UPDATED 20 FEBRUARY 2015 | Cope North Guam 2015 (CNG15), a multinational exercise of the United States and its closest allies facing China, is underway in the Pacific. The Republic of Korea Air Force (South Korea), the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) and the Royal Australian Air Force are participating, as well as the US armed forces of course. Epicentre of the operations: Andersen Air Force Base.
CNG15 involves a large force employment performing simulated air combat and disaster relief operations according to various scenarios. For the Royal Australian Air Force this is the fourth time its personnel and aircraft are participating. To underline its importance the RAAF’s contribution is substantial: eight McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/A-18A/B Hornet multi-role fighters, a Airbus KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport and Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules.
The US Air Force has – amongst other assets – B-52s, F-15s, F-16s, KC-135s and C-130s in the area. Japan deployed indigenous Mitsubishi F-2 multi-role fighters and McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F-15s, as well as C-130s, a KC-767J and the E-2C Hawkeye. The exact contribution of South Korea was not clear at the time of writing, but some of the images released by the RAAF give a minor clue. According to the exercise leaders officers of the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Philippine Air Force are participating as well, but whether they bring their own aircraft was not confirmed.
Cope North Guam 2015 runs from 15 to 27 February. Corporal David Gibbs of the Royal Australian Air Force’s 28SQN AFID-EDN is at Andersen and made some nice shots!
Other countries like Sweden already use this type of power projection for a long time, but now the US Air Force is joining them. Fielding probably the world’s most advanced jet fighter the USAF is creating routines to send a Raptor pack of four aircraft as a rapid reaction force anytime when it’s needed, anywhere in the world.
Rapid Raptor is the USA’s version of sending a small group of advanced air defence jets on a relative long distance from home to quickly secure and defend another airbase in times of an imminent threat or higher unfriendly air activity. In what is officially still called a proof-of-concept phase the USAF sent four Lockheed Martin F-22 from the 19th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, to Andersen AFB on Guam and “projected power” from 20 to 24 November 2014. One or more Air Force Boeing C-17A Globemaster III strategic airlifters are added to the pack with fuel, additional ammunition, ground crew and support material.
“This concept embodies the fundamental tenants of air power: speed, flexibility and surprise,” says Lt. Col. David Eaglin, Pacific Air Forces’ Chief of Current Operations and Power Projection Division to a PACAF Public Affairs reporter. “Rapid Raptor will enable us to deploy to and operate from austere locations with a contained cell of personnel and equipment.”
Although Andersen is hardly austere – as it is an active US Air Base – the concept was tested with the Rapid Raptor personnel staying in a tent city on a more remote section of the base. It meant the first time for the 36th Contingency Response Group to be deployed as a part of the detachment supporting Rapid Raptor. This CRG is there to run airfield operations, provided tents, water and air conditioning in addition to moving and inspecting cargo arriving on follow-up airlifters.
With budgets and aircraft limited other countries with giant areas to defend have used the type of concept the USAF calls Rapid Raptor already for years. Let’s take Sweden, which rapidly moves a pack of 2 to 8 SAAB JAS 39C/D Gripen fighters supported by its C-130 Hercules transport and/or tanker aircraft (TP 84 in Swedish service) from its fighter bases of Luleå-Kallax, Såtenäs and Ronneby to another part of the country to project power in times of need. The Swedes have lately mostly focused their efforts on Visby Airfield at the strategically located Baltic Sea island of Gotland, with Russian air and sea activity as the reason. But in the last couple of years the same type of ops was run from Uppsala-Ärna Airbase and Kalmar Airfield during so-called Alert exercises (Beredskapsövning).
For example the French Air Force (Armée de l’Air) and Royal Air Force (RAF) run similar operations, but normally use a longer time of planning and preparation.