Asia Defense | Security | South Asia

India, Russia Kick Off Joint Military Exercise

This year’s Indo-Russian bilateral military exercise, dubbed Indra-2019, will be held in three Indian states and include air, ground, and naval forces of both countries.

Franz-Stefan Gady
India, Russia Kick Off Joint Military Exercise
Credit: Indian Ministry of Defense

India and Russia kicked off the 11th iteration of their bilateral military exercise, designated Indra-2019, at a military training ground in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on December 11, according to the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD). The exercise will be simultaneously conducted in Uttar Pradesh, Goa, a state on the southwestern coast of India, and in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Indra-2019 is expected to run through December 21.

The exercise will include air, ground, and sea elements from both countries. “Company sized mechanized contingents, fighter and transport aircraft and ships of respective services of both the countries are taking part in the exercise,” the MoD said a statement. “The aim of [the] exercise is joint training of troops in counter terrorism operations under the United Nations mandate.” The land component of the exercise will reportedly involve eight tactical episodes with the Indian Army providing around 20 combat vehicles, including tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, to the Russian forces.

Opening ceremonies were also held in the port of Marmagao and at an air force base in Pune earlier today to mark the beginning of the air and naval components of Indra-2019. The joint naval drills will be held in two phases in Marmagao and off the coast of Goa. The harbor phase will last until December 15 followed by the sea phase conducted in the Arabian Sea from December 16 to 19.

Indian military assets participating in the naval drills include INS Aditya, a replenishment and repair ship, the Teg-class frigate INS Tarkash, the current mainstay of Indian naval aviation, Russian-made MiG-29K Fulcrum fighter jets, and Boeing P-8I Neptune advanced maritime patrol/anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft.

The Russian Navy has dispatched the Neustrashimy-class frigate Yaroslav Mudry, the tanker Yelnya and seagoing tug Viktor Konetsky. The Russian task force, part of the Russian Navy’s Baltic Fleet, headed from the Baltic to the Indian Ocean to participate in Indra-2019 in the fall. According to the Russian Pacific Fleet, over 700 servicemen are participating in the exercise. The press office of Russia’s Eastern Military District said that over 40 aircraft will be dispatched to India for the duration of the drills including 15 fighter aircraft.

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“As part of the exercise, important lectures, demonstrations and drills related to counter terrorism operations will be conducted,” according to the Indian MoD. “Both the countries will also share their valuable experience in countering such situations and refine drills and procedures for joint operations.” Indra-2019 “will culminate with a 72 hours validation phase which will test the skills of soldiers, sailors and airmen in conducting joint operations in a counter terrorism scenario,” the MoD added.

Indra was initially designed as a bilateral naval exercise and transformed into a triservice drill in 2018. The land component of the exercise that year also took place in Uttar Pradesh, while the navies conducted their joint drills in the Bay of Bengal.