U.S. Marine pilots prepare to disembark an AH-1Z Viper at U-Tapao International Airport, Kingdom of Thailand, Feb. 10, 2018. Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps
Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The U.S. Marine Corps on Monday said its 1st Marine Aircraft Wing met up with service members from seven full participating nations in advance of the start of the "Cobra Gold" exercise, which starts on Tuesday.
The annual joint and multinational exercise, co-sponsored by the kingdom of Thailand and the United States, is one of the largest theater security cooperation military training exercises in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, according to the Marine Corps.
Marine officials say the exercise seeks to advance regional security and ensure effective responses to regional crises.
Nations also participating in Cobra Gold include Japan, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Malaysia. The exercise starts Tuesday and runs through Feb. 23.
"The Marines of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 are here to promote multilateral training and deliver close air support for the participating nations such as the Kingdom of Thailand and Republic of Korea," Maj. Kevin M. Keene, an operations officer and AH-1Z Viper pilot with HMLA-369, under the Unit Deployment Program with Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st MAW, said in a press release.
The Marine Corps plans to use AH-1Z Vipers and UH-1Y Venoms, along with CH-53E Super Stallions and KC-130J Hercules to provide aerial support for the exercise.
"The Marines of HMLA-369 'The Gunfighters' are excited to participate in Cobra Gold and be here in Thailand to work with our allied and partnered nations, and we can't wait to show the nations in Southeast Asia what the Gunfighters are capable of," Keene said.