F-35 fighter jets take part in Cobra Gold exercises for the first time

American F-35 fighter jets streaked across the skies over Thailand for the first time last week as the annual Cobra Gold multilateral military exercises co-hosted by the United States and Thailand came to a close.

F 35 fighter jets take part in Cobra Gold exercises for the first time An F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced) lands on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) after operations in support of Exercise Cobra Gold 2020. America Expeditionary Strike Group-31st Marine Expeditionary Unit is participating in Cobra Gold 20, the largest theater security cooperation exercise in the Indo-Pacific Region and an integral part of the U.S. commitment to strengthen engagement in the region. (Picture source: US Navy)

Troops also engaged in Cobra Gold’s first multilateral cyber-warfare training and humanitarian projects such as disaster preparedness and response and building local schools. Providing medical care and assistance is included in humanitarian trainings. Participating countries are taking extra precautions because of the coronavirus epidemic.

“We provide additional medicines and flew in experts from the U.S. military as part of the exercise. But really, any time we deploy, the health of our soldiers’ is our utmost concern,” said Charge d’Affaires Michael Heath, U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.

Captain Chayut Chatitsarakul, Commanding Officer of the 1st Infantry Regiment, said Thailand and the U.S. are stepping up efforts to tackle new kinds of threats.

“In the future, we plan to send officers to help those affected by diseases and outbreaks, including the ongoing Covid-19,” Chayut said.

Cobra Gold was established in 1982, and these exercises were the 39th annual edition. A total of 29 countries participated. Traditional military drills are still a core part of the curriculum.

The F-35s made their debut in the country during the Thai-U.S. Amphibious Exercise at Hat Yao Beach, Chonburi Province. Two F-35s provided cover for the landing craft and aerial assault aircraft, before displaying a show of force across the beach in support of the landing expedition.

“The integration with Thai air traffic controllers and tactical controllers has been hugely beneficial, and this entire exercise greatly increased the F-35 detachment’s long-range mission planning and employment skills. The F-35 detachment received invaluable training by being able to participate in Cobra Gold 20,” said Maj. Casey Jenkins, the F-35 Detachment officer-in-charge.