Cope North training kicks off on Guam with 2,400 troops, nearly 100 aircraft
Stars and Stripes February 5, 2024
The Air Force began one of its largest annual exercises Monday, bringing thousands of airmen together on Guam to practice skills for modern aerial warfare.
Cope North officially kicked off with dozens of fighter and cargo planes taxiing down Andersen Air Force Base’s runways, Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman 1st Lt. Alyssa Letts told Stars and Stripes by phone Monday.
This year, around 1,700 U.S. airmen, sailors and Marines, along with 700 troops from Australia, Canada, France, South Korea and Japan, assembled for the exercise. The joint force plans to fly 1,400 missions from three Pacific islands and six airfields with about 85 aircraft, PACAF said in a Jan. 21 news release.
Beyond Andersen, aircraft will be flying out of Guam’s Northwest Field, Antonio B. Won Pat Guam International Airport and airfields on Tinian and Saipan in the Northern Marianas Islands.
This marks the first time Cope North is being led by a “joint operational command structure” between the U.S., Australia and Japan, Letts told Stars and Stripes by email Jan. 27.
The new structure is made possible by new command-and-control systems and networks and is visible through the “shared movement” of cargo and passengers in a much more complex manner than previous exercises, she wrote.
Cope North aims to prepare airmen for mass deployments involving multiple countries and practice NATO’s agile combat employment doctrine, according to the news release.
Agile combat employment means operating from major airfields and dispersed locations to improve airpower resilience and survivability, French Air and Space Force Brig. Gen. Gilles Juventin, deputy chief of staff support for Allied Air Command, said at a December NATO symposium.
Examples of agile combat employment include long-range flights from U.S. bases by B-1B Lancer and B-52H Stratofortress bombers for airpower demonstrations with the air forces of Japan and South Korea.
The doctrine “requires a flexible, well prepared and coordinated approach” from those involved, Juventin added, according to an Allied Air Command news release.
The Air Force first established Cope North in 1978 at Misawa Air Base in Japan as a quarterly exercise between the U.S. and Japan. The exercise moved to Guam in 1999 and brought the Royal Australian Air Force into the fold in 2012. Additional allies, including New Zealand and the Philippines, have participated intermittently.