The annual military exercise known as Cobra Gold is expected to return to normal size by 2022. This massive joint military training operation between Thailand and the United States has been phased out amid concerns over Covid-19.
The exercise is one of the longest-running military training events in the world and has been held annually since 1982. It was originally designed to simulate a rapid response to a regional crisis in the Indo-Pacific, whether that be a military or humanitarian operation. The operation provides an arena in which the region-specific tactics and technology can be shared and further developed.
Historically, between 4,000 and 7,000 U.S. military personnel were involved in the exercise, in some years as many as 10,000. But this year, Covid-19 impacted participation, with only 600 US soldiers. The Commander in Chief of the US Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John Aquilino, visited Thailand from October 10-13. During his visit, he confirmed his intention to not only see Cobra Gold return to normal, but also expand in size. Since the training is the largest in Southeast Asia, he also noted that he hoped more troops from other countries would participate.
“We will conduct it in a manner that meets the needs, wishes and constraints for Covid-19 as determined by the Chief of Defense Forces of the Royal Thai Armed Forces. Together we will do everything we can to get it back to normal as soon as possible. And in the future, hopefully, expand the training complexity of the exercise and possibly even increase the number of participating countries. It is up to the commander of the Thai armed forces to see which other countries will join the exercise. He and I will work together.”
“I spoke to both the Prime Minister and General Chalermpol and told my naval sailors to look forward to returning to Thailand as soon as possible. But I’m not sure yet which ships will sail here. We plan port visits and also a sailing plan.”
“The Thailand-US alliance is a very important part to ensure that we maintain peace and stability across the region. Thais should feel comfortable knowing the Thai army commander of the armed forces and I coordinate together.”
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