The 552nd ACW ensures interoperability at Cope North 24

  • Published
  • By Kimberly Woodruff
  • 552nd Air Control Wing

The 552nd Air Control Wing participated in one of the United States Air Force’s largest annual multilateral exercises, Feb. 4-23 in Guam and surrounding islands with participants from the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force.

This is the first time Cope North has been held by a joint operational command structure, with approximately 1,700 U.S. Airmen, Sailors and Marines, and 700 troops from Australia, Canada, France, South Korea and Japan, assembled for the exercise.

“Exercises like Cope North 24 enable the combined forces to validate new ways to deploy and maneuver assets,” said Col. Kenneth Voigt, commander of the 552nd Air Control Wing. “It is important to remember the U.S. does not fight alone, nor do we deter alone. Our relationships and increased operational capabilities with allies and partners are vital to preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific."

Participants exercise interoperability through agile, integrated generation of airpower from dispersed locations across the Indo-Pacific, demonstrating allied airpower resilience and survivability in a contested environment.

“Cope North 24 stretches our Airmen’s ability to make timely decisions while dispersed throughout the [Area of Responsibility], in addition to allowing those Airmen to gain confidence from operating in a contested and degraded environment while geographically separated from higher echelons of leadership,” said Lt. Col. Sean Gordon, director of operations, 964th Airborne Air Control Squadron.

Gordon explained that as it relates to power projection, command and control becomes more critical as air assets and manpower disperse. The exercise disaggregated units between primary or hub airfield locations and secondary spoke airfields in remote locations. 

“In this environment, there is a tendency for information flow to be disrupted which as a result, slows the decision-making process,” said Gordon. “However, C2 can be relied upon as a conduit for communication between the hub airfield and the spoke airfields. As our crews practice, it allows us to test current tactics as well as develop new procedures for planning and executing battle management functions even when we aren’t centrally located with other units.”

Gordon added that operating with our coalition partners provided an opportunity to ensure interoperability between multiple systems and platforms which serves as reassurance to our partner nations of our commitment to the AOR. 

Members of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force were able to fly on several missions with the 552 ACW throughout Cope North 24.

“Integrating with them during operations proved invaluable in part due to their vast knowledge of the region, but also for encouraging a continued strong relationship with our JASDF partners,” said Gordon. “Assessing our current capabilities and charting a path for new tactics and techniques within our current C2 platforms as well as those to come, having aircrew from the JASDF join us on the E-3 Sentry, airborne warning and control system,​ was a step forward.”

The Air Force established Cope North in 1978 at Misawa Air Base in Japan as a quarterly exercise between the U.S. and Japan. The exercise moved to Guam in 1999.

The 552 ACW provides combat-ready theater battle management forces and mobile command, control and communications at the direction of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It deploys, operates and supports these forces worldwide ensuring combat capability for all peacetime and contingency operations.