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Three Pacific allies join to launch Exercise Cope North 17

A U.S. Air Force F-16 assigned to the 14th Fighter Squadron from Misawa Air Base, Japan, receives an in-flight refuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker during Cope North 2017, Feb. 16, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith James)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 assigned to the 14th Fighter Squadron from Misawa Air Base, Japan, receives an in-flight refuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker during Cope North 2017, Feb. 16, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith James)

Exercise Cope North 17 participants on the Andersen Air Force Base, Guam flightline Feb. 15, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith James)

Exercise Cope North 17 participants on the Andersen Air Force Base, Guam flightline Feb. 15, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith James)

U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron prepare to depart after receiving an in-flight refuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker during Cope North 2017, Feb. 16, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith James)

U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron prepare to depart after receiving an in-flight refuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker during Cope North 2017, Feb. 16, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith James)

U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron receive an in-flight refuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker during Cope North 2017, Feb. 16, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith James)

U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron receive an in-flight refuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker during Cope North 2017, Feb. 16, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith James)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 assigned to the 14th Fighter Squadron from Misawa Air Base, Japan, flies next to a KC-135 Stratotanker after receiving an in-flight  refuel during Cope North 2017, Feb. 16, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith James)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 assigned to the 14th Fighter Squadron from Misawa Air Base, Japan, flies next to a KC-135 Stratotanker after receiving an in-flight refuel during Cope North 2017, Feb. 16, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith James)

U.S. Air Force Capts. Ryan Nivan (left) and Ben Chase (right), 909th Air Fueling Squadron pilots, prepare to land a KC-135 Stratotanker on the flightline of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam after providing in-flight fuel to multiple aircraft during Cope North 2017, Feb. 16, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith James)

U.S. Air Force Capts. Ryan Nivan (left) and Ben Chase (right), 909th Air Fueling Squadron pilots, prepare to land a KC-135 Stratotanker on the flightline of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam after providing in-flight fuel to multiple aircraft during Cope North 2017, Feb. 16, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith James)

U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron depart from the boom pod of a KC-135 Stratotanker after receiving an in-flight refuel during Cope North 2017, Feb. 16, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith James)

U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron depart from the boom pod of a KC-135 Stratotanker after receiving an in-flight refuel during Cope North 2017, Feb. 16, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith James)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Luke Story, a 909th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, operates a boom during an in-flight refueling of an F-15 Eagle during Cope North 2017, Feb. 16, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith James)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Luke Story, a 909th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, operates a boom during an in-flight refueling of an F-15 Eagle during Cope North 2017, Feb. 16, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith James)

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- U.S., Japanese and Australian military forces launched Exercise Cope North 2017 here Feb. 15.

Approximately 2,700 service members will spend the next two and a half weeks building international partnerships and increasing interoperability on the ground and in the air.

“This is an opportunity for us to fly and fight together – to get better at our craft,” said Col. Scott Hurrelbrink, 36th Wing vice commander. “Cope North enables us to work together, to train with different tactics, and to learn how other nations fight wars.”

Boasting more than 100 aircraft, this year’s Cope North – the 88th held – is the second largest iteration of the now-annual exercise. Participants include the: U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, and Royal Australian Air Force.

In a region where more than a thousand languages are spoken, simply talking with one another is a key benefit to bringing the three Pacific nations together.

“I’m excited to develop my communication skills in English,” said JASDF Captain Tatsuya Takahashi, a Mitsubishi F-2 pilot assigned to the 8th Fighter Squadron at Tsuiki Air Base. “The language we use in flight with Japanese controllers is English, but it’s a Japanese-English. Here we have to use proper English which is very challenging but rewarding.”

Along with breaking down language barriers, Cope North provides valuable training opportunities.

“Working together allows us to share and combine tactics to make our own better,” Takahashi said. “We’re also able to gain experience working with the other countries, increasing our overall interoperability.”

This year, the RAAF is bringing their largest force to ever participate in a Cope North. Their capabilities being exercised include a combat support element and aeromedical evacuation team.

“Cope North gives us the opportunity to validate the effectiveness of our training in a complex and demanding air combat scenario,” said RAAF Group Captain Tim Alsop, director of RAAF Cope North forces. “This is the sixth time Australia has participated in the exercise and every year we gain a further appreciation of how our equipment, aircraft and personnel operate together in this environment.”

In addition to the RAAF’s increased presence, the USMC returns to participate after a 14 year absence and the B-1B Lancer is scheduled to make its debut in this premier Pacific Air Forces-led exercise.