By Staff Sgt. Melanie Hutto
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
U.S. and Indonesian air forces officially began flying operations in support of COPE West 19, following an opening ceremony at Sam Ratulangi International Airport, Manado, Indonesia, June 17.
“Today marks our nations' third fighter exercise over the past two decades and also the second time in two years that the 35th Fighter Wing, based out of Misawa Air Base, Japan, has participated in this event” Col. Paul Kirmis, the 13th Air Expeditionary Group commander, explained in his remarks while presiding over the opening ceremony.
COPE West is a two-week Pacific Air Forces-sponsored, bilateral exercise designed to advance interoperability and build upon already-established partnerships between U.S. military forces and Indonesian air forces. The exercise will afford both countries the opportunity to exchange techniques in aircraft generation and recovery, close air support training, and air-to-air fighter training as well as host subject-matter expert exchange across various career fields.
Kirmis continued, saying exercises such as COPE West afford opportunities to strengthen the ties between our people while honing our tactical air-to-air combat skills and interoperability.
Indonesian air force Col. Satriyo Utomo, the 3rd Wing base commander, expanded on Kirmis' words, saying that this exercise will not only be an exchange of knowledge but a solid foundation for the future of both our air forces.
Approximately 100 U.S. service members from the 14th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Wing, Misawa Air Base, Japan will integrate six F-16 Fighting Falcons with six F-16 aircraft from the Indonesian air force's 3rd Wing.
Among the distinguished guests in attendance was the Honorable Joseph R. Donovan Jr., the U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, who stated the joint exercise was one of 200 that have been carried out between the countries.
COPE West is a recurring exercise that has been executed since 1989. This year marks the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Indonesia.
“Once again this exercise increases the togetherness that’s been established for years,” said Donovan.
U.S. forces routinely conduct operations, exercises and training missions with other countries in the Indo-Pacific. These regional engagements are focused on improving interoperability and familiarization with allies and partners while providing an optimal training environment for increased readiness, preparing both countries to work together in promoting a peaceful Indo-Pacific region.
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