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U.S., Indian air forces continue building relationship

by Capt. John Redfield
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

9/15/2005 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan (AFPN) -- U.S. and Indian air forces took the latest step in their growing relationship recently when six Indian Airmen were here for a weeklong visit, while two U.S. Airmen visited their counterparts in India.

Two Indian pilots, two air traffic controllers and two safety officers spent time learning about Misawa’s day-to-day operations, including flying, maintenance, air traffic and crash recovery. Besides flying in the F-16 Fighting Falcon, they interfaced with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.

Meanwhile, as the Indian contingent was here, two 13th Fighter Squadron Airmen traveled from here to India, and according to one of the Indian officers, they flew in a Russian-made SU-30 fighter jet.

These exchange visits were in preparation for a Cope India exercise in November, which will include about 250 U.S. Airmen from bases in the Pacific. Besides Misawa, Airmen will come from nearby Kadena and Yokota Air Bases, Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, and Andersen AFB, Guam.

“A big part of it is so they have familiarity on how we operate, so we can safely operate together during the exercise, as well as (build) rapport and friendships that will make the exercise successful,” said Lt. Col. Chuck Toplikar, 13th FS operations director here.

The bilateral exercise will be the second in India in less than two years. In February 2004, about 150 Airmen from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, took part in the biggest exercise between the two countries in their shared training history.

Another step forward in the continuing India-U.S. relationship took place in June when representatives from the Indian military observed the Cope Thunder exercise in Alaska.

“One of our jobs, in this large area of operation, is to find an opportunity to engage our friends and partners and to work with them,” said Gen. Paul V. Hester, Pacific Air Forces commander. “Unlike the European theater where NATO collects a group of nations together under one umbrella and operates together in that cooperation, we do bilateral cooperation in the Pacific.”

Exercises such as Cope India “build trust and cooperation so that we can work together when coalitions are necessary in the Pacific,” General Hester said.

This fall’s Cope India, featuring F-16s from Misawa and E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control systems from Kadena will be a “large force exercise,” General Hester said.

“We’ll have people on the ground and people in the air,” he said. “It will mark a growing respect between our two nations.”

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