The coastal waters of Sattahip buzzed with anticipation as the Chinese naval fleet, led by the imposing Type 71 dock landing ship, the Siming Shan, made its way toward the Thai port. Accompanying this leviathan were the formidable guided-missile frigate Anyang and the replenishment vessel Chaohu. Their arrival marked the onset of the distinguished Blue Strike 2023 military exercise.

Blue Strike Sub
A Chinese submarine taking part in Blue Strike. Image from YouTube and NavyChannel Thailand.

Initiated over a decade ago, the Blue Strike exercises have become a staple in the military collaboration between China and Thailand. This year’s iteration promises a fusion of terrestrial and maritime drills, encompassing sniping techniques, jungle endurance, aquatic search and rescue, and intricate helicopter cross-deck landings. The core essence of these exercises, as expressed by the PLA-N, is to solidify the bond between the two nations, focusing on humanitarian and disaster-relief efforts, as well as fortifying mutual trust on tactical and operational fronts.

The Blue Strike Report-From the Thai Military

Earlier this year, the Royal Thai Navy unveiled its latest addition, the HTMS Chang, an impressive vessel modeled on China’s Type 71 design. Boasting a capacity of 25,000 tonnes, this colossal ship stands unmatched in its category across the Southeast Asian naval fleets.

Parallel to Blue Strike 2023, the China-Thailand military collaboration extended its tentacles onto the land with ‘Exercise Commando 2023’. Elite forces from the PLA’s 74th Group Army, transported to Thai soil via the robust Y-20 strategic aircraft, took part in these maneuvers. Not to be left behind, the aerial domain witnessed the ‘Falcon Strike 2023’ in July. This airborne exercise saw an ensemble of Chinese J-10C and J-11B fighters, JH-7A fighter-bombers, and KJ-500 early warning aircraft soaring alongside the Royal Thai Air Force’s Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets, the nimble Alpha Jet, and the Saab 340 early warning aircraft.

Together, these joint exercises painted a vivid picture of two nations collaboratively mastering the art of defense, all the while fostering a deeper mutual trust and strategic understanding.

We in the US need to keep a close eye on these kinds of joint military exercises.