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HomeInternationalPhilippines and US Air Forces Reunite for Cope Thunder Exercises

Philippines and US Air Forces Reunite for Cope Thunder Exercises

MANILA, Philippines — The upcoming joint exercises between the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and the US Pacific Air Force (PACAF) are scheduled to take place from April 8 to 19 as part of this year’s Cope Thunder event. This annual training event focuses on air defense and offense and will be held in Luzon.

According to Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo, the PAF’s public affairs office chief, Cope Thunder 2024 is integrated into the activities of the Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board for the year.

Col. Castillo emphasized that the main objective of these joint drills is to enhance the PAF’s capabilities in participating in and potentially hosting international exercises. Additionally, the exercises aim to improve interoperability between the PAF and PACAF while also enhancing logistical capabilities.

She mentioned that the exercise locations would be in Northern Luzon and at Clark Air Base in Mabalacat, Pampanga.

In addition to flight exercises, the Cope Thunder activities will include subject matter expert exchanges, classroom instructions, and sharing best practices in maintenance, she added.

Castillo mentioned that the specifics regarding the number of PAF aircraft participating in Cope Thunder are still being worked out. However, he confirmed that personnel from the 5th Fighter Wing would be actively involved in the exercise. This marks a significant return to the event after it was suspended for decades and only resumed recently.

Originally established in 1976, Cope Thunder was discontinued in 1991 due to the devastating effects of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, which severely impacted Luzon, including Clark Air Base, then under US military control. Subsequently, the US withdrew from its military bases in the Philippines after the Senate voted to terminate the country’s military bases agreement with the US.

Cope Thunder saw a revival just last year, with two phases held in May and July across different locations in the country. This resurgence underscores a renewed commitment to joint military exercises and cooperation among participating nations.

The upcoming Balikatan exercise, a comprehensive joint maneuver between the Philippines and the United States, is scheduled to take place from the final week of April to early May. This exercise will involve the participation of all major branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell is currently in Tokyo engaging in discussions with counterparts from the Philippines and Japan regarding preparations for the historic first-ever summit among the leaders of these three nations, scheduled to take place in Washington on April 11. However, details about the date of the pre-summit meeting are yet to be disclosed.

Earlier this week, the White House revealed plans for the inaugural trilateral summit involving the US, Japan, and the Philippines, along with President Joe Biden’s scheduled one-on-one meeting with President Marcos on April 11. This announcement came simultaneously with Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Manila on Tuesday.

In a statement, the State Department expressed that the Deputy Secretary’s meetings with Japanese and Philippine counterparts aim to strengthen trilateral cooperation towards fostering a free, open, interconnected, prosperous, resilient, and secure Indo-Pacific region.

During the discussions, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Maria Theresa Lazaro, Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Masataka Okano, and Deputy Secretary Campbell will deliberate on the logistics and agenda for the forthcoming trilateral summit.



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