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F-15s, MiGs are allies in the sky

by John Monroe
18th Wing Public Affairs

3/15/2006 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan (AFPN) -- Multinational pilots from the United States and Malaysia have joined forces in the Pacific skies for Cope Taufan ‘06, a three-week air-to-air training exercise designed to sharpen air combat tactic skills and promote closer relations between allies.

Cope Taufan, Taufan meaning “big storm” in Malaysian, is held bi-annually by the Royal Malaysian Air Force and the U.S. Air Force in Butterworth near the northwest coast of that country.

Eight F-15 Eagles and more than 114 18th Wing maintainers, munition handlers and pilots, are participating in the exercise that began March 10.

The Royal Malaysian Air Force are participating with MiG-29 Fulcrum, Hawk 208 and the F/A-18 Hornet aircraft.

“This exercise is a chance for Team Kadena, regardless of rank or specialty, to work with our counterparts from the Royal Malaysian Air Force to sharpen air combat capabilities and operational proficiencies,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Gustafson, 67th Fighter Squadron commander. “This global engagement is fostering mutually beneficial relations with Malaysia, which facilitates peace and stability in the Pacific region."

The Air Force has often found opportunities to train with the F/A-18 aircraft in joint-service exercises with the Navy. But this event marks one of the few times the Air Force has had an opportunity to train with the MiG-29, an aircraft usually employed by countries not friendly to the United States.

Air Force F-15 pilots have expressed great satisfaction in how the exercise is going so far.

"The chance to fly against a real MiG in simulated combat is the test of any fighter pilot,” said Navy Lt. Abe Bush, an F-15 pilot and 67th Fighter Squadron flight commander. “We train day in and day out to counter such threats as the MiG, though at Kadena we can only try to simulate it with another F-15; there is no substitution for seeing the real thing.”

Cope Taufan not only provides a rare opportunity to train against unique aircraft, it is also a chance to foster relationships with an ally in the Pacific region.

"After flying against one of their MiG-29 pilots, I can see they are no different than us when it comes to their love of their jets, love of flying and intense pride in their country,” said Capt. Kirby Ensser, 67th FS.

“The opportunity within Cope Taufan drives both countries to think about their respective capabilities and limitations,” the captain said. “The bottom line is that this deployment really benefits the entire spectrum of participants -- Team Kadena, the Air Force, and the Royal Malaysian Air Force -- because every warrior, no matter how skilled, knows there is always room for improvement."

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