BANGKOK: Seven Asia-Pacific nations will participate in this year’s Cobra Gold, the world’s longest running and the largest multinational military exercise in Southeast Asia, which is back to full scale after being downsized over the last three years due to the pandemic.
Troops from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Singapore will take part in the annual series of war games co-hosted by the Royal Thai Armed Forces and United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) which will deploy the largest contingent.
This year’s exercise is the 42nd iteration with a total of 30 participating countries, including observers, comprising 7,394 personnel. The exercise will be staged in Thailand between Feb 27 to March 10 in 11 different regions of the Southeast Asian nation.
Thailand, the US, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and Malaysia will participate in the main manoeuvres while three others – Australia, China and India – will take part in humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR) exercises.
Chief of Joint Staff Royal Thai Armed Forces General Thitichai Tiantong during a press conference at the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters here said this year’s Cobra Gold this would be a “Light Year” format (under two-year cycle of Light Year – Heavy Year alternate arrangement).
Gen Thitichai said Myanmar would not take part in this year’s Cobra Gold exercise as an observer due to “limited seats.” It is the third year in a row that Myanmar would not observe the military exercise.
United States’ Defence Attaché to Thailand Col Kurt Leffler said the US would bring more than 6,000 personnel to this year’s exercise, the largest US participation in Cobra Gold in a decade.
He said the Cobra Gold exercise provides participating countries the opportunity to practice, rehearse and experiment together against a wide variety of challenges. “Our effective responses to regional disasters in recent decades- from floods and storms to earthquakes and cave rescue – is the result of millions of personnel hours of training in Cobra Gold.
“To ensure that our partnership continues to be robust in decades to come, we have brought cooperation in the cyber and space domains into the exercise and are experimenting with new operating concepts to prepare for whatever novel threats the future holds,” he added.
The South Korean Navy and marine corps have mobilized six assault amphibious vehicles, two K808 armored vehicles, two K55 tracked self-propelled howitzers and a K77 fire direction center vehicle. The troops are set to take part in an array of field exercises, including amphibious landing drills with Thai and US troops and special operations training in a jungle environment. The ROK Navy’s 4,900-ton Ilchulbong landing ship, carrying some 420 personnel will join the exercise. –shp/adj/mgm (Pix: USMC)