February 28, 2017 (by SrA Brittany A. Chase) - U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to Misawa Air Base are at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam for COPE NORTH 17, a U.S. Pacific Air Forces-sponsored field training exercise conducted annually, held this year, February 15 through March 3.
Two F-16 Fighting Falcons escort a B-1B Lancer during COPE NORTH 17 on February 13, 2017. The F-16s provided the Lancers with tactical escort as they struck targets on air interdiction training sorties, all while suppressing enemy air defenses while the Lancers dropped bombs on training targets. [Courtesy photo by Jim Haseltine]
"The focus is on multilateral operations in the Pacific," said Capt. Aaron Koveleskie, a 14th Fighter Squadron fighter pilot. "Basic fighter maneuvers and tactical intercept sorties [took place] the first few days. We also had an extremely unique opportunity to shoot 13 air-to-ground 88 high speed anti-radiation missiles with live warheads at a munitions range."
The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries, focusing on growing interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets.
"We flew dissimilar air combat training missions with our partner nations and U.S. forces in the beginning of the exercise to learn similarities and differences in how our partner nations operate," Koveleskie said.
Misawa Air Base sent approximately 130 Airmen and multiple F-16s, which are compact, multi-role fighter aircraft. Its primary mission focuses on highly maneuverable air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attacks.
"During the large force exercise portion, we operated in extremely complicated and intricate missions with more than 60 aircraft from all three nations in each mission," Koveleskie said. "Our primary missions in LFEs are defensive counter air and the traditional Wild Weasel mission of suppression of enemy air defense training."
"Being in Guam versus Misawa has been beneficial because CN allows us to hone our skills as fighter pilots by integrating tactically and socially with our Pacific partners," Koveleskie continued. "We all recognize the value of learning each other's tactics and operations."
The exercise features a full spectrum of fighter, bomber, airlift, tanker, rescue and command and control aircraft, including its first integration of the U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer into the display of combat airpower.
The presence of the B-1B allows Misawa's team to train with the bomber for the first time in U.S. Pacific Command's area of responsibility in ten years.
"We integrate with the B-1B nearly every mission providing them with tactical escort as they strike targets on air interdiction training sorties," said Koveleskie. "We suppress enemy air defenses while they put bombs on training targets in vulnerable mission areas and integrate our mission planning with them daily to ensure we are all able to successfully achieve the mission."
The B-1B's speed and handling characteristics allow it to seamlessly integrate in mixed force packages. These capabilities, when combined with its substantial payload, radar targeting system, long loiter time and survivability, make the B-1B a key element of any joint or composite strike force.
"Integration is important because we do not fight alone," said Lt. Col. Scott", the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron assistant director of operations. "Understanding tactics used by other platforms is critical to success in any major operation. As B-1B aircrews, CN provides an opportunity to fly with other aircraft. Perhaps more importantly, because we are all co-located for the exercise, we have the opportunity to talk face-to-face and mission plan real-time with our counterparts."
Although flying joint sorties is a main priority, none of this would be possible without the maintainers on the ground; ensuring aircraft are properly generated.
"From a maintenance perspective, the integration of F-16 maintenance helps to establish relationships, focusing on lessons learned while creating opportunities to foster working relationships across other aircraft platforms while sharing resources when possible," said Capt. Brandon*, the 9th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge. "We do all this in order to help each other accomplish the mission as one team."
From generating aircraft to flying through the sky, CN17 gives Airmen located all around the Pacific vital skills.
"The biggest benefit is the ability to mix up the playing field a bit," said Airman 1st Class Jamie Smith, a 14th AMU F-16 dedicated crew chief. "Instead of always [working] with the same people every day, you're taking different aircraft with different capabilities and tasking them all to accomplish the same mission. In a real world scenario, being able to work together at a moment’s notice is pivotal to achieving success."
Now in its 87th iteration, the long-standing multilateral training exercise is designed to improve combat readiness and multinational interoperability among participating militaries.
"Ultimately, the development of worldwide contacts brings the opportunity of solutions in a foreign area of responsibility, where there wouldn't normally be," Brandon explained. "The unification of our allied partners, which builds unbreakable bonds, increases cross-tell education and strengthens relationships with our allied partners to flourish as one strong team."
*Editor’s note: Members’ rank and first name given, last name is withheld for security purposes.