Singapore, India and Thailand have commenced a trilateral naval exercise at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The Singapore-India-Thailand Maritime Exercise (SITMEX) is the maiden trilateral exercise involving the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), Indian Navy and the Royal Thai Navy.

Hosted by India, the five-day exercise will run until 20 September and will help improve maritime relationships and interoperability between the three Asian nations.

The exercise will also enhance maritime security in the region.

SITMEX will involve a shore phase at Port Blair, followed by a sea phase in the Andaman Sea.

Around five ships and 500 personnel will take part in the exercise. Participating assets include His Majesty’s Thailand Ship (HTMS) Kraburi frigate and the RSN’s Formidable-class guided missile stealth frigate RSS Tenacious.

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The Indian Navy will be represented by guided-missile destroyer INS Ranvir, missile corvette Kora, and offshore patrol vessel Sukanya. The country will also employ a P8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft in the exercise.

The shore phase will focus on exercise planning and professional exchanges. The subsequent sea phase will involve surface and air operations involving gunnery, force protection measures, communication, manoeuvring, and navigation drills.

RSS Tenacious commanding officer lieutenant colonel Michael Chan said: “The exercise underscores the shared responsibility of countries to work together to keep sea lines of communication open, and strengthens interoperability between the three navies.”

India expects more countries to take part in the naval exercise next year.

Citing an unidentified official, Hindustan Times reported earlier this month that the exercise is intended to ensure freedom of navigation through the Malacca Straits.