Pacific exercise builds flexible air power

Australia, the United States and Japan have wrapped up Exercise Cope North 2023 in the west Pacific.

CAPTION: Aviators from the Royal Australian Air Force, US Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, during Exercise Cope North. Photo by Staff Sergeant Pedro Tenorio (US).

The exercise ran from February 8 to 24, and operated out of air bases, airports and airfields in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Micronesia, Japan and Palau.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) deployed a C-27J Spartan and 100 aviators to enable joint operations across the expanse of the west Pacific.

RAAF Task Unit Commander Group Captain Robert Graham said Exercise Cope North supported Australia’s capacity to work with partners and contribute to an Indo-Pacific region that is open, resilient, prosperous and respectful of sovereignty.

“While Australia conducts similar training activities domestically, the challenges of Cope North cannot be replicated within Australia,” Group Captain Graham said.

“The dynamic and dispersed nature of this exercise across multiple islands allows us to rehearse and refine a range of missions we may face in the real world, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and agile combat employment operations.

“Training alongside partner nations is critical to our success on real-world operations, with Exercise Cope North also allowing us to work closely with communities in the Pacific.”

A select group of RAAF aviators supported operations from an airfield on the island of Rota in the CNMI.

“Understanding the concerns, desires and culture of this community was key to us working with them and more effectively delivering support on Exercise Cope North,” Group Captain Graham said.

The RAAF also deployed elements from Combat Support Group, including contingency response, health and security forces. These elements integrated with United States Air Force and Japan Air Self Defense Force counterparts with a focus on improving interoperability and the ability to rapidly deploy to and establish airbase operations at multiple locations concurrently.

The exercise also focused on developing agile combat employment tactics, techniques and procedures to ensure air power can be employed when and where it is required. This gives commanders flexibility in employing an interoperable trilateral force across the Pacific.

This year was the 13th time Australia has taken part in Exercise Cope North.


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