US, Japan, Australian forces kick off COPE North 2020

Members of the U.S. Military, Royal Australian Air Force, and Japan Air Self-Defense Force stand in formation together to start Exercise Cope North 20 (CN20), at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Feb. 12, 2020. CN20 is an annual trilateral field training exercise conducted at Andersen AFB, and around the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Palau and Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie Lee)

More than 100 aircraft will soar over our region over the next two weeks as the annual COPE North exercises gets underway.

U.S. forces, Japan Air Self-Defense Forces, and the Royal Australian Air Force are working together during the exercise that got underway today and runs through Feb. 28.

Approximately 2,000 military personnel will hone their skills to increase combat readiness and interoperability during the annual trilateral field training exercise. Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises and strike mission training will be conducted during the first week, while air combat tactics and a large-force employment training takes place the second week.

“This exercise is a model opportunity for our countries to participate in world-class training and expand engagements to strengthen our interoperability,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Scott Rowe, COPE NORTH exercise director. “It validates new ways to deploy and maneuver people and assets, which ultimately enhances our capacity and capability to foster a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Teams will face various challenges during the 17-day event by focusing on integrating and refining best practices for coordinating combined air tactics, techniques and procedures.

Part of the HADR training scenario is a medical evacuation from Rota to Guam featuring aeromedical evacuation doctors and crews. All three nations will work together during the crisis response scenario to provide airborne command and control, combat jumps, joint terminal attack controllers, and bilateral training with the military working dogs and security forces.

“Training programs such as exercise COPE NORTH provides invaluable opportunities to test operational air and ground crews to the highest level,” said RAAF Group Captain Mark Larter, Multinational Task Force commander. “For the first time, U.S. Pacific Air Forces has invited the Royal Australian Air Force to lead the HADR mission to demonstrate combat readiness, humanitarian assistance procedures and interoperability between the forces of the United States, Australia and Japan.”

COPE NORTH — originally a quarterly exercise between the U.S. and Japanese air forces in Misawa, Japan — was moved to Guam in 1999. RAAF joined in 2011 to strengthen the trilateral relationships and further integrate HADR operations and a large-force employment exercise. The now-annual exercise is designed to promote stability and security throughout the Indo-Pacific and continues to evolve throughout the years.

“I had participated in COPE NORTH as a young pilot about 17 years ago,” said Koku Jieitai Col. Katushi “Kitty” Hashimoto. “I am pleasantly surprised to see how much this exercise has evolved over time. It literally shows the evolution of our already strong relationship among U.S., Australia and Japan.”

This year marks the first time the Japan Maritime Defense Force is bringing a US-2 ShinMaywa amphibious aircraft to incorporate personnel recover missions.

“I am very confident this exercise will further enhance our combat capability and strengthen our alliance more than ever before,” Hashimoto said.