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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The air forces of the United States and Japan will hold a joint exercise, Cope North 04-2, around Okinawa for 12 days beginning Monday.

Thousands of air force personnel will participate in the drills, which are “vital to maintaining a high level of readiness,” a base spokesman said. “The purpose of the exercise is to provide a venue for bilateral cooperation and to improve capabilities for the defense of Japan,” said Maj. Eric Hilliard, a public information officer with the 5th Air Force at Yokota Air Base.

“Okinawa has the southwestern sector, located at Naha Air Base,” he said. “These sectors have the responsibility for the early warning defense of Japan. We try to rotate the exercise location to train and practice with the different sectors.”

U.S. Air Force units participating in the drills will include F-15C Eagles, KC-135 Tankers and an E-3B/C AWACS from Kadena’s 18th Wing; air traffic control personnel from Misawa and Kadena, and exercise staff from Headquarters 5th Air Force. Japan Air Self-Defense Force units will include F-4 Phantoms from Naha Air Base, F-15Js from Hyakuri Air Base and an E-767 AWACS from Hammatsu Air Base.

The first week will consist of air combat tactics, and the second week will include large force employment of air-to-air, air-to-ground, electronic warfare, and command and control drills.

The exercise director is Air Force Col. Robert Harvey, 605th Aerospace Expeditionary Group Commander at Yokota Air Base. The JASDF director is Col. Hidehisa Abe, chief of the Plans and Operations Division, Southwest Air Sector at Naha Air Base.

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