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Multilateral exercise kicks off in Alaska

by 1st Lt. Esmeralda Silvestre
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

07/17/02 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AFPN) -- The largest training exercise in Pacific Air Forces is under way here and at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska and will run though July 26.

As part of this year's Cooperative Cope Thunder, the 354th Fighter Wing will train alongside U.S. Marines and armed forces from England, France, Japan, Singapore and Spain.

Eielson usually holds up to three Cope Thunder exercises and one Cooperative Cope Thunder exercise during the year. The main difference between the exercises is that Cope Thunder involves training of U.S. forces only; while Cooperative Cope Thunder is designed to train allied nations and U.S. forces to fight together as they would in combat.

"Cope Thunder is a realistic, 10-day air combat training exercise," said Lt. Col Mark Pope, 353rd Combat Training Squadron commander. "Analysis has indicated that most combat losses usually occur during an aircrew's first eight to 10 missions. Therefore, the goal of Cope Thunder is to provide each aircrew with these first vital missions, increasing their chances of survival in combat environments."

This year more than 900 people and up to 60 aircraft are deployed here for CCT. An additional 400 people and 40 aircraft are at Elmendorf.

"Cope Thunder exercises take place over Alaskan and Canadian airspace," said Capt. Michael Hough, Cooperative Cope Thunder 2002 project officer. "The entire airspace is made up of 17 permanent military operations areas and high altitude training areas, plus two restricted areas, for a total airspace of more than 66,000 square miles."

During the employment phase of the exercise, aircrews are subjected to every conceivable combat threat. But aircrews are not the only ones who benefit from the Cope Thunder experience, Hough said.

The scenarios are shaped to meet specific training objectives. The exercises provide an operations training environment for all participants, including intelligence experts, maintenance crews and command and control elements. By providing generic, unclassified scenarios using common worldwide threats, and simulated combat conditions, Cope Thunder gives everyone an opportunity to make the tough calls combat often requires, Hough said.

"All the activities on Alaska's training ranges -- which incorporates more than 66,000 square miles of airspace, 28 threat systems, and 235 targets for range and exercise operations -- are planned and controlled by the 353rd," Pope said. "We are responsible for the organization, planning and execution of all the realistic combat training at Eielson, including Cope Thunder.

"In the 1970s, Cope Thunder was devised as a way to give aircrews their first taste of warfare," he said. "Today, Cope T is not only that, it's also PACAF's premier simulated combat airpower employment exercise." (Courtesy of PACAF News Service)

- Eielson Air Force Base

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