Misawa F-16 unit flying high at Cooperative Cope Thunder

  • Published
  • By Capt. Teresa Sullivan
  • Cooperative Cope Thunder Public Affairs
Pilots and support staff from Misawa Air Base, Japan, are taking advantage of realistic air combat training here during Cooperative Cope Thunder, Pacific Air Forces' largest joint and bilateral air combat exercise.

The 13th Fighter Squadron brought about 40 pilots and support Airmen and 12 F-16 Fighting Falcons -- the only exercise asset that can provide both air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities.

As U.S. forces continue to transform to meet emerging security challenges in the Asia Pacific region, exercises like Cooperative Cope Thunder bring partner nations together to ensure peace and stability in the region.

"We're here to validate and improve our ability to conduct flying operations in a large force exercise alongside our allied forces," said Lt. Col. Stephen Williams, 13th FS commander and 35th Air Expeditionary Wing operations group commander.

"We are executing suppression of enemy air defense and destruction of enemy air defense missions here, which we do on a daily basis at Misawa, and are incorporating it into the big picture with allied aircraft giving us a chance to really put our skills to the test," Colonel Williams said.

Some of the challenges the squadron will face include communication and collaboration with allied forces from Sweden, Canada, Japan, Mongolia, NATO, South Korea, Bangladesh, Germany, the Slovak Republic and Australia.

"We'll come out of this with a better understanding of how we all fit into the big picture and how to operate successfully," Colonel Williams said. "Language barriers will always be difficult. That's why it's great that we can work face to face in an exercise environment to overcome them."

Colonel Williams compared the training missions to a scrimmage to prepare for game day. And there is no better place to practice for game day than the Pacific Alaska Range Complex, said Capt. Pete Schnobrich, 13th FS pilot.

"The ranges are awesome," the captain said about the U.S.'s largest military overland and airspace training range spanning 68,000 square miles. "This exercise and the ranges here afford us the opportunity to fly our mission over land, which we don't do much of at Misawa. It provides us with the realistic training with other countries that we'll need for real world deployments."

As long as 13th FS pilots are flying, support crews are at work behind the scenes.
Airman 1st Class Eric Frantz, 13th FS aviation resource manager, is part of the duty desk team. They manage the sorties, currencies and total hours flown by exercise pilots. They also are getting an opportunity to test new ways of doing business in a simulated combat environment.

They, too, will face some challenges.

"Besides the 23 hours of sunlight here in Alaska, the biggest challenge for us will be using new software that our squadron just received used for managing all information related to the squadron's sorties," Airman Frantz said.

Not only did the duty desk team learn the new software, they also taught their Japanese Air Self-Defense Force counterparts how to use it. Airman Frantz trained the Japanese Airmen how to input sortie information into the new software system's database, something the Japanese don't customarily do.

"This is what it's all about," Colonel Williams said. "We're putting our skills to the test with our allied forces, working hard and learning from each other."