KORAT ROYAL THAI AIR FORCE BASE, Thailand -- The 25th iteration of Cope Tiger, a multilateral field training exercise executed by U.S., Royal Thai and Republic of Singapore air forces (RSAF), concluded with a closing ceremony attended by the U.S. Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) commander, Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) commander-in-chief, and RSAF chief of staff-air staff at Korat RTAF, Thailand, March 22, 2019.
The three leaders arrived at Korat together to see the combined forces in person, talk to Airmen from their respective services and describe the importance of what they accomplished.
“Thank you for all the hard work to make this exercise a success,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., PACAF commander, speaking to the U.S. contingent. “This builds on the interoperability between our three nations and helps to ensure we maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Throughout the two-week exercise, the three services flew a combined total of 776 sorties, executing air superiority, command and control, close air support, interdiction, electronic warfare, tactical airlift, and airborne command and control mission sets.
Of those 776 sorties, the 14th Fighter Squadron from Misawa Air Base, Japan, executed 136 and reintroduced suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) to the exercise for the first time in more than 20 years.
“Having a SEAD unit here added a whole new level of complexity for our partner nations,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Trevor Cichowski, 14th Fighter Squadron director of operations.
“From mission planning to execution, having SEAD in these large force engagements exposed the RTAF and RSAF defensive systems to a new level of integration and tactics. For the forces on our side, we were able to hone our tactics against live emitters, particularly in a large force, dynamic environment. For our RTAF and RSAF brethren, they were able to focus on their primary missions and not on protecting themselves against the defensive systems since we were accomplishing that aspect of the mission.”
The U.S. Air Force Cope Tiger '19 Exercise Director, Col. Shannon Smith, described the exercise’s success in creating a flexible and resilient force before an emergency arises.
“This exercise proved we can come together quickly, and we have established practices and commonalities to help us in a moment of crisis,” Smith said. “Every year we need to reset this partnership because it really is the actions that happen at Cope Tiger where the participants prove the partnership is real, and we can operate under a common operating picture against a common threat or crisis.”
As the exercise wound down, the Singaporean Exercise Director, Col. Teo Soo Yeow, reflected on Cope Tiger’s impact and looked to the future of the multilateral exercise.
“The success of the past 25 years is a testament to how the [three air forces’] relationship has evolved. For an exercise of this scale and complexity … it’s not something that happens overnight,” said Yeow. “It’s built on a common understanding we have established ... I think it will continue to evolve that way, and the understanding and professionalism of our people will continue. There will be many more successful Cope Tigers.”