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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Organizers are gearing up for Cope North, the long-running bilateral exercise featuring Air Force personnel and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, designed to bolster air operations in the defense of Japan.

The 28th annual drill, orchestrated by the 5th Air Force, is scheduled to unfold Monday and run through July 22 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

“There will be training tactics with aircraft and lots of interaction between the U.S. and Japanese air and ground crews,” Maj. Eric Hilliard, a 5th Air Force spokesman, said Wednesday. “They’ll face different exercise scenarios and essentially learn to work together as one unit.”

F-15 Eagles from the 391st Fighter Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, are among the participants. The Idaho fighter squadron arrived on Guam for an indefinite deployment in May. The JASDF is dispatching F-4EJs and E-2Cs from Misawa Air Base.

Hilliard said the 5th Air Force — which spans Yokota, Misawa and Kadena air bases — wouldn’t send any planes but is providing planners and logistics personnel for the exercise.

JASDF crews will drop live ordnance during a drill for the first time ever, he added.

That’s set to take place on an uninhabited island off Guam, Kyodo News reported. A JASDF aircraft will unleash a 500-pound bomb on a ground target inside a strike range.

Cope North, which promotes stronger ties between the two nations, allows units to sharpen air-combat skills and exchange operational tactics, Hilliard said. Large force utilization of air-to- air, air-to-ground, electronic warfare and command-and-control assets will be emphasized during the exercise’s second week.

“The purpose of the exercise is to provide a venue for bilateral cooperation, and improve capabilities for the bilateral defense of Japan,” said Maj. Jeff Doyle of Yokota’s 605th Air Operations Squadron, who’ll serve as lead planner and exercise director for U.S. units.

More than 500 people are taking part in this year’s event, including about 300 American servicemembers.

This will mark the sixth time the United States and Japan have staged a Cope North drill on Guam.

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