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Indian helicopter lands for the first time on a US Navy ship deck

A sailor with the amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage signals an Indian Navy UH-3H helicopter to land Dec. 26, 2018, during a cooperative at-sea deployment with the Indian vessel INS Rajput. It was the first time an Indian Navy helicopter made a cross-deck landing on a U.S. Navy ship.

VICTORIA DECKER/U.S. MARINE CORPS PHOTO

By WYATT OLSON | STAR AND STRIPES Published: January 14, 2019

An Indian Navy helicopter landed on the deck of a U.S. Navy ship recently for the first time ever, marking another step in warming relations between the armed forces of the two nations, the Navy said.

The UH-3H helicopter landed on the USS Anchorage, an amphibious transport dock ship carrying personnel with 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the service said in a statement.

The Anchorage was training at sea with the Indian Navy guided-missile destroyer INS Rajput Dec. 22-26 after a port visit to Visakhapatnam on the Bay of Bengal.

The cross-deck landing Dec. 26 was the first made since the two navies entered into the Helicopter Operations from Ships Other Than Aircraft Carriers agreement more than a year ago.

HOSTAC is a military international standardization program intended to promote safe cross-deck helicopter operation. It is used globally by more than 50 navies and coast guards.

The training also included embarking Indian landing craft on the Anchorage, the Navy said.

As China’s military presence has expanded in the Indian Ocean in recent years, the U.S. and India have found common cause in cooperating militarily.

The U.S. and Indian navies “have a shared interest in the security and stability of this region,” Anchorage commander Capt. Dennis Jacko said in the statement.

“This exercise strengthened our combined capability with a partner that is very important to us” in the Indo-Pacific, he said.

During a September summit in India attended by then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the two countries formally agreed to exchange sensitive military information quickly and securely.

Shortly after, Indian defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the militaries of both countries would conduct unprecedented large-scale joint exercises in 2019, bringing together at one time the two nations’ air, land and sea forces. The drills are tentatively scheduled for May or June.

Sitharaman said that India’s military also would undertake greater interaction with U.S. Central Command, noting that the Defense Department in May had renamed U.S. Pacific Command to Indo-Pacific Command.

Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander of the 7th Fleet, visited New Delhi on Dec. 12 for staff talks. Nine days later, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer met with leaders of the Indian Navy there.

olson.wyatt@stripes.com
Twitter: @WyattWOlson

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