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Wolf Pack shines in air, community during Cope West 23

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Cameron Silver
  • 8th Fighter Wing

Kunsan Air Base Airmen trained with Indonesian Air Force (IDAF) members during Cope West 23, a Pacific Air Forces-sponsored, bilateral, tactical exercise, highlighting 74 years of U.S.-Indonesian diplomatic relations, June 13 through 23. 

Airmen of the 35th Fighter Squadron and 35th Fighter Generation Squadron “Pantons" traveled 2,937 miles to Roesmin Nurjadin Air Force Base in Indonesia to launch U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcons and fly sorties alongside their IDAF counterparts, marking the 10th time the exercise was held in Indonesia.

U.S. Air Force Col. Jeffrey D. Shulman, 8th Fighter Wing vice commander, traveled to Indonesia to check-in on the exercise participants, and praised the entire team at Cope West, specifically noting their level of professionalism.

“Our youngest pilots flew and fought with, and against, the Indonesian F-16s in a challenging airfield environment with strong language barriers,” said Shulman. “There were no safety-of-flight issues and our youngest wingmen were making sound decisions in order to execute the mission.”

Cope West had three objectives: enhance interoperability between the U.S. and Indonesian air forces, allow for the exchange of techniques related to air-to-air fighter employment, and promote regional stability through relationship building and unity of purpose.

When not conducting operations, the Pantons stayed busy. During a sports day, Airmen participated in various sports alongside their IDAF counterparts, including the traditional spinning top game Mangkek, soccer, table tennis, sack racing and more. 

The Pantons’ immersion continued off base as well. 35th FS, 35th FGS and IDAF pilots and maintainers were able to engage with local students during a visit to two high schools in nearby Pekanbaru. They discussed their jobs, mission and partnership, further promoting regional stability through enhanced mutual understanding and community relationship building. Additionally, to relax and recuperate on their off time during the exercise, participants enjoyed local culture, food and attractions.

“We want(ed) to take advantage of the opportunity we have to grow together, both in tactics and friendship,” said U.S Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Broyles, 35th FS commander. “We'll continue to grow and prosper."

Exercises such as Cope West further solidify the United States’ commitment to the Indo-Pacific and its allies and partners. Enhancing interoperability between the U.S. and Indonesian air forces contributes to the long-term advancement of both nations’ shared interests.

“The Wolf Pack's presence here moved the needle on the U.S.-Indonesia relationship,” said Shulman. “The team on the ground here set the right culture and that is key in today's geopolitical environment.”