Indo-Pacific security core to air force trilateral exercise

By Melissa Coade

January 30, 2022

Marise Payne
Foreign minister Marise Payne. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Royal Australian Air Force personnel will be participating in the trilateral exercise with the United States Air Force (USAF) and Japan Air Self-Defense Force (Koku-Jieitai).

Exercise Cope North 2022 will take place in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands next month, focusing on combined tactics, techniques and procedures for humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR).

Group Captain Andrew McHugh, RAAF task unit commander, said the trilateral activities running 2-18 February 2022 would further enhance interoperability of the three nations’ air force capabilities.

“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,” McHugh said. 

“We are committed to developing an intelligent and skilled workforce with exercises such as [this one], providing the opportunity to operate as a combined force with the United States and Japan, and [ensuring] our people can deliver air power when required,” he said.

The RAAF will deploy a contingency response squadron for the HADR training, alongside the E-7A Wedgetail, C-27J Spartan, KC-30A multi-role tanker transport and F-35A Lightning II fighters.

Strengthening the combined performance of the Australian, US and Japan air forces would help to deliver a ‘highly effective and professional’ response in the Indo-Pacific ‘when needed’, McHugh added. 

The theme of the trilateral exercise aligns with sentiments shared by Australian foreign minister Marise Payne and defence minister Peter Dutton last week, when the pair met with their UK ministerial counterparts for an in-person meeting

In a joint statement, the ministers said that the 2+2 AUKMIN agenda would focus on maintaining the international rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region and globally. Both nations were committed to ensuring stability and prosperity for the region where the sovereignty of all nations was respected, they added.

A statement produced by defence said that exercises remained critical to preparedness for the ADF and confirmed that all personnel deployed for the trilateral exercise were fully vaccinated and would comply with all COVID-19 directions as required.


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