Team Challenge is a joint/combined exercise held in conjunction with allies and friends in Australia, Thailand, Singapore, and the Republic of the Philippines; links three existing traditional bilateral exercises into one regional exercise. Team Challenge uses Peace Enforcement, Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation, and Consequence Management scenarios designed to train regional contingency combined/joint task forces and improve interoperability with regional partners in international peace operations.
Historically, efforts to promote multilateral cooperation on security issues in the Asia-Pacific region were based upon regional linkages, such as SEATO, FPDA, etc. In contrast, enhanced regional cooperation is designed to promote capable groupings of willing nations based along either regional or functional affiliations, which are capable of responding to security challenges. A prime example of the functional grouping is the recent cooperation between Japan and India culminating in an Indian Ocean anti-piracy exercise in November 2000. The combined Indian Coast Guard-Japanese Coast Guard exercise reportedly simulated an operation against a merchant ship seized by pirates. The exercise included communication exercises, information sharing, and rescue operations. Helicopters from both countries assisted the participating vessels. The first-ever Japanese ship visit to India and coordinated anti-piracy exercise with India represented both countries' efforts to curb the growing problem of piracy. In Malaysia, the Japanese Coast Guard vessel Shikishima conducted a one-day combined anti-piracy drill with the Malaysian Maritime Police. Ongoing trilateral cooperation between Japan and Malaysia, the Philippines and India is a practical immediate response to control piracy in highly-traveled strategic sea lines of communication. Similar multilateral cooperation is ongoing or envisioned on many other transnational security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region.
Since early 2000 the US began urging its allies in the Asia Pacific to take part in the larger Team Challenge exercises aimed at rehearsing a multilateral response to potential conflicts in this part of the world. This included revising the Balikatan exercise scenario from the usual rehearsal of the mutual defense plan under "MDB Oplan 94-A" to an "overarching scenario that calls for United Nations mandated, RP-led Multinational Force consisting of RP and US forces to conduct peace enforcement operations and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief." Part of the exercise scenario is to "separate opposing forces and supervise withdrawal of belligerent forces," a situation that would be similar to what was done in East Timor in September 1999.
Exercise TC 01 was the first in what is intended to become an annual event with an increasing number of nations taking part from the Asia-Pacific region. Increased regional interaction will improve the realism and utility of multilateral training and improve regional interoperability. The framework of TC 01 compliments existing strong bilateral relationships to build mutually beneficial multilateral training and engagement opportunities. TC 01 is but one facet of a coherent long-term strategy to build enhanced regional cooperation.
Team Challenge combined three of the Pacific's largest exercises - Tandem Thrust in Australia, Cobra Gold in Thailand and Balikatan in the Philippines - into one huge multinational exercise that focuses on peacekeeping and humanitarian relief. In 2001 the U.S./Thai bilateral exercise Cobra Gold was linked with two other existing traditional U.S. bilateral exercises - Tandem Thrust (U.S./Australia) and Balikatan (U.S./Philippines) -- into a joint combined exercise, Team Challenge 01 (TC-01). U.S. Pacific Command and forces from Thailand, Australia, the Republic of the Philippines and Singapore participated in this umbrella exercise during April and May 2001.
The three traditional bilateral exercises remained separate exercises under the common regional exercise scenario of TC-01. U.S. Pacific Command and the participating nations linked these existing exercises under TC-01 to improve readiness and interoperability, and to increase security within the Asia-Pacific region. The multilateral framework of TC-01 compliments the existing strong bilateral relationships throughout the region, and provides additional training and engagement opportunities. The exercise included observers and participants from several countries, including Singapore and Malaysia. China also was invited to send observers, a step lauded by U.S. military officials as a sign of warming relations between that country and the United States. But that was before the Chinese detained the U.S. EP-3E spy plane and its crew.
TC-01 used United Nations Chapter VII (peace enforcement), non-combatant evacuation operation and crisis management scenarios and had two phases. Phase I provided Combined/Joint Task Forces (CJTF) training for maritime forces in exercise Tandem Thrust (U.S./Australia) with supporting participation by Canada. Phase II provided CJTF Training for maritime, air and army forces by linking Cobra Gold 01 (U.S./Thailand/Singapore) with Balikatan (U.S./Philippines).
BALIKATAN is part of the Exercise TEAM CHALLENGE series. Designed as an umbrella exercise, TEAM CHALLENGE's goal is to improve combat readiness and interoperability by tying together joint combined exercises with Thailand, Philippines, Singapore and other interested countries. BALIKATAN 2001 incorporated TEAM CHALLENGE scenarios, such as training in peacekeeping, humanitarian and civic-assistance operations. TEAM CHALLENGE 2001 incorporated two other phases, Exercise TANDEM THRUST with the Australian Defence Forces and Exercise COBRA GOLD with the Royal Thai Armed Forces and Republic of Singapore Armed Forces. Although the BALIKATAN 2001 phase of TEAM CHALLENGE remained largely bilateral, it opened the door for multilateral operations in the future.
Team Challenge was a linked regional exercise that sought to foster several security communities. Tandem Thrust combined U.S., Australian and Canadian forces, while Balikatan and Cobra Gold focused on combined commander-in-chief Pacific forces. The exercise scenario was that ethnic "Silverlanders" in Greenland had been mistreated by Greenlanders. Silverland then attacked Greenland and Outland, and the fighting threatened to close the Magma Straits. The United Nations declared a Chapter VII mandate calling for international response. International forces were to conduct a peace-enforcement operation to separate belligerent forces in Greenland.
It was a two-phase operation, with an initial attack to secure the Magma Straits and to repel the Silverland forces from Outland as part of Phase I (Tandem Thrust). Soldiers also established a posture of forces in Philand and Country X while executing the U.N. Chapter VII operations in Greenland as part of Phase II (Balikatan and Cobra Gold). The endstate was to be a secure, reliable and dynamic communication network able to support respective commanders' execution of coalition operations.
Balikatan was based out of Clark Air Base, Republic of the Philippines, and ran April 27-May 18. Cobra Gold took place May 15-29 and was based in Phitsanoluk, Thailand. Tandem Thrust was based off the USS Blue Ridge with a primary theater of Australia. The exercise ran April 9-June 14.
In early 2002 one anonymous Philippine government official claimed that the United States was pushing for the multinational military exercise as a counterfoil to the supposed threat posed by China in the region. This would involve invasion scenarios, with China as the aggressor-nation, and responses to a strong China move in the disputed Spratlys territory. Team Challenge involves hypothetical scenarios and is not targeted at any particular country.
TEAM CHALLENGE 2002 links the multilateral COBRA GOLD exercise in Thailand with the bilateral BALIKATAN in the Philippines to address bilateral and multilateral training objectives, and to improve the readiness of regional armed forces to contribute to multilateral operations. Singapore will participate again this year alongside Thai and U.S. forces in COBRA GOLD. Observer nations (with an eye toward possible participation in future years) will include Japan, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, France, ROK, Mongolia, Russia, China, India, Cambodia, Tonga and Sri Lanka; Vietnam has been invited. In TEAM CHALLENGE, we will exercise elements from the full spectrum of missions that our combined forces may be called upon to do together, from complex contingencies to humanitarian assistance. TEAM CHALLENGE continues to be our largest multilateral exercise in theater, while serving as our premier Combined Joint Task Force training exercise.
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