KORAT ROYAL THAI AIR FORCE BASE, Thailand --
U.S., Thai and Singaporean servicemembers commemorated the conclusion of another successful Pacific Air Forces sponsored, multilateral aerial exercise with a ceremony here March 31.
Officiating the closing ceremony were Royal Thai air force Air Chief Mashal Surasak Toongtong, Chief of the Air Staff for the RTAF, Republic of Singapore air force Maj. Gen. Mervyn Tan Wei Ming, Chief of the Air Force for the RSAF, and U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. James Eifert, Air National Guard assistant to the Commander, Pacific Air Forces.
Royal Thai air force Group Captain Supijjarn Thamwatharsaree, accompanied by U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. James McFarland and Republic of Singapore air force Colonel Chan Ching Hao, exercise directors for Cope Tiger 17, addressed participants during the ceremony.
"Our friendly relations and close cooperation have been extended at all levels through various activities," said Thamwatharsaree at the ceremony. "And, Cope Tiger, a solid example of such cooperation has improved our operational skills and experience of the Airmen among our Air Forces and created a brotherhood that will continue to symbolize our excellent cooperation and friendship among our nations for years to come."
The teamwork and foundation of interoperability built through previous iterations of Cope Tiger allows ensuing exercises to provide new learning experiences, especially with such a variety of forces working so closely together.
"We've done an absolutely excellent job this year," said McFarland. “It is amazing to see how this exercise has evolved over the years and I think we'll be able to take this exercise to bigger and better places in the coming years.”
Despite some of the weather challenges, over 730 flight hours were logged and 812 sorties flown over the two-week exercise.
“But, to me, those numbers don't tell the full story,” said Hao. “It doesn't tell the story of the professionalism and effort that we've all exhibited throughout this exercise. It is not easy, with three different air forces coming from very different operating environments. Our ability to come together has really set the bar high for years to come.”
One of the most notable successes during this year's iteration of Cope Tiger was the first integration of the Command and Control (C2) Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance cell which designated a dedicated intel person to mission commanders for mission planning.
“Every year the goal during Cope Tiger is to increase the complexity and realism, which then increases partner capacity,” said Mr. Paul Pladson, deputy chief of the Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance war plan integration branch at Headquarters, Pacific Air Forces. “The intel mission planning cell provides critical intel support for mission planning which is important because intel is the driving force behind operations.”
Perfecting wartime tactics is not the only activity during Cope Tiger. In addition to working together as military forces, U.S. servicemembers teamed up with their Thai and Singaporean counterparts and volunteered their time for a cultural exchange at a local school. They collected more than $5,000 among themselves and donated books, school supplies and sports equipment such as soccer balls, volleyballs and kickballs.
In his closing comments, Toongtong thanked all participants for their hard work and dedication.
“I am delighted that the result of the training was successful and increased our participants' experiences and efficiencies,” said Toongtong. “And I hope that this exercise will always maintain a long lasting goodwill and friendship to our personnel at all levels.”
Approximately 220 U.S. personnel participated in the exercise along with approximately 1,000 service members from Thailand and Singapore. The exercise involved a combined total of 76 aircraft and 43 air defense assets from the three participating countries.