U.S. and Philippine Air Forces to Revive Cope Thunder Exercises After Over 30 Years

The exercises were once regularly held in the Philippines from 1976 to 1990.

With Balikatan 2023 set to end on April 28, the United States and the Philippines hope to continue their joint training by bringing back Cope Thunder, a combined bilateral air training exercise that was once regularly held in the Philippines.

"It provides a unique opportunity to integrate forces and improve interoperability between the Philippines and the United States," Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs wrote in a statement.

Cope Thunder will host bilateral fighter training from May 1 to 12 at Clark Air Force Base in Pampanga. The program first started in the Philippines back in 1976 and was last held in the area in 1990. Soon, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 led to its move to Eielson Air Force (now Red Flag Alaska) in 1992.

Joining the exercises are 160 U.S. Air Force service members from the 35th Fighter Wing in Misawasa Air Base in Japan. The two countries' armed forces are expected to teach each other various defense tactics and to improve combined interoperability.


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President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s administration has had a friendlier stance toward U.S. President Joe Biden and Washington. The two leaders will also be meeting on May 1 to discuss economic cooperation and the Indo-Pacific region. Their agenda includes revisiting the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty, too. As it stands, the Philippines is in advanced talks with the U.S. to acquire a fleet of multi-role fighter aircraft for the Philippine Air Force.


This year's Balikatan was the largest to date, with 17,600 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States participating. Personnel from Australia participated in the exercises, as well. Washington has also committed to assisting the modernization of the Philippines' current military resources.

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