COLOGNE, Germany — The German Navy plans to send its frigate Hamburg to the Indian Ocean in June to conduct port visits and partake in a regional, naval powwow on the French island of Réunion, the service announced March 12.

The air-defense vessel will begin its journey in May with interceptor test firings off the coast of Norway. It is then scheduled to steam toward the Indian Ocean for a five-month training mission.

In late June, a visit at Réunion’s Indian Ocean Naval Symposium is on the agenda, followed by a trip to Australia as well as various port visits and exercises along the way, the German Defence Ministry announced.

The planned Hamburg deployment comes as Germany’s defense leaders test the waters for new engagements far from home. The sea service especially is seen by some as a potential harbinger for the type of out-of-area missions that the homeland defense-focused German military wants to expand to underwrite its geopolitical ambitions.

“The deployment is a step in the right direction,” said Sebastian Bruns, a German naval analyst affiliated with the University of Kiel in northern Germany. “German Navy Chief Vice Adm. Andreas Krause has for years argued that Germany needs a presence in the Indian Ocean.”

Bruns said the Navy has been operating in the Indian Ocean’s environs for some time, with mine clearing in the Arabian Gulf, counterterrorism missions under the banner of Operation Enduring Freedom and the European Union’s counter-piracy operation, Atalanta, off the coast of Somalia.

“The Indian Ocean is a vibrant and strategically important maritime theater,” he said. “German sea lines of communication run through the area, and the great powers are wrestling for influence.”

Krause, the Navy chief, outlined the country’s maritime spheres of interest in a Defense News op-ed last December. “They range from the northern flank, i.e., the north Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, down to the Mediterranean, and extend into the wider Indian Ocean region,” he wrote.

Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

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