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A few dozen U.S. and Japanese aircraft will battle in the skies this month off the coast of Japan as part of the Cope North training exercise.

U.S. forces from Misawa, Yokota, Kadena, Iwakuni and Atsugi will train with Japanese forces during the exercise, designed to improve the mutual air defense of Japan.

Participants are expected to conduct aerial defense and fighter jet combat training in the airspace near Komatsu, a Japan Air Self-Defense Force base on the Sea of Japan.

Cope North, held at least twice a year since 1978, generally includes a segment to practice air-to-surface training and another for air-to-air, planners say.

The hypothetical war games will combine various tactics and let units work with different aircraft from what they usually see, said Capt. Yvonne Levardi, spokesperson for the Kenney War Fighting Headquarters, part of Pacific Air Forces.

The training also will focus on air maneuvers, pitting small, then larger groups of aircraft against each other in mock battles.

Participants include about 135 Air Force personnel; 20 Marines and 20 from Carrier Air Wing 5 aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, which currently is deployed near Okinawa. They will join about 200 people from JASDF. Aircraft include fighter jets, early-warning aircraft and refuelers.

In addition to flying and maneuver training, Cope North is aimed at helping both nations improve their working relationships and communications.

The exercise runs this week and next.

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