18th Wing Airmen join fellow Airmen, Australia, Japan for multilateral exercise
Aircraft and Airmen from Kadena's 67th Fighter Squadron, 909th Air Refueling Squadron, 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron and 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron are participating in Cope North 2017, a trilateral exercise on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
Cope North is a multilateral, U.S. Pacific Air Forces-sponsored, field training exercise scheduled from Feb. 15 through Mar. 3. The mission focuses on air combat tactics and large force employment in an effort to enhance interoperability among U.S., Australian and Japanese forces.
Japan Air Self-Defense Force exercise director, Col. Hirohisa Takakusaki, said that this iteration of Cope North will prove to be very useful and challenging for participants who are experiencing the annual exercise for the first time as well as the more seasoned service members who are returning for another round.
Members from Kadena are among 2,700 U.S. Airmen , Sailors and Marines who are training alongside approximately 600 combined JASDF and Royal Australian Air Force service members. More than 100 aircraft, comprised of 22 flying units from the United States, Japan and Australia are also participating in this, the 88th iteration of Cope North.
Considering the location and spectrum of capabilities that the 18th Wing offers, Kadena will be central to any crisis requiring air capabilities within the Indo-Asia Pacific Region, said USAF Lt. Col. Derek Mentzer, 67th Fighter Squadron commander.
"Since Cope North expanded to include the RAAF in 2012, it has become a priceless opportunity to train and build trilateral relationships with our closest allies in this region" said Mentzer. “From the standpoint of what it's like to operate as a coalition, the exercise is extremely realistic.”
“But more importantly to this region,” he added, “bringing this trilateral alliance together each year at Cope North presents the opportunity to train together at the tactical and operational level in a scenario focused on this region. Our resultant ability to integrate and offer a full spectrum of air operations improves every year, and with it, so does our ability to offer our nations’ the ability to preserve peace in the Indo-Asia-Pacific."
The three nations converged to participate in a number of events designed to increase combat readiness, to include fighter versus fighter air combat tactics training and air-to-ground strike mission training over the Farallon de Medinilla range 160 nautical miles north of Guam.
With an array of fighter, bomber, airlift, tanker, rescue and command and control aircraft, the exercise has enabled the trilateral partnership to elevate their level of readiness and ability to provide security throughout the Indo-Asia Pacific Region.
"The fact that we're here, with these two very close partners, in this part of the world and at this time in history, is a very obvious statement." said Royal Australian Air Force exercise director, Group Capt. Timothy Alsop, during the opening ceremony. "We're looking forward to having a great exercise."