23 May 2024

This year, the Cobra Gold military exercise will be held between February 22nd and March 4th and will be somewhat scaled down again, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Thai military source.

The source, who asked not to be identified, said that despite being a “heavy year”, the region’s largest annual military exercise, involving the US and its allies and friends, will be limited and will involve fewer military personnel than originally planned. The annual exercise alternates between “light” and “heavy” years, with varying numbers of troops and programmes of activities.

This time fewer than 2,000 international troops will participate. Last year, only 600 from the US took part. In normal years, the exercise sees more than 10,000 troops taking part. There will be no live fire demonstrations, amphibious landings or assaults.

Last October, during his visit to Bangkok, Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Adm. John C. Aquilino reiterated that when COVID-19 subsided, the exercises would return to full scale in response to mutual security needs. He added the US-Thai alliance continues to play a crucial role in advancing their shared values and interests across the Indo-Pacific.

While some of the scheduled drills will be cancelled due to COVID-19, activities involving command post, humanitarian/civic assistance, as well as some field-training exercises, will be held. Due to the pandemic, some of the activities this year will focus on public health issues.

The seven members of Cobra Gold are the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia and Singapore, as well as observers and additional participants from other nations. China also participated in the previous four annual exercises in certain areas related to humanitarian programs.