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Leaders say Cope India 'great success'

by Capt. John Redfield
Cope India Public Affairs

11/18/2005 - KALAIKUNDA AIR STATION, India (AFPN) -- Exercise Cope India ‘06 ends Nov. 20, but U.S. and Indian air force leaders have already said the training has been a resounding success.

The exercise, which began Nov. 7, involves Indian Airmen and about 250 U.S. Airmen from Pacific Air Forces bases.

“Such exercises not only help in promoting mutual understanding and learning from each others’ experience, but also enhance interoperability and help refine joint operational procedures,” said Air Marshal F. H. Major, air officer commanding-in-chief of the Indian Air Force’s Eastern Air Command.

The exercise marked the first time F-16 Fighting Falcons have flown against Indian fighters -- including their newest Su-30MKI variant -- in dissimilar air combat training. E-Sentry airborne warning and control system aircraft also participated.

At times, Indian and American fighters mixed it up in the air.

“We’ve learned firsthand about the capabilities of their aircraft and the skills of their pilots,” Lt. Col. Pete Bastien said. He commands the detachment of E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system aircraft here from the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan.

This is the third Cope Thunder. Vice commander of Pacific Air Forces Lt. Gen. David Deptula said the command “is succeeding in its objectives of building greater partnerships and relationships with key countries throughout the region.”

Achieving the exercise goals is “a testimony to our men and women from both countries’ air forces in doing a lot of hard work to be able to execute this kind of exercise with the degree of success they did,” the general said.

In addition to learning from their Indian counterparts, the exercise served as a chance for U.S. Airmen to practice their expeditionary skills, said Col. Rusty Cabot, commander of the deployed U.S. forces.

“Getting to a deployed location in an expeditionary fashion -- and bringing together folks from different units who never worked together before -- was a challenge,” the colonel said.

But it was a challenge the Airmen met successfully, the colonel said.

“We pulled together as a cohesive team throughout this exercise,” he said. “It’s as if we’d been working together for years. We’ve done an outstanding amount of work.”

The F-16’s came from the 13th Fighter Squadron at Misawa Air Base, Japan. Airmen from Yokota AB, Japan, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and Hickam AFB, Hawaii, rounded out the American contingent.

Exercise scenarios began with basic fighter maneuvers before building to large force employments of mixed aircraft packages flying against one another.

In one scenario, Indian Su-30’s escorted AWACS -- and clashed with F-16 attackers.

“That’s 180 degrees from what I’ve always trained to do and thought about,” AWACS detachment commander Lt. Col. Pete Bastien said. “We think of the Su-30 as our adversary.

Through the exercise, General Deptula said participants gained “the trust of each other’s air forces so that in the future -- for any possible contingency that pops up -- we’ll be able to hit the ground running and work together.

“What that ultimately does is improve peace and stability in the region,” the general said.

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