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U.S., Indian Airmen take next step in growing relationship

by Capt. John Redfield
Cope India Public Affairs

11/8/2005 - KALAIKUNDA AIR STATION, India (AFPN) -- The U.S. and Indian air forces opened the next chapter in their growing relationship when exercise Cope India 2006 began here Nov. 7.

About 250 Airmen from Pacific Air Forces join several hundred of their Indian counterparts for the two-week, dissimilar air combat training exercise in which simulated combat flying takes place among different types of aircraft.

“The reason we have come together for this exercise is so that we can work together,” said Indian Air Force Group Captain Hari Kumar, exercise director.

There are F-16 Fighting Falcons from Misawa Air Base, Japan, and an E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system aircraft from Kadena AB, Japan, taking part in the exercise. The Indians will fly several MiG model aircraft, as well as the Su-30.

Airmen are also participating from Yokota AB, Japan; Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii; and Andersen AFB, Guam.

“This exercise is a great opportunity for a number of reasons,” said Col. Rusty Cabot, the deployed U.S. forces commander. “It increases the interoperability between us and our fellow airmen from India, enhancing our collective ability to help maintain peace and stability in the region.

"And we can cultivate our shared bonds as we train together side-by-side," he said.

Even before the exercise kicked off, the sharing of knowledge had begun in earnest. On Nov. 5, about 75 Indian airmen toured the AWACS, learning more about its mission. Pilots, air traffic controllers and leaders were impressed with what they saw, said Lt. Col. Pete Bastien, the AWACS detachment commander.

“In the same way we Americans are excited to see the MiGs up close so, too, were our Indian counterparts excited to see our aircraft,” he said.

In fact, one Indian pilot returned early from his mission “because he heard we were giving tours of the aircraft, and he wanted to be sure to see it,” Colonel Bastien said.

This exercise is the third Cope India in three years. In 2002 the focus was on airlift operations. In 2004 F-15 Eagles from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, deployed to India for an air combat exercise.

To prepare specifically for this exercise, Airmen from the two countries had a pair of exchange visits this past summer. Six Indian Airmen members visited Misawa, and two Misawa Airmen came here.

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