Cope Thunder air combat exercises kick off this week
About 200 fighter pilots, maintainers and support personnel from Misawa Air Base, Japan, are among more than 650 U.S. servicemembers and 200 military personnel from other nations gearing up for the largest multilateral air combat exercise in the Pacific.
Cooperative Cope Thunder — soon to be renamed Red Flag Alaska — is scheduled to begin Thursday and run through Aug. 5 on the Pacific Alaskan Range. Pacific Air Forces will direct the exercise, with air operations flown out of Eielson Air Force Base and Elmendorf Air Force Base, according to a PACAF news release.
Twelve F-16s from Misawa also will take part, according to base spokesman Maj. John Redfield.
Military units from Canada, Japan, Sweden, Mongolia, South Korea, Germany, Slovak Republic and Australia will participate, as well as forces from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Mexico, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Russia are among nations expected to observe the event.
Staff Sgt. Chris Blankenship, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Yokota’s Personnel Readiness Unit, said Yokota is sending 62 airmen. Officials from Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, report they are sending members of the 67th Fighter Squadron.
The exercise involves joint and combined offense counter air, interdiction, air-drop, close-air-support and large-force-employment training under simulated combat conditions, according to PACAF. The training is to improve air combat skills for U.S. and international forces, the news release stated.
The annual Cope Thunder exercises will share the Red Flag name used at Nellis Air Base, Nev. The Air Force announced this spring that the service is enhancing the Cope Thunder drills to provide similar training to that offered at the Red Flag exercises in Nevada.