Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise 2018

The Silver Jubilee edition of SIMBEX 2018 was largest since 1994 in terms of scale and complexity and its Commemoration Ceremony was held onboard INS Sahyadri at Visakhapatnam on November 19, 2018

Issue: 6 / 2018By Rear Admiral Sushil Ramsay (Retd)Photo(s): By Indian Navy, MoD Singapore / twitter
Dr Ng Eng Hen, Defence Minister of the Republic of Singapore with Admiral Sunil Lanba, CNS

There is uniqueness in the time-tested bilateral Singapore-India Maritime Exercise (SIMBEX) which has recently commemorated the 25th edition in the form of SIMBEX 2018. On November 10, 2018 SIMBEX 2018 commenced with the participation of frontline ships of the Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet and those of the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) in the ocean adjoining the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Bay of Bengal. The participating ships from both sides arrived at Port Blair on November 10, 2018 with much fanfare. Genesis of SIMBEX can be traced back to 1994 when the participating Units from both sides were engaged in Basic Anti-Submarine Warfare exercises. Over the past two decades and more these exercises have transformed into complex and intricate maritime combat drills including missile and torpedo firings and on-shore extensive professional exchanges in the form of seminars, conferences, sports, cultural exchanges, etc.

Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command Vice Admiral Karambir Singh exchanging a memento with his Singaporean counterpart

Under the aegis of Tri-Services, Andaman & Nicobar Command preliminary exercises coordination, briefings, presentations, etc. were conducted for the crew of the participating warships and the Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft and integral helicopters at Port Blair. During the harbour phase, in addition to operational conferences towards preparation of the sea phase of the exercises in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal, courtesy calls by both sides on the Senior Officers were made. In addition, Subject Matter Expert Exchanges (SME) were also scheduled. The SMEs have over the years provided a platform to formally exchange best practices of respective navies so that learning and improvement never ceases.

Indian Fleet

The Indian Navy was represented by the Ranvir class Destroyer – INS Ranvijay, two Project 17 Multi-role Stealth Frigates – INS Satpura and INS Sahyadri, the Project 28 ASW Corvette - INS Kadmatt, the Project 25A Missile Corvettes, INS Kirch, the Offshore Patrol Vessels INS Sumedha and INS Sukanya, the Fleet Support Ship, INS Shakti, a Sindhughosh Class Submarine, INS Sindhukirti, the P-8I 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 42B, Seaking 42C and Chetak Utility helicopters.

Harbour Phase of SIMBEX 2018 commences with Ops Conferences

Singaporean Fleet

The Singapore Navy was represented by 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 S-70B helicopters and ScanEagle unmanned aerial systems.

Over the past two decades and more these exercises have transformed into complex and intricate maritime combat drills including missile and torpedo firings and on-shore extensive professional exchanges

Maritime Patrol Aircraft of both countries – the versatile P-8I of the Indian Navy and Fokker F50 from Singapore operated from Naval Air Station, Port Blair. Local Flotilla ships of the Andaman & Nicobar Command sanitised the approaches to the harbour and the adjoining seafront including the exercise areas to ensure security of the maritime forces for the smooth conduct of the exercises.

Sea Phase

The sea phase of SIMBEX 2018 was steered under Commander Task Group of Joint Forces, Rear Admiral Dinesh K. Tripathi, Flag Officer Commanding, Eastern Fleet. Senior Lieutenant Colonel Ho Jee Kien, Commanding Officer of 188 Missile Corvette Squadron led the RSN during the first sea phase as the Deputy Task Group Commander.

Key Highlights of SIMBEX 2018

  • The Silver Jubilee edition of SIMBEX 2018 was largest since 1994 in terms of scale and complexity.
  • The initial harbour phase was held at Port Blair from November 10-12, 2018, followed by sea phase from November 12-16, 2018 in the Andaman Sea.
  • The second harbour phase was held from November 16-19, 2018 at Visakhapatnam.
  • The harbour phase included programmes such as Silver Jubilee commemoration, various professional and training interactions, 10 Km ‘Friendship Run’ during the Annual Visakhapatnam- Navy Marathon, social evening and joint cultural programmes.
  • The final sea phase was held in the Bay of Bengal from November 19-21, 2018.
  • The SIMBEX 2018 witnessed a diverse range of exercises at sea ranging from live weapon drills including multiple missile firings, Heavy Weight Torpedo (HWT) and medium range gun/ antisubmarine rocket firings, advanced Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) exercises, submarine rescue demonstrations, integrated Surface and Anti-Air Warfare (AAW), Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) operations and cross deck helicopter flying among others.

Silver Jubilee Commemoration

Silver Jubilee Commemoration Ceremony was held onboard INS Sahyadri at Visakhapatnam on November 19, 2018. The Ceremony was attended by Admiral Sunil Lanba, CNS and Rear Admiral Lew Chuen Hong, Chief of Navy Republic of Singapore, Vice Admiral Karambir Singh Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command, Flag Officers, Commanding Officers and personnel from participating ships.

Graphics: MoD Singapore / twitter

Rear Admiral Dinesh K. Tripathi, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet welcomed the Guests to the historic occasion to commemorate the Silver Jubilee. Admiral Sunil Lanba highlighted that SIMBEX is the longest and un-interrupted bilateral maritime exercise that India has had with any other navy. The importance of this achievement was also flagged by the Prime Minister at the Shangri La Dialogue in June 2018. CNS also reiterated that naval cooperation through SIMBEX underscores the shared commitment of both nations to security, safety and freedom of navigation and overflight in the global commons. CNS pointed that while the motto of the Republic of Singapore Navy ‘Beyond Horizon’, the motto of the Indian Navy is ‘Shano No Varuna’ which translates to ‘May the Ocean Gods be Auspicious unto Us’.

Admiral Sunil Lanba, CNS hosted Rear Admiral Lew Chuen Hong, Chief of Navy of the Republic of Singapore Navy and officials from Defence Ministries of both the nations with the Defence Ministers

Rear Admiral Lew Chuen Hong, Chief of Navy, Republic of Singapore Navy, referred to the historic maritime links through maritime trade of both countries dating back to 3rd and 4th century. He brought out that Singapore and India are like minded countries that share similar outlook towards preserving freedom of sea following rules and norms laid down in United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas. He highlighted the special relations that both navies have through substantive interactions. Corner stone for Navy-Navy relations is SIMBEX which started as a basic anti-submarine exercise in 1994 as ‘Lion King’ and has grown from strength to strength.

To mark the historic occasion and as a symbol of growing trust and comfort levels between the two navies, a special Logo was also released. The occasion was also utilised to simultaneous release Special Postal Cover and Singaporean Postage Stamp on SIMBEX.

Singapore Defence Minister witnesses SIMBEX 2018 at Sea

Dr Ng Eng Hen, Defence Minister of the Republic of Singapore closely observed the two navies in action at sea during the 25th Edition of SIMBEX 2018 in the Bay of Bengal on November 20, 2018. Admiral Sunil Lanba, CNS hosted Rear Admiral Lew Chuen Hong, Chief of Navy of the Republic of Singapore Navy and officials from Defence Ministries of both the nations who accompanied the Defence Minister.

On arrival onboard Indian Navy’s Flag Ship INS Shakti, Dr Hen was briefed on the exercises – those completed and those underway. The Defence Minister had the occasion to witness successful missile engagements of aerial targets by ships of the two navies, ASW rocket firings, medium calibre gun engagements, flying operations and a steam past by participating ships and Indian Navy Hawk jet fighters. In an unmistakable and emphatic sign of the close extent of friendship between the two countries, the Defence Minister received salutes onboard Flag Ship, INS Shakti as ships and aircraft from both the navies steamed and flew past.