Distinguished visitors from all over the Indo-Pacific gathered at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for the kickoff of Cope North 23 Feb. 8, 2023.
The multilateral training event brought together air forces from Australia, Japan, and the United States, as well as the French Air and Space Force. Among the honorary guests were high-ranking military officials from multiple nations, including Japan Air Self-Defense Force Lt. Gen. Hiroaki Uchikura, Air Defense Command commander, Royal Australian Air Force Group Cpt. Matthew Hetherington, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces liaison officer, U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Birch, 36th Wing commander, and several others.
The goal of the exercise is to improve integration among the participating nations and enhance security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
“What we really want to do is work on interoperability with the U.S. and Japan,” said RAAF Group Cpt. Robert Graham, Cope North 23 exercise director. “We utilize a lot of the same equipment, tactics, and procedures, but the subtle differences can be critical. That’s why it’s important to work on understanding the how and why of each other’s operations.”
The training will focus on trilateral airborne integration, large-force employment, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Operations will take place at various locations across the Pacific, including the Commonwealth Northern Mariana Islands, Japan, Palau, and Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia.
Over 2,000 service members and 100 aircraft will participate in the exercise, with 1,200 sorties planned across seven islands and 10 airfields.
“It’s all about a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Jared Paslay, Cope North 23 exercise director. “You’ve got three key regional partners gathering for training in a very strategically important area to train, and we also have a lot of other countries that will be participating as observers.”
Cope North 23 will culminate in a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief event, showcasing the combined ability of the participating nations to respond to any type of disaster in the Indo-Pacific region.
“We have many different focuses for the exercise, and crisis response is a major one,” said Graham. “Natural disasters happen every year, so it’s always good to work on our friendships and partnerships, knowing no matter what we’ll be there for one another.”
Established in 1978, Cope North has been held annually at Andersen Air Force Base since 1999 and is the largest multilateral exercise hosted by U.S. Pacific Air Forces.