KORAT ROYAL THAI AIR FORCE BASE, Thailand --
Units from the United States Air Force, Royal Thai air force (RTAF), and Republic of Singapore air force (RSAF) began flying in support of the 25th annual COPE Tiger exercise, at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, March 11, 2019.
Over the next two weeks, approximately 1,150 members from the three services will participate in the multilateral exercise, using a combined total of 76 aircraft to enhance interoperability across the Indo-Pacific.
The U.S. participants in this year’s exercise hail from the 14th Fighter Squadron at Misawa Air Base, Japan, and will integrate their F-16 Fighting Falcons with other fighters, tankers, and command and control aircraft during the training event.
“The training accomplished during this exercise ensures that the United States and two of its closest partners maintain a common operational picture," said U.S. Air Force Col. Shannon Smith, COPE Tiger deployed forces commander. "By using multinational airborne and land-based command and control assets, we accurately simulate the challenges and opportunities present if our nations were ever called upon to respond to a natural disaster or a threat to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
While the focus of operations primarily centers around the flightline, the 14th FS will also give back to the community hosting them.
“We have community outreach programs planned over the next two weeks to enhance our relations not only with the RTAF but also with the Thai people,” said Capt. Joseph Boyle, the lead U.S. planner for the exercise.
“One of our flight surgeons will be providing general health examinations in the Nakhon Ratchasima province alongside RTAF and RSAF medical personnel. In addition, pilots and maintainers from the 14 FS will be conducting a cultural exchange at a local school alongside our Singaporean counterparts.”
Between partnering outside of the base and in the air, COPE Tiger provides a quality venue for the United States, Singapore and Thailand to develop coalition airpower procedures and overall interoperability.
“This exercise is about enhancing our Indo-Pacific relations, both operationally and culturally,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Kenkel, 14th FS commander. “By building mutual trust and respect with our partner air forces, we ensure that we’re ready to meet the demands of the Indo-Pacific together.”
In past years, those demands have manifested as natural disasters. The training provided by COPE Tiger proved to be life-saving in April 2015 when Thailand and the United States combined efforts to provide earthquake relief to Nepal.
Thailand first delivered humanitarian aid supplies to Nepal and then supported U.S disaster relief operations out of Utapao. By already being familiar with each other’s operating procedures, the two countries were able to respond more rapidly and with fewer impediments to the mission, resulting in more lives saved.
“Few training events rival COPE Tiger in developing quick, coordinated response capabilities between our partner nations,” said Smith. “I look forward to enhancing our collective readiness and learning all that we can from each other over the next two weeks.”