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Cooperative Cope Thunder kicks off

by Staff Sgt. William Farrow
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

6/13/2005 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AFPN) -- The sky above Alaska is brimming with activity as Pacific Air Force’s premier composite force exercise kicked off here June 9.

Cooperative Cope Thunder runs through June 24 with operations here and at nearby Elmendorf Air Force Base.

The exercise highlights multinational operations combined with interdiction, suppression and destruction of enemy air defenses, and counterair missions, said Lt. Col. Eddie Osteen, 353rd Combat Training Squadron director of operations.

The squadron’s Airmen are responsible for organizing, planning and executing realistic combat training here, including Cope Thunder, the largest multilateral exercise in the Pacific.

Alaska’s vast training area includes three weapons ranges and offers participants more than 66,000 square miles of airspace for range and exercise operations. However, the opportunity to operate in a combined environment and foster relationships among all the nations involved is an aspect of the exercise that participants said is very useful.

“Cooperative Cope Thunder allows us to hone our air combat skills, exchange air operations tactics and promote our relationships among other nations and their air forces,” Colonel Osteen said.

Countries participating in this year’s exercise include Australia, Japan, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the United Kingdom. Representatives from Bangladesh, India, Mongolia and Sri Lanka are observing the exercise.

Colonel Osteen said participating units are divided into friendly “blue” and “red” opposition forces. The red force simulates enemy combat tactics and provides a realistic threat array. The blue force flies air-to-air and air-to-ground combat and combat-support missions using a variety of aircraft.

Although this is the third year of Japanese participation, it is the first time they brought their F-15 and E-767 airborne warning and control system aircraft here.

Other aircraft deployed here include NATO airborne warning and control system aircraft from Royal Air Force Waddington, England; Marine AV-8B Harriers from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.; Navy EA-6B Prowlers from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.; F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Texas Air National Guard’s 182nd Fighter Squadron; and KC-135 Stratotankers from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Participants here include the 18th Fighter Squadron.

More than 1,000 people are taking part in the exercise, including more than 700 U.S. and 300 coalition servicemembers.

Initiated in 1976, Cope Thunder was devised as a way to give aircrews their first taste of warfare and quickly grew into PACAF’s premier simulated combat airpower employment exercise. It was moved here from Clark Air Base in the Philippines in 1992 after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 forced operations there to end. Cooperative Cope Thunder followed in 1998.

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