Airmen from the U.S. and Indian air forces marked the successful completion of 12 days of bilateral training and increased mutual cooperation during the Cope India 19, or CI19, closing ceremony Dec. 14 at Kalaikunda Air Force Station in India.
A long-standing bilateral U.S. Pacific Air Forces (PACAF)-sponsored field training exercise, FTX, conducted with the Indian Air Force (IAF), Cope India focused on enhancing mutual cooperation and building on existing capabilities, aircrew tactics and force employment. This year’s event ran from Dec. 3-14 and marked the fourth iteration of the exercise, with previous events in 2004, 2008 and 2009.
“We appreciate the opportunity to work alongside nations that support a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Gen. CQ Brown Jr., PACAF commander, during the ceremony. “As a committed partner enhancing peace, prosperity and security across the region, we are grateful for India’s support and the growing trust between our two nations.”
Cope India initially began as a fighter training exercise held at Gwalior Indian Air Force Range with the goal of increasing combat capability and improving warfighter compatibility between the U.S. and Indian air forces. The exercise has evolved to incorporate subject matter expert exchanges on a wide range of specialties, air mobility training, air drop training and large-force exercises, in addition to fighter-training exercises.
“Cope India exceeded U.S. and IAF expectations. We learned from each other regarding operations, maintenance, logistics, crisis response, and many other capabilities that we can share with each other,” said Col. Darryl Insley, 13th Air Expeditionary Group-CI19 commander. “More importantly, we built lasting friendships and relationships that will endure for years to come.”
“This is not an ‘us’ versus them scenario, we flew mixed formations and attempted to learn from each other’s best practices,” said Air Commodore Saji Anthony, IAF air officer commanding of Kalaikunda Air Force Station, adding that continued exercises enable the two nations to better “operate together in times to come.”
New aspects to this year’s event included observers from the Japan Air Self Defense Force, as well as the exercises’ expansion to two locations, Kalaikunda and Panagarh, both located in the eastern part of West Bengal state. Operating out of Kalaikunda has historical significance for the bilateral relationship as it served as one of four U.S. B-29 bomber bases during World War II.
Brown remarked the base’s involvement was “indicative of the long history between our two nations and the opportunity to enhance it further moving forward.”
“Cope India is just one part of an ongoing effort to strengthen the relationship between the U.S. Air Force and the Indian Air Force,” Brown said. “These exercise scenarios challenged us to be agile in execution, innovative in our approach and integrated in our command and control, enhancing the readiness and lethality of our Airmen and our allies and partners.”
Brown attended the exercise as part of a four-day visit to the country. In addition to attending the ceremony, the general visited with U.S. and Indian airmen and participated in an orientation flight in an IAF Mirage 2000, one of four different types of fighters flying in the exercise.
Total participation included more than 200 U.S. Airmen, F-15 Eagles from the 18th Wing, Kadena Air Base, Japan, and C-130J Super Hercules from 182nd Airlift Wing, Illinois Air National Guard, alongside IAF airmen operating Sukhoi 30s, Jaguars, Mirage 2000s, C-130Js, as well as Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) and refueling aircraft.
Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, IAF chief of staff, met with participating airmen earlier in the exercise and emphasized the importance of creating an environment of camaraderie and an opportunity to learn from each other’s best practices in enhancing operational synergy.