Enhancing Australian, Japanese and United States relationships was a key outcome of Exercise Cope North 2022, which concluded on February 18. 

After three weeks of humanitarian and disaster relief capability training out of Guam, Group Captain Andrew McHugh, RAAF Task Group Commander, said the training helped build a better understanding between all three nations.

“Australia brought the full gamut of air combat, air battle management, air-to-air refuelling and air mobility, exercising the crews in a trilateral environment,” Group Captain McHugh said.

“The training fostered an environment for the nations to come together and share tactics, techniques and procedures, including for our No. 381 Contingency Response Squadron, who were able to apply their recent Afghanistan non-combatant evacuation operations experience to enhance the combined capability.

“What I witnessed was real interaction and discussion across the three countries, overcoming language barriers to better understand how each country operates and how we can overcome challenges together.

“The interaction with the people in the field –seeing the sense of excitement and accomplishment when the task is achieved – is invaluable and is exactly what we came here to do.”

Three Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft from No. 77 Squadron fly alongside a KC-30A multi-role tanker transport prior to mid-air refuelling over the Pacific Ocean during Exercise Cope North 2022. Photo: Leading Aircraftman Sam Price

The trilateral forces from the Royal Australian Air Force, United States Air Force (USAF) and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (Koku-Jieitai) exercised out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

Training at Guam and operating on islands, including Saipan, Tinian and Rota, provided a unique set of circumstances to challenge forces operating in contested environments. The training aimed to enhance the integration of the three countries, enabling them to come together with other security partners in the region to respond quickly when called upon or as directed by government.

USAF exercise director Colonel Taylor Farrell said it was important the three nations have an interest to train together militarily, to increase interoperability as a combined force.

“We all value the same stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region, so it’s integral that we train together in a central location such as Guam,” Colonel Farrell said.

“It's the personal relationships that have been built trilaterally between US, Australia and Japan that really makes this training so rewarding.

“Just seeing folks from different countries, different cultures, integrate, learn a little bit more about how they employ combat capability, and learn about each other on a personal level is exactly what Cope North is about.”

For more Exercise Cope North 2022 images, go to the Defence image gallery.