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NEWS | March 6, 2020

Six nations join in cyberspace training exercise in Bangkok

By Staff Sgt. Matthew Bragg U.S. Army Pacific Public Affairs Office

BANGKOK, Thailand – Multinational forces joined with the Royal Thai Armed Forces (RTARF) to conduct the second annual Cyberspace Field Training Exercise as part of Cobra Gold 2020 Feb. 24-March 6.

Six nations banded together to patrol and defend their networks while communicating and sharing information.

“The cyber exercise is the opportunity to bring six nations together to work on ... what is the most critical component from the multinational force’s perspective of, in at least this exercise, modern warfare,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jason Silves, with the 194th Wing of the Washington Air National Guard (WANG) and the lead representative of U.S. forces in the Cyber FTX. “It’s an opportunity for us to understand how to work together, which really hasn’t been done before.”

During Cobra Gold 2019, the RTARF and WANG agreed there was a need for cyberspace training and worked to create the first Cobra Gold Cyber FTX. Thailand and the U.S. invited other nations to join.

“We used that and leveraged that to show that this thing’s possible,” Silves explained. “We advertised it and showcased it with the other full participating nations in Cobra Gold, and every one of them sent representatives to the planning conferences and, ultimately, to what you see around you in the cyber exercise.”

Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia sent cyberspace operators. Each was responsible for protecting and maintaining their networks while sharing information to help other nations better defend their networks from attacks.

“The objective of this exercise is the modernization of our national forces and the opportunity to work together under the same setup, same operating procedures, and have the same way of thinking as a multinational force,” said Royal Thai Army Maj. Gen. Chartchai Chaikasen, the RTARF Cyber Security Center director. “Cyber training is important for our countries because we need to find a way to respond to cyber incidents and get a resolution to solve the problem in the cyber terrain.”

The Cyber FTX is a self-contained network set up to give cyberspace operators a realistic environment in which to train.

Within the network, each of the nations patrolled their own networks while several of their respective teammates acted on behalf of the Red Team, playing the role of an adversary trying to attack and penetrate the networks. Some nations worked in teams to defend their networks.

“Anytime we have an opportunity to work with our coalition partners, it builds relationships and makes us stronger as a coalition and as potential partners,” said U.S. Marine Col. Larry Jenkins, III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group commanding officer.

Silves said the cyber range was set up so that when the Red Team attacked a network, those attacks could be shared with multiple nations and their respective networks, allowing each to respond, communicate to their higher headquarters and share a solution.

While communication is key to defending a network from adversaries, knowing how to repel attacks is just as important.

“Everything that we have and do, it’s all online,” said U.S. Marine Sgt. Cameron Foss, a defensive cyber operator deployed with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. “To be able to defend the United States, to be able to defend our critical assets and our capabilities, it’s extremely important because it’s all out there.”

“It’s blown me away to see the talent that has come together to make this happen,” Silves said. “We really could not have done this without participation from our international and joint partners.”

Exercise Cobra Gold 20, in its 39th iteration, is designed to advance regional security and ensure effective responses to regional crises by bringing together multinational forces to address shared goals and security commitments in the Indo-Pacific region.