Home Air Australia, Japan sending fighters to Guam for US-led drill Cope North

Australia, Japan sending fighters to Guam for US-led drill Cope North

A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber leads a formation of aircraft on a flight over Guam during exercise Cope North 21. Photo: US Air Force

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) will be deploying aircraft and personnel to Guam for exercise Cope North 2022, which will be led by the US Air Force (USAF) from February 2 to 18.

The trilateral exercise is focused on increased interoperability of the RAAF, USAF and Koku-Jieitai (JASDF) through combined tactics, techniques and procedures for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations and large-force employment.

During Cope North evolutions, the US military is usually represented by aircraft and personnel from the US Air Force, US Navy, and US Marine Corps.

What makes Cope North 2022 stand out is the fact that it will be the first large-scale exercise undertaken by Japan and Australia since they signed a reciprocal defense agreement earlier this year that will increase the interoperability between their forces. Dubbed the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), the pact is Japan’s second ever such agreement, with the first being a treaty signed with the US over 60 years ago.

“We are very pleased to be heading back to Guam for Cope North 2022, which will provide invaluable experience for our personnel and enhances the effectiveness of the RAAF,” The RAAF Task Unit Commander, Group Captain Andrew McHugh said.

“Through Cope North 2022, we are focused on deepening relationships and strengthening engagement with the USAF’s Pacific Air Force and the Koku-Jieitai to contribute to our shared vision of an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific.”

The Australian defense ministry revealed it would deploy the E-7A Wedgetail, C-27J Spartan, KC-30A multi-role tanker transport and F-35A Lightning II fighters, alongside a contingency response squadron focused on HADR training. Japan and the US are yet to announce their participating assets.

“Cope North 2022 will enhance the tri-lateral forces’ capability for HADR in the Indo-Pacific, ensuring a highly effective and professional response, when needed,” Group Captain McHugh said.

“We are committed to developing an intelligent and skilled workforce with exercises such as Cope North providing the opportunity to operate as a combined force with the United States and the Japan, and ensure our people can deliver air power when required.

According to a notice issued by the Northern Mariana Islands Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, Cope North participants will carry out flight operations on Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Farallon de Medinilla.