on island of Borneo – on right). Ambalat contested undersea oil area is just south of Tawau, Sabah. Malaysia is in two main parts (Peninsuala and on Bornea) which complicates Malaysia’s naval functioning!
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Submarine news from Malaysia reaches international headlines infrequently - what appears to be peace reigns. A day ago Australia’s Collins class HMAS Sheean tied up at Butterworth port, Penang, Malaysia (see photo and map above) for some rest and recuperation for the crew.

In October 2015 Sheean will proceed to Malaysia’s Sepanggar Naval Base, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. That base is not coincidentally near to the Ambalat undersea oil area that is an issue of some dispute between Malaysia and its neighbour Indonesia. Naturally Australia is neutral regarding Ambalat. Sheean will exercise with one of Malaysia’s two Scorpene class submarines, KD Tunku Abdul Rahman

After the exercise HMAS Sheean will return to Fleet Base West, Rockingham, Western Australia.

ARTICLE

Singapore’s AsiaOne, September 29, 2015, reports http://news.asiaone.com/news/malaysia/ferry-users-get-pleasant-sub-prise

"Ferry users get a pleasant sub-prise

BUTTERWORTH - The jaw-dropping sight of a jet black submarine crossing paths with ferries here turned a humdrum morning commute into an exciting ride for a few hundred ferry passengers [see Sheean and Penang ferry in photo above].

The 77.42m-long Australian submarine had ferry commuters busy clicking on their mobile cameras and posting pictures on social media yesterday.

HMAS Sheean from Australia is here for the crewmen's holiday before they start a joint exercise with a Malaysian submarine later.

It rolled into Butterworth's deep-water wharf where tugboats nudged alongside it at 11.30am.

Since the news hit The Star Online yesterday, readers have called asking if they could go to the wharf for a closer look. The wharf, however, is off-limits to the public.

Submarine Commander Jason Cupples said the crew was here for a visit.

The Collins-class submarine will be involved in the joint exercise with Scorpene-class submarine KD Tunku Abdul Rahman in Kota Kinabalu on Oct 12 and 13.

"We have 60 crew members who want to experience the local cultures and food. "The submarine will be here until Oct 2," Cupples said.

Retiree Ahmad Ishak, 57, heard about the submarine's arrival and brought his five-year-old grandson on a ferry ride just to get a closer view of the vessel. "I've never seen a submarine before, although the Royal Malaysian Navy has two. "It's truly an experience to see such top-secret military transport docked right here," he said when met on the ferry at the Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal yesterday.

Student Koh Zhi Zhang, 14, from SKM Hwa Lian in Temerloh, Pahang, said it was also his first time seeing a submarine. "This is my first time in Penang and I'm so lucky to see it," he said.

In a statement, the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) said the Australian crew was also planning a courtesy call on the naval officer in Penang.

HMAS Sheean will return to Fleet Base West, Australia once the exercise concludes, the RMN spokesperson added.

The vessel is armed with guided surface-to-air missiles, sub-surface guided torpedoes and mines, and has a surface range of 11,500 nautical miles and a dived range of 400 nautical miles."

Pete

7 comments:

Biswajit Pattanaik said...

Hi Pete,
The AUSINDEX-15 was clearly an ASW exercise without a shadow of doubt.And we all know against which nation this exercise was aimed at.
And i think this engagement was a precursor to closer naval interaction between India, Australia, Japan and the US.I am getting this feeling because the Indian navy is scheduled to hold the Malabar series of exercises with the US Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) in October. And Australia hosted the Talisman Saber exercise involving Japan and the US in July.This can't be pure coincidence.And Australia is open in joining Malabar exercise only if India sends an invite.
And Australian defence minister Kevin Andrews when visited New Delhi early this month she said some significant at a Defense event.
Which clearly points towards an re-emergence of security quartet (invovling Aus/Ind/Jap/US) in the Indo-Pacific arena.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Biswajit Pattanaik

You make some good points that I'll incorporate in the text.

My earlier post about possible US assistance in India's SSN program http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/us-and-france-in-talks-with-india-to.html may tie in with the other quadrilateral activities.

Regards

Pete

Biswajit Pattanaik said...

Hi Pete,
Thanks....
Both Australia & India's largest trading partner is China.And both these countries also understand that(that's why both of them are cautious for the time being),but they also know that in the coming years China could also turn out be their primary threat.
So thankfully both these countries have taken an active step rather than a reactive step to bloster their future security.
The coming days are surely going to heat up.
Oh!!! I just love this game.....

Regards

Biswajit

Peter Coates said...

Hi Biswajit

Yes - that India and Australia both have the double interests (1. China closest trading partner but also 2. China our largest strategic threat) particularly frustrates the US. The US (or certainly the US Navy) would prefer that there were more definite containment policies against China.

I agree the strategic chessboard is a fun game - as long as our countries are not pawns disposed of.

Cheers

Pete

Biswajit Pattanaik said...

Hi Pete,

Yeah,its true that strategic chessboard is a fun game.

As far as Australia & India are concerned we are definetly not the pawns in this game.

Both India & Australia are very important strategic players in any sphere of international policy (less so for India at this point of time) or any such matter.Both these countries are too important to be disposed of.
Our polticians are too clever to let that happen.

And both US & China also understand that.

Regards

Biswajit

Peter Coates said...

Hi Biswajit

I hope the Aussie politicians prove their mettle. Julie Bishop has long been an excellent Foreign Minister. But Turnbull as PM and Defence Minister Payne have yet to prove that they can handle defence-foreign policy.

Regards

Pete

Biswajit Pattanaik said...

Hi Pete,

Don't worry Pete you guys are not alone in doubting your politicians ability.We Indians are not very far behind.I suppose that's the magic of a democratic system.I am sure they (PM &DM) will prove their mettle.(And yet amazingly or mysteriously our politicians pull through it quite successfuly)

We have saying in India that goes like this.......
"It will be done, don’t worry, it will be done." [Which positvely or negatively shows/displays our laid back attitude ☺ ;-) ]

Its a matter of time that they will prove their mettle in this arena of diplomacy just like their predecessors had done.

Cheers

Biswajit