As the 1,00,000-tonne US aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, which carries F-18 fighter jets, joined the naval ships of Japan and India in the seas off the Japanese Okinawan Island chain for Exercise Malabar 2016, a PLA Navy (PLAN) spy ship was observed monitoring the naval drill. With her extensive satellite programme, China could easily monitor such movements but apparently China chose to deploy the observation ship to observe the multi-nation manoeuvres more closely and perhaps intercept communications. Submarine hunting patrol planes were also launched from bases in Japan as part of the exercise. USS Stennis has been followed by the Chinese spy ship during patrolling the South China Sea (SCS) and followed it to Malabar 2016 area.
“There is a Chinese vessel about seven to 10 miles away,” Captain Gregory C. Huffman, commander of the Stennis, told reporters aboard the carrier after it recovered its F-18 jet fighters taking part in the exercise, adding that the Chinese ship had followed the US aircraft carrier from the SCS. Typically following the policy of guile and deceit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he was unaware of the situation. When the PLAN vessel got close to Malabar 2016, a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force ( JMSDF) officer said that USS Stennis would act as a decoy by sailing apart to draw the PLAN ship away. The Indian contingent participating in Malabar 2016 comprises four ships that reached the exercise area sailing through the SCS with stops in the Philippines and Vietnam.
The Indian Navy Kora class corvette INS Kirch and Shivalik class stealth multi-role frigates INS Sahyadri (F49) and INS Satpura (F48) transit while conducting a live-fire surface gun exercise during Malabar 2016
LT GENERAL P.C. KATOCH (RETD)