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Officials plan to launch Cooperative Cope Thunder this week, the Air Force’s largest multilateral air-combat exercise in the Pacific.

The annual drill, which was to begin Thursday and will run through July 30, is being staged at Eielson and Elmendorf Air Force bases in Alaska.

Singapore, Germany, the United Kingdom, Mongolia, Canada, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Australia are among the nations signed up to take part this year.

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force, also headed to the exercise, is deploying F-15s to the United States for just the second time, said Maj. Eric Hilliard, a 5th Air Force spokesman. The Indian air force is sending its fighter aircraft to American soil for the first time, he added. That country is set to operate out of Eielson.

About 210 servicemembers from Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, are taking part in the Alaska drill, said Maj. Brenda Campbell, a Cope Thunder spokeswoman based at Elmendorf, with 160 headed to Elmendorf for the F-15 maneuvers and 50 going to Eielson to support KC-135 refueling missions. Yokota Air Base, Japan, is sending a handful of representatives.

Cope Thunder simulates the combat conditions pilots would face in wartime, Hilliard said. At the end of each session, mission evaluators will critique aircrews.

“Each day will end with a debrief conducted by all the persons involved in the day’s flying events,” Campbell said. “They are not graded but rather they note what tactics, techniques and procedures they accomplished well and what others need to be reviewed further.”

Cope Thunder gives Air Force units a chance to sharpen air combat skills, exchange air-operations tactics and promote closer relations among participating nations, she added.

More than 1,800 people are attending the exercise, including about 680 U.S. servicemembers.


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