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Exercise Cope North 2014 pilots play out large force employment scenarios

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Pilots from the U.S. Air Force, Japanese Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force conducted large force employment training here Feb. 20-28 as part of Exercise Cope North 2014.

Cope North, which was in its 85th iteration, is an annual two-week exercise providing the U.S. and allied countries an optimal training environment to develop combat capabilities with each other to ensure free access to the global commons by enhancing air superiority, interdiction, electronic warfare, tactical airlift and aerial refueling.

During the exercise, the air forces focused 7 of their 10 flying days toward the LFE while the other three days were spent on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training. The LFE scenarios required exercise participants to apply skills in planning and conducting large-scale employment of air assets while either attacking or defending an objective, employing effective command and control and also accomplishing aerial refueling.

There are two overall mission focuses during the LFE: offensive airpower and defensive counterair. For the offensive portion, the pilots demonstrate their abilities to go into an enemy area and provide air support by airdropping supplies or special forces, or simulating target hits. For the defensive portion, the pilots are tasked to defend a base or particular area from enemy attacks.

"We don't portray specific targets in the training but, in general, we want to have close interoperability with our partners in defending those areas," said U.S. Air Force Maj. John Greven, 353rd Combat Training Squadron operations division chief from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. "We are very close allies and the fact that we work so well together demonstrates those close ties."

The Cope North LFE can bring approximately 50-60 aircraft into the air space at one time to play out scenarios to meet their training objectives by distributing teams playing the roles of friendly forces ("blue" forces) or the enemy ("red" forces). The role of the opposition is mainly played by Eielson's 18th Aggressor Squadron. Their F-16 Fighting Falcons are configured to replicate a multitude of different aircraft throughout the region.

"We are the (restaurant) of adversaries; our customers can have it their way," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Joseph Howard, 18th AGRS assistant director of operations. "The goal of blue force is to complete their objective and be able to bring everyone home from the mission, but our job is push at them and show the chinks in their armor."

There were two LFE training missions planned for each day and each one typically lasted approximately 60-90 minutes. Exercise leaders would then follow up each scenario with a hotwash and share lessons learned.

Greven said one of the big takeaways was for the pilots to not only practice their tactics and their squadron's tactics of flying and training, but to also integrate with the other countries and how they fly while also learning how they operate.

Members of the partner nations agreed and also felt learning to work with each other was important and left feeling like they accomplished their objectives while enhancing relationships with the other countries.

JASDF Lt. Col. Keitarou Saizen, 1st Element operations section, Headquarters Air Defense Command, said he thinks the partner-to-partner working relationships and the trust involved between each other is very important for success. He also said it provides a good feeling knowing they grow closer to the allied nations step-by-step and he looks forward to working together again in the future.

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