Cope North up Close

Andersen AFB, Guam—From contrail altitudes to near the flat blue floor of the Pacific, there’s an air battle raging morning and afternoon here. It’s called Cope North and its grown into a major trilateral event in the suite of USAF battle exercises. Aircrews deployed from the United States, Japan, and Australia have piled up more than 1000 sorties flying 78 aircraft in operations since Feb. 12. USAF B-52s, F-15s, F-16CJs, KC-135s, and AWACS are facing off daily against Pacific Air Forces aggressors and other red team players in large-force exercises. “Anytime you have 30 to 40 aircraft in the sky—that is challenging,” said Col. Marc Reese of 13th Air Force, a director for Cope North. In the airspace around here, fighters and bombers alike take turns as friendly “blue” or enemy “red” air simulating a sophisticated, fourth generation adversary. Debriefs follow the exacting Red Flag format with USAF, Japanese, and Australian crews combing every second of the action for kills, misses, and lessons learned. Cope North culminates on Friday.