COPE North Rapid Airfield Damage Recovery

  • Published
  • By MSgt Jonathan Crandell
  • Headquarters Air Force, Office of the Director of Civil Engineers

If our military history has taught us anything, it is this: war, and how we defeat our enemies, evolves over time. As our global adversaries develop new tactics and weaponry, and engage in long-term strategies to usurp U.S. national security, our National Defense Strategy requires us to meet these threats head-on to protect what matters most – our freedom. We must train to develop agile, innovative, and ready Airmen Engineers who are prepared to tackle a complex global environment. Exercises like COPE North 2020, held at Andersen AFB, give participants the opportunity to train in a joint environment, testing combat readiness and simulating a real-world situation. This trilateral field training exercise incorporates joint and combined U.S. Pacific Air Forces with participants from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

The Rapid Explosive Hazard Mitigation (REHM) and Rapid Airfield Damaged Recovery (RADR) exercise for this year’s COPE North event included over 300 combined and joint personnel that made up 3 separate teams. It was the first time in Air Force history these teams successfully repaired 18 craters per team for a total of 54 craters. This is significant since capability claims were developed under “ideal” conditions.

One portion of this exercise involves REHM, carried out by Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel and designed to rapidly remove unexploded ordnances (UXOs) from the runway surface in order to pave the way for RADR. MSgt Neil Gertiser, 554 RHS EOD Cadre stated, “EOD is the first personnel onto the airfield to assess the damage. Upon the selection of the Minimum Operating Strip, the EOD team begins REHM, designed to rapidly remove UXOs from the airfield at a rate of 500 per hour, paving the way for RADR. During COPE North 2020, the 26 member joint EOD team was able to clear 1200 UXOs from 5000 feet of runway within 2 hours and 17 minutes, allowing the RADR teams to begin repairs ahead of schedule.”

Once the green light is given, the crater repair team can utilize their six step process to create an efficient assembly line operation that ends with a concrete or asphalt cap. Since AFCEC implemented RADR training in late 2018, this concept has been taught by RED HORSE Cadre at Silver Flag training sites in the U.S., Europe, and Guam. MSgt Richard Loreto, 554 RHS Silver Flag Cadre, stated, “The COPE North exercise not only proved the validity of AFCEC’s RADR tactics, techniques and procedures, but also proved effective interoperability by executing RADR with our joint and partner nation forces. What makes the RADR system unique is the assembly line process of small tasks. We can train inexperienced personnel in hours-to-days, so they gain enough proficiency to perform their small part in a big process. This is the most important factor as to why the U.S. Air Force can successfully integrate other services and countries into our airfield recovery operations.”

As chaos and uncertainty continues to escalate around the world, Air Force Civil Engineers will continue to answer our nations call. If anyone asks how to recover an airfield after an attack – RADR is the answer, and Air Force Civil Engineers are prepared to deliver!