The Exercise Cobra Gold 20, co-hosted by the United States and Thailand, has concluded with a ceremony at Ban Dan Lan Hoi, Thailand on March 6.
The closing ceremony marked the conclusion of the 39th iteration of the exercise which took place from Feb. 25.
The Exercise Cobra Gold seeks to improve the capabilities of participating nations to plan and conduct combined and joint operations, build and maintain relationships across the region, and improve interoperability. It demonstrates the strong bond between the nations of the Indo-Pacific and their ability to operate together.
This year’s Cobra Gold, the 39th iteration, was the largest to date with new additions to the exercise including the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft and the combined joint High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) rapid insertion.
The F-35Bs made their debut during the amphibious landing exercise, which combined the lethality and readiness of U.S. and Royal Thai Armed Forces. U.S. Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted the operation side-by-side with Royal Thai Marines while the F-35Bs roared overhead, simulating supporting fire.
Another addition to this year’s exercise was the landmine reduction operation, involving 16 U.S. explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) participants from the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, and Air Force, and 86 Thai EOD technicians and medical personnel. The operation’s intent was to bring subject matter experts together to reduce landmines and unexploded ordnance in the region.
Cobra Gold 20 featured a cyberspace field training exercise for the second year in a row. The six fully participating nations came together to patrol and defend their own networks to develop strategies for operating in a modern information environment. This event focused on combining defensive cyber operations in a training environment comprised of self-contained networks where participants banded together to patrol, defend, communicate and share information with one another.
These relationships and strong partnerships can be seen through multiple other events which took place throughout the country of Thailand. In one of these events, the Japanese Self Defense Force led the joint noncombatant evacuation operation, which showcased each country’s ability to quickly respond and maintain peace and security in the region.
Cobra Gold 20, similar to previous years, also focused on humanitarian civic action projects. Throughout the entirety of Cobra Gold 20, the fully participating nations, along with limited participation from China and India, assisted in the engineering civic action programs at various sites in Thailand. These projects also included key leader and community relations engagements, and community health engagements. The events brought nation’s armed service members and locals together as they worked to develop new facilities and curriculums at local schools to replace infrastructure that has grown too old or has been nonexistent.
The humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) exercise brought together Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the U.S, with limited participation from China and India. This operation highlighted each country’s response techniques and their ability to appropriately and timely respond to any natural disaster situation.
All these events and two weeks of training culminated with the final exercise, the combined arms live-fire exercise. This exercise is designed to maintain readiness and increase the capability, capacity and interoperability of partner nations in the Indo-Pacific region. The U.S. and Royal Thai Armed Forces worked together once again as they were put through various simulated situations including a counter-attack and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) while supporting fire was provided by the F-35Bs, HIMARS and other supporting fires.
Upon completion of the CALFEX, the participating nations transitioned into the closing ceremony for Exercise Cobra Gold 20. This informal ceremony brought together leaders from the seven participating nations to share closing remarks and exchange gifts.