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SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 18) – One of the highlights of this year’s Cope North exercises being held at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base is the presence of the Mitsubishi F-2 fighter jet.

Cope North is an annual regularly scheduled joint/bilateral exercise held by the United States and Japan to provide a venue for bilateral cooperation and to improve capabilities for the defense of Japan.

The F-2 is the latest support fighter aircraft of the Japan Air Self Defense Force and it is the result of a joint Japan and U.S. development program which began in 1987 as a way to replace the Mitsubishi F-1.

This year’s Cope North exercise was the first time the F-2s deployed outside of Japan, and the first time they used live munitions on a fixed target.

As there is no live range in Japan, the U.S. Air Force said the Japanese F-2 pilots used the Cope North training exercise opportunity to practice with live weapons at the Farralon de Medinilla range, some 160 nautical miles northeast of Andersen.

The exercise this year comes amid continuing tension with North Korea and China, which have been building up their forces in the region and are perceived as a threat to Japan.

According to the Air Force, the Cope North exercise is one of the longest-running series of exercises in the Pacific theater.

Since the first Cope North exercise in 1978, thousands of American and Japanese personnel have honed skills that are vital to maintaining a high level of readiness.

This year, 228 JASDF personnel from Misawa Air Base and Fuchu Air Station in Japan are taking part in the Cope North exercise, which will run until June 22.

Eight aircraft along with 150 personnel deployed from Misawa Air Base, Japan are taking part in the exercise where they are scheduled to complete 124 of 346 anticipated sorties.

[PIR editor’s note: A sortie is a term for the deployment of an individual military vessel. It is used to record activities of all vessels on missions.]

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