The ups and downs of international cooperation

  • Published
  • By Megan Mueller--USAFA
  • Cooperative Cope Thunder PA
What do a Swedish detachment commander, a Japanese captain, and a Canadian major have in common? They are all currently at Eielson Air Force Base participating and supporting the multi-national exercise Cooperative Cope Thunder.

For three weeks the U.S. Air Force and air forces from more than 10 countries are working around the clock to turn organized chaos into a successful international training event emphasising cooperative engagement and a demonstrated commitment to peace and stability in the region and areas around the world.

All players want to gain valuable combat experience, interact and exchange combat tactics with different nations and take advantage of Eielson's vast airspace and range.

Just take a walk down the Cooperative Cope Thunder Operations building hallway and you can see what "international interaction" means.

A myriad of battle dress and flight suit uniforms hustle down the hallway with purpose as snippets of Japanese, Swedish and English conversations are heard. Excitement sparks like lightening in the air and any jet lag is easily combated with coffee. Everyone has expectations of the exercise, knows what challenges they will face and has an opinion of the multinational Cooperative Cope Thunder effort.

This is only fourth time that the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) has participated. For Captain Kurosawa Satoru's, F-15 pilot from the 306th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Komatsu Air Base Japan, this is his first time participating in the exercise.

Kurosawa says that this year the JASDF brought six F-15s, an E-3 AWACS and Stingers to Alaska for the exercise. "Japan hopes to get cooperative training with the other countries here," Kurosawa said. "Bilateral training is especially important for the JASDF due to Japanese airspace limitations—the range at Eielson is vast," he said.

It's a long trip for the Japanese to get to Alaska, and refueling on the way was definitely a challenge. Communication is crucial for an exercise as massive as Cooperative Cope Thunder and Captain Kurosawa says that the language barrier presents challenges. On the other hand, flying is a universal language and thus flying communication is slightly easier.

When asked about how the JASDF feels about being at Eielson again, Kurosawa responded, "We are really happy to come here and join the United States and other countries," he replied.

A little further down the hallway at the Cooperative Cope Thunder Operations building Sweden's Lt. Col Ken Lindberg, Squadron Tango Red, detachment commander, explains that this is Sweden's first time to participate in the exercise. Their biggest challenge so far has been getting everyone and everything over here to begin the exercises.

The trip over here included refueling stops in Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, and a few stops in Canada. Lt. Col Lindberg explained that in addition to transport planes such as C-130s, they brought over GBU-12s, lightening three pods, and other aircraft to fly for the exercises to train for precision flying.

The Swedish air force's goals were to have an expeditionary long trip, to work with other air forces, and provide a good experience for everyone involved said Lt. Col Lindberg. He summed up Sweden's reasons for participating—"[We] are really glad to be here" and the Swedish air force wants to come back in the future in the experience is here.

Next door to the Swedish air force the Canadian air force has set up their operations. Canada's Major Nick Griswold, 409th Tactical Fighter Squadron, detachment commander, Cold Lake, Alberta, flew in Wednesday afternoon and within 20 minutes of landing spoke about Canada's involvement in Cooperative Cope Thunder.

Major Griswold said that Canada has participated in the exercise three or four times, but this is his first time. Canada has brought seven CF-18's which have recently been upgraded. In addition they have targeting pods, laser guided bombs, and conventional bombs to use in the exercise.

Canada's biggest goal while at Eielson is to make sure they participate in these joint exercises Major Griswold explained. The Canadian air forces try to participate in all cooperative exercises including NATO, NORAD, European exercise and their own Canadian hosted exercise, Maple Flag.

As for expected challenges..."Operating in a new place and area," Major Griswold answered. Canada knows what is going on in Maple Flag, but Eielson is a new target area. (Cadet Mueller is a guest writer for the Cooperative Cope Thunder JIB)