CCT/RF Improves Combat Skills for US and International Forces

Korean air force Senior Master Sgt. Bumsoo Shin monitors engine startup on a C-130 at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on July 25. The Korean air force and other multi-national aircrews are in Alaska participating in the Pacific Air Forces exercise Cooperative Cope Thunder. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Garrett Hothan)

Korean air force Senior Master Sgt. Bumsoo Shin monitors engine startup on a C-130 at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on July 25. The Korean air force and other multi-national aircrews are in Alaska participating in the Pacific Air Forces exercise Cooperative Cope Thunder. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Garrett Hothan)

A NATO crew chief inspects the NATO Airborne Warning and Control System after a mission in support of Cooperative Cope Thunder at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on July 25. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Keith Brown)

A NATO crew chief inspects the NATO Airborne Warning and Control System after a mission in support of Cooperative Cope Thunder at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on July 25. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Keith Brown)

Senior Airman Sherman Roberts loads liquid oxygen on a C-130 Hercules at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on July 25. Airman Roberts is with the 36th Aircraft Maintenance Unit at Yokota Air Base, Japan. The Yokota C-130s are in Alaska participating in the Pacific Air Forces exercise Cooperative Cope Thunder. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Garrett Hothan)

Senior Airman Sherman Roberts loads liquid oxygen on a C-130 Hercules at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on July 25. Airman Roberts is with the 36th Aircraft Maintenance Unit at Yokota Air Base, Japan. The Yokota C-130s are in Alaska participating in the Pacific Air Forces exercise Cooperative Cope Thunder. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Garrett Hothan)

Chief Master Sgt. Jongkyu Lee and Master Sgt. Jinkoo Kim repair an anti-collision lamp on a C-130 Hercules at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on July 25. They are members of the Korean air force and are participating in Cooperative Cope Thunder, a Pacific Air Forces exercise that ends Aug. 5. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Garrett Hothan)

Chief Master Sgt. Jongkyu Lee and Master Sgt. Jinkoo Kim repair an anti-collision lamp on a C-130 Hercules at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on July 25. They are members of the Korean air force and are participating in Cooperative Cope Thunder, a Pacific Air Forces exercise that ends Aug. 5. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Garrett Hothan)

ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Cooperative Cope Thunder 06-3, is not just another Pacific Air Forces exercise. In fact, CCT boasts as being the largest multi- lateral air combat exercise in the pacific.

During an ABC Alaska News interview, Lt. Col. Reggie Smith, operations officer for CCT/Red Flag Alaska at Elmendorf, explained that unlike Northern Edge or some of the recent exercises in the pacific region, CCT is a multi-national field training exercise that’s very air forces centric and provides joint/combined offensive counter air, interdiction, airdrop, close air support, and large force employment training.

The colonel explained that the primary mission at Elmendorf is command and control and tactical airlift, whereas Eielson have the fighters and tanker support.

“We have the Korean C-130s here as well as C-130s from Yokota Air Base, Japan. The C-160s from Germany round out the perfect support. In addition to Elmendorf’s E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, the NATO E-3A AWACS from Geilenkirchen, Germany are operating out of Elmendorf,” said Colonel Smith.

Approximately 1300 participants from the United States, Australia, Japan, NATO, Korea, Germany, Canada, Sweden and the lists goes on to include observers from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Russia, Mexico and Mongolia are in Alaska to take part in CCT, soon to be re-designated Red Flag Alaska.

“The training for CCT is conducted on the Pacific Alaskan Range Complex, the largest range area in the world, with air operations flown out of Elmendorf and Eielson Air Force Bases. The exercise simulates wartime conditions that we and our coalition partners could face together in actual combat,” explained Colonel Smith.

Air force Capt Helmut Shafer, a German navigator on the C-160s said, “For most of us this will be our first time in the U.S. I’m excited about learning new tactics, flying on the ranges and seeing what Alaska has to offer. We hope to gain experience in low level flying as well as some maneuver protection combinations. This will be an opportunity to get familiar and work with the fighters as well as to have some air drops at a specific time in a special area.”

“This is my second time participating in CCT and it is an excellent training opportunity to work with the Americans and the other countries – to plan and execute a wartime mission,” said Capt. Jaekyong Seo, an F-16 pilot with the Republic of Korea Air Force. Captain Seo explained that one of his jobs will be to translate. As one can imagine with so many countries and languages coming together communication can be a challenge.

“We have the blue air (good guys) flying against the red air (bad guys). They’ll meet in the airspace and will execute the wartime tasking or scenario they were given then they will come back to each individual base and debrief: How well did we execute? How well did we suppress the enemy? How well did we work together protecting friendly assets? How well did we work together to destroy enemy assets? What lessons can we take to execute tomorrow’s war better?” said Colonel Smith.

A lot of planning goes into making such a multi-lateral exercise as CCT a reality. “Over eight months of preparation comes together as CCT 06-3 kicks off,” said Maj Scott Lew, chief of airlift operations. The first week included a lot of mission planning and briefings, followed by Familiarization Day, where the crews prepared for and flew their respective missions without any simulated threats or wartime scenarios. Fam Day allowed the crews to get familiar with the Alaskan ranges and terrain prior to exercise execution.

Cooperative Cope Thunder flying scenarios take place this week and the exercise runs through Aug 5.