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Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force commander, meets and talks with several Indian Air Force members at Misawa Air Base, Japan, late last month.
Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force commander, meets and talks with several Indian Air Force members at Misawa Air Base, Japan, late last month. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Getting to know their U.S. counterparts before an exercise on their home turf in November, six members of India’s air force visited Misawa Aug. 21-27 as part of a bilateral exchange.

The 13th Fighter Squadron and 610th Air Control Flight at Misawa each hosted two pilots, two controllers and two safety officers from various units in India. They toured base facilities and work sites, sampled American culture and cuisine and learned about the base’s day-to-day military operations, including flight operations, maintenance, air traffic control and crash recovery.

“A big part of it is so they have familiarity on how we operate so we can safely operate together during the exercise as well as building some of the rapport and friendships that really make the exercise successful,” said Lt. Col. Chuck Toplikar, 13th Fighter Squadron operations director.

Misawa and Kadena Air Base on Okinawa are gearing up to send about 256 military personnel from the 35th Fighter Wing and 961st Airborne Warning and Control Systems, respectively, to Cope India Nov. 7-19. The exercise marks the second year the two air forces will practice simulated combat flying between two types of aircraft.

In February 2004, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, sent six F-15 Eagles to Gawalior.

This year, the exercise — to be held at Kalaikunda base near Calcutta — is expanding in scope: Twelve F-16 CJs from Misawa are to take part, as is an E-3 AWACS aircraft from Kadena.

At the Air Force Association’s annual Air Warfare Symposium in February, Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Paul V. Hester said the training will be a large-force exercise.

“We’ll have people on the ground, people in the air. It will mark a growing respect between our nations as we work together,” he said.

Last month’s swap was mutual: The same week in August the Indian air force members came to Japan, Misawa and Kadena each sent one airman who will participate in the exercise to India. The two are getting to ride in a Russian-made SU-30 fighter, one of the Indian officers said.

Toplikar said, “It’s getting to know each other, to know each other’s cultures, getting to know how we think and operate, and continuing to build a friendship between the two countries as a whole.”

On their last day in Japan, the group met Lt. Gen. Bruce A. Wright, U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force commander, and spent time with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s 8th Tactical Squadron, based at Misawa.

Indian Lt. Col. Ganapathiraju Srinivas, a wing commander and MiG-29 fighter pilot, said the whole week was wonderful.

“For me [the highlight] was riding in the F-16.”

“Ride?” Toplikar said. “You flew it.”

“I did get to fly, yes,” Srinivas said, laughing.

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