Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Annual joint US-Japan air exercise takes wing

Annual joint US-Japan air exercise takes wing

Thursday, 11 February 2010 04:12
by Tiffany Sukola | Variety News Staff

WHILE most visitors traveling to Guam have no choice but to arrive on a commercial airplane, Japanese Air Self-Defense Force pilot A. Sano was able to fly here on his first visit to Guam via an F-2 support fighter aircraft.

Nearly 200 other JASDAF personnel based out of Tsuiki and Misawa air bases are on island to participate in the Cope North training exercise at Andersen Air Force Base.

U.S. Air Force units out of Alaska and Japan are also participating in the field training exercise alongside Andersen based airmen.

Cope North kicked off on Sunday and will continue until next Thursday. Approximately 500 U.S. military personnel are participating in the training exercises as well.

Sano said he is enjoying Guam’s sunny skies and humid climate so far, a drastic change from the cloudy and often rainy Japan. However he admitted his visit to Guam is not all fun and games.

Sano said that he will be dropping live bombs tomorrow night at Farallon de Medinila, in the CNMI as part of the Cope North’s training exercises. The island, approximately 120 miles north of Guam, has been utilized for many years as a practice bombing site for the military.

“I’m excited, but this will be my first time dropping live bombs,” said Sano, noting that training in a plane with live bombs is drastically different than training without them.

According to Colonel Larry Bowers, U.S. exercise director, pilots participating in surface attack missions at FDM are going to be expected to carry out the highly stressful mission of dropping of live bombs.

Bowers said that although the exercise is entering its 10th year, this is only the 5th year Japanese forces have trained with live ammunition.

Bowers explained that the goal of the exercises is to allow both countries’ military forces to familiarize themselves with this region to ensure smoother operations in case an emergency calls for both forces to be deployed together.

“We need to learn to fly together,” said Bowers, adding that both Guam and Japan are becoming increasingly strategic to U.S. defense operations. “We need to make sure we have access to Asia in the event of a contingency.”

Bowers added that Cope North is the longest running bilateral training exercise, the first being held in 1978.

According to Bowers, Guam’s location makes it ideal for training exercises like Cope North.

Bowers said that in Japan, military forces are not able to fly as feely over the heavily congested Japanese airspace or train over the open ocean.

He added that since Andersen is located on the Northern end of the island, local residents are not disturbed by constant take-offs and landings.

Bowers also said that Cope North is the only opportunity JASDAF has to drop live munitions.

According to Bowers, pilots will be tested over this coming week on their abilities to not only fly the planes, but their abilities to maintain them as well.

Bowers said that F-16’s, B-52 Stratofortresses, Navy EA-6B Prowlers and E-2C Hawkeyes will be flown alongside the Japanese F-2’s during the training exercises.

Bowers said that the two countries’ military forces have improved considerably as a result of the exercises.

“Offensive operations on many tactical levels have greatly improved,” said Bowers, adding that the annual training is paying off.

Bowers added however that he would like to see more training exercises focused on Japan based efforts. He said that participants from all over the Pacific region should be able to participate in similar training.

According to Bowers, nearly 350 sorties, or deployments of military aircraft units, will take place before the field training exercise is over next week.

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