US-Thailand Military Drills Foster Collaboration

The United States and Thailand will hold annual military drills in Thailand at the end of February, with over 10,000 troops from 30 countries expected to participate. The Cobra Gold war games, held from February 27 to March 10, will be the 43rd iteration of the world’s longest-running international military training program and one of the Indo-Pacific region’s largest combined military exercises.

The exercises will include combat rehearsals, amphibious landings, strategic parachute jumps, ground and air live-fire and cyber warfare. China will not participate in combat drills but will join civic action missions with India. Thailand and the US will also work together on the light salvage of the HTMS Sukhothai, which capsized and sank off Prachuap Khiri Khan province in stormy seas.

The exercise aims to enhance relations between the two nations, enhance their forces’ capability and interoperability, and adapt to various threats and crises.The US has announced plans to salvage a corvette from the 50 meters-deep seafloor of the Philippines as part of Cobra Gold 2024. The US ambassador, Robert F. Godec, emphasized the importance of the Indo-Pacific region, where up to 60% of the world’s maritime trade transits.

The ship will undergo a search for the deceased, damage survey, retrieval of undamaged components, and destruction of damaged weapons. The delay was due to the Thai Navy miscalculating its ability to perform the salvage independently. The US plans to refrain from deploying carrier strike groups and instead concentrate on amphibious landing rehearsals, with the ship likely to be discarded.

Cobra Gold aims to secure the global commons, particularly in the face of rising piracy in key shipping routes. The company protects Indo-Pacific maritime trade routes, ensuring the free flow of goods and services, reducing transportation costs, and benefiting Thai and American businesses. The war games were scaled down in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Myanmar, where the military junta staged a coup in 2021, was not invited to observe drills in 2022 due to limited seats.

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