Troops from 34 nations began two weeks of war drills in Egypt on Thursday, bringing together air, naval and ground assets in the desert north-west of Cairo, Egyptian officials said.
The military exercises, code-named Bright Star, were first held in 1980 at a time when the war games were meant in part to underline Egypt's then-nascent alliance with the US after decades of close ties with the Soviet Union. The drills have since been co-led by the Egyptian armed forces and US Central Command.
Initially involving only Egyptian and American troops, the biennial drills were expanded to include more countries, mostly Nato members and US allies outside the organisation.
At least 8,000 troops are taking part in Bright Star 2023, including first-time participant India, whose defence ministry said it had dispatched a 549-strong contingent, including 137 ground forces to the drills.
“During the exercise, participating countries will share the best practices to combat emerging unconventional threats and enhance regional partnerships,” said the Indian Defence Ministry.
“This exercise will provide a unique opportunity to the Indian Army to share best practices and experiences with other armies aimed at enhancing defence co-operation”.
Egyptian officials have said the drills will involve live ammunition, stimulated counter-terrorism operations, carving out and protecting safe corridors in war zones, as well as medical evacuations. The troops will be stationed at the sprawling Mohammed Naguib base, close to the Mediterranean coast.
Other countries taking part are Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, UK, Germany, Jordan, Iraq, Sudan, Cyprus, Greece, Morocco, Kenya, Italy, Spain, France, Tanzania, Nigeria, Tunisia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Brazil, South Africa, Japan, Australia, Algeria, Qatar, Mali, Burkina Faso, Uganda and Nigeria.
The Bright Star drills were last held in 2021 with the participation of 21 nations.
The head of the Training and Development Authority of the Saudi Armed Forces, Maj Gen Adel Al Balawi, said the exercise “aims to exchange experiences and co-ordinate joint work between the participating forces from brotherly and friendly countries”, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
The war drills, he added, are designed to unify operational concepts, develop the skills of the participating personnel, plan and carry out antiterrorism and irregular warfare operations.