Cobra Gold

Cobra Gold is currently the largest Indo-Pacific, multinational military exercise held in the Kingdom of Thailand every year. It is among the largest multinational military exercises in which the United States participates with allied and partner nations.

Cobra Gold

Official insignia for exercise Cobra Gold
Coat of arms
HeadquartersBangkok, Thailand
TypeMilitary exercises

About Cobra GoldEdit

Royal Thai and U.S. military training together during Cobra Gold 2020

Cobra Gold was first held in 1982. Cobra Gold has served as a military training exercise to improve coordination between the armed forces of the United States and Thailand in both hostile military and humanitarian efforts.[1] It also had the goal of strengthening ties between the U.S. and Thailand, the oldest ally of the United States in the South Asia region.[2] More recently, Cobra Gold has served a humanitarian mission, as military personnel deliver health care to the local Thai population, and as a testing ground for new battlefield technologies such as solar powered weaponry.[2]

As of 2020, Cobra Gold has several distinct activities that highlight regional security and effective responses to regional crises. The first is the Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise (CALFEX), in which live ammunition is aimed at predetermined targets as troops advance and close in on their target. A Command Post Exercise (CPX), in which military officers engage in computerized war games, disaster relief, or humanitarian missions over several days. An Amphibious Exercise (AMPHIBEX) which combines the capabilities of ship-to-shore movement with vertical envelopment between the Royal Thai Armed Forces and U.S. military, with allied forces dependent on operational developments. A Cyber Exercise (CYBEREX) which demonstrates the multinational interaction and exchange in a scenario based on rehearsing defensive cyber operations. Ongoing activities are various humanitarian civic activities, assisting the local Thai population throughout the kingdom.[3]:226–228

In 2020, Cobra Gold is introducing a landmine reduction operation as well as the participation of the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft and the high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS). These new additions will enhance security cooperation and advanced interoperability to increase partner capacity in planning and executing complex and realistic multinational force and combined task force operations.

U.S. Marines assault the beach as part of the amphibious beach landing at Hat Yao Beach, Thailand, during Cobra Gold 2020

Cobra Gold has expanded to include 27 nations as of 2020,[4] including Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and other South Asian and Pacific Ocean countries. China was admitted to Cobra Gold exercises for the first time in 2015 as well, although Chinese military forces were only allowed to participate in humanitarian assistance training.[1] Most nations participate in Cobra Gold as observers rather than participants.[5] In 2020, the following countries are set to participate in the exercise: [6]

  • Participants: the United States, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia
  • Observers: Brunei, Laos, Cambodia, Israel, Vietnam, Germany, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Brazil and Sweden
  • Multinational Planning Augmentation Team: Australia, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Nepal, the Philippines, Fiji and New Zealand
  • Others:[clarification needed] China and India.[7]

Recent Cobra Gold exercisesEdit

U.S. Marines participate in the amphibious beach landing at Hat Yao Beach, Thailand during Cobra Gold 2020

Participants in Cobra Gold 2013 included the United States, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand. Twenty other nations participated in observer status. For the first time, Burma joined the exercise (as an observer). Exercises held during Cobra Gold 2013 included an amphibious landing involving ground assault fighter jets, attack helicopters, and landing craft; mock military raids involving small boats and helicopters; a practice evacuation involving civilian populations; a combined arms exercise held while live fire occurred overhead and nearby; and training in biological, chemical, jungle, nuclear, and radiological warfare.[8]

Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of the United States Pacific Command, described Cobra Gold as "the Pacific's signature exercise" in 2014, and noted that it was among the largest multinational military exercise in which U.S. armed forces participate.[5]

The United States reduced its participation in Cobra Gold 2015 to signal its disapproval of the military coup which occurred in Thailand in 2014. The U.S. sent 3,600 troops to the exercise in 2015, down from 4,300 in 2014.[1] The U.S. also cancelled the exercise in which troops practiced under live fire during an amphibious landing. However, American military forces did participate in a civilian evacuation training exercise, and the operation of U.S. troops in formation in the field in cooperation with the military forces of other nations.[1] Nevertheless, more than 13,000 military personnel from six nations actively participated in Cobra Gold 2015, while other nations participated as observers.[4]

U.S. and Royal Thai Marines learn jungle survival techniques during Cobra Gold 2020

The United States postponed its participation in a March 2015 meeting with Thailand to begin planning for Cobra Gold 2016. American military officials indicated they might cancel the exercise outright as a protest against continuing military rule in Thailand.[4]

Exercise Cobra Gold 2017Edit

U.S. Marine assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) during amphibious beach landing during Cobra Gold 2020

In 2017, there were 29 nations that participated in Cobra Gold either directly or as observers. This year is 36th anniversary of Cobra Gold exercise co-hosted by Thailand and United States between 14 and 24 of February 2017.[9] Cobra Gold 2017 aims to improve capabilities among the participating nations, joint operation, civic action [10] and do build up relationship between Thailand and United States when power seizure in 2014 Thai-US relations have fallen. Cobra Gold 2017 aims to improve capabilities among the participating nations, joint operation, civic action [11] The field exercises including variety of training, such as Amphibious Assault Demonstration,[12] EOD mission, Close Air Support (CAS)[13] and Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise (CALFEX) which is an exercise on strategical engagement by using various types of weapons.[14] In civic action, were included humanitarian assistance and Non-combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO). NEO was led by Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) [12] during disaster relief operation. Mostly, a NEO used to move noncombatant personnel from dangerous area, usually caused by natural disaster [15]

For 2018, the US has urged to remove Myanmar as observers due to the Rohingya crisis.[16]

Exercise Cobra Gold 2020Edit

U.S. Marine F-35Bs conducting flight operations during Cobra Gold 2020

There are 27 nations from around the world participating in the 39th iteration of Cobra Gold to take place from February 25 to March 6, 2020. Similar to previous years, Cobra Gold 20 seeks to improve the capabilities of participating nations to plan and conduct combined and joint operations; build relationships among participating nations across the region; and improve interoperability over a range of activities, enhancing maritime security, preventing and mitigating emerging disease threats, and responding to large-scale natural disasters. Cobra Gold 20 emphasizes coordination on civic action, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, seeking to expand regional cooperation and collaboration in these vital areas.

For the first time, Cobra Gold 20 is introducing a new landmine reduction operation as well as the participation of the Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems. The F-35Bs bring more lethality and flexibility to combat commanders than any other fighter platform, combining next-generation fighter characteristics of radar-evading stealth, sensor fusion, fighter agility and advanced logistical support with the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package of any fighter aircraft in history. The HIMARS purpose is to conduct bilateral training at the battery-level on the weapon system, developing interoperability between the U.S., the RTAF, and other regional nations and partners. Continuity of exercises such as Cobra Gold demonstrates the commitment of the Kingdom of Thailand, and the United States to our long-standing alliance.


The United States has engaged in only a single, very minor military intervention in the Pacific area since the end of the Vietnam War, making it difficult to judge Cobra Gold's effectiveness in improving warfighting capabilities and coordination.[3]:229

Cobra Gold has, however, proven effective in improving coordinated military response to natural disasters, including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2011 Tōhoku tsunami, and disaster relief provided to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan struck in November 2013.[3]:228


  1. ^ a b c d Ehrlich, Richard S. (February 9, 2015). "Obama scales down annual Cobra Gold military exercises in protest of Thailand coup". The Washington Times. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Baines, Christofer P. (December 2, 2011). "A Look At Cobra Gold". Marines Magazine. Retrieved June 5, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Hayton, Bill (2014). South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300189544. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Slavin, Erik (April 16, 2015). "Cobra Gold planning postponed". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Cronk, Terri Moon (February 11, 2014). "Locklear Kicks Off 33rd Cobra Gold Exercise in Thailand". American Forces Press Service. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  6. ^ "2018 Cobra Gold to begin on February 13". Thai Residents. January 29, 2018.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ Miles, Donna (February 11, 2013). "Exercise Cobra Gold 2013 Kicks Off in Thailand". American Forces Press Service. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  9. ^ Bangkokpost (February 1, 2017). "Cobra Gold 2017 military exercise starts Valentine's Day". Retrieved April 16, 2017.
  10. ^ Castaneda, Macr (February 14, 2017). "Cobra Gold 2017 officially kicks off in Thailand". Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  11. ^ Chongkittavorn, Kavi (January 16, 2017). "Cobra Gold 2017: Trump's first move in SEA". Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  12. ^ a b US Embassy Bangkok (February 1, 2017). "Exercise Cobra Gold 2017 to begin February 14, 2017". Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  13. ^ ส่วนประชาสัมพันธ์ กองอำนวยการฝึกคอบร้าโกลด์ 17 (February 23, 2017). "Cobra Gold Thailand". Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  14. ^ ส่วนประชาสัมพันธ์ กองอำนวยการฝึกคอบร้าโกลด์ 17 (February 21, 2017). "Cobra Gold Thailand". Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  15. ^ Larson, Thor (February 22, 2016). "Cobra Gold 16 :Non-combatant evacuation operation". Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  16. ^

External linksEdit