The rough airfield until now has only hosted C-130s and helicopter operations.
This month the US Air Force (USAF) will held at Andersen Air Force Base (AFB), Guam, an exercise aimed to prove the ability of small groups of Airmen to turn fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft on a flight line the base’s commander called a “no-kidding remote environment.”
As reported by Air Force Magazine in fact, for this year’s iteration of Cope North, Andersen’s Northwest Field will host F-35s from Eielson AFB, Alaska, and F-16s from Misawa Air Base, Japan, on the rough airfield that until now has only hosted C-130s and helicopter operations. Brig. Gen. Jeremy T. Sloane, commander of the 36th Wing at Andersen, said during an Air Force Association “Air and Space Warfighters in Action” virtual event, that small groups of contingency response Airmen will quickly clear the airfield to allow fighters to come in and conduct combat turns, practicing PACAF’s vision of Agile Combat Employment.
Sloane explained that being able to operate from small, rough airfields is a requirement, as the Defense Department shifts its focus to great power competition where major airfields could be at risk in a fight.
“China and Russia can increasingly hold overseas U.S. bases at risk. To adapt, the Air Force must evolve from its dependence on well-established airfields or risk building an operational edge,” Sloane said. “… While the service can overcome some disadvantage with long-range bombers, a war in which missiles knock out American air bases and prevent the ability to launch and recover short-range fighter jets is unlikely to end well.”
Andersen’s Northwest Field sits in “deep jungle” and is less than 8,000 feet long, with limited taxiway and hangar space, and no permanent airfield controls. A temporary mobile aircraft arresting system is being built for the event.
For the exercise, the contingency response Airmen will quickly clear the airstrip and ensure it is safe for F-16s and F-35s to come in, refuel, and turn the aircraft for combat operations.
Cope North is a multilateral US Pacific Air Forces-sponsored field training exercise conducted annually at Andersen AFB. The drill focuses on combat air forces large-force employment and mobility air forces humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training to enhance interoperability among US, Australian and Japanese forces.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Andrew G. Hoskinson