A B-52 bomber from the 23rd Bomb Squadron at Minot AFB, N.D., leads a formation of US and Japanese fighters and electronic attack aircraft during a segment of Cope North, which 13th Air Force wrapped up for US Pacific Command on Friday. The latest in this annual series of the US-Japan exercise began two weeks earlier and featured, among numerous USAF, US Navy, and Japanese Air Self Defense Force aircraft, the Minot bombers deployed to Andersen for a PACOM strategic rotation; it was the first Cope North appearance for B-52s. During the exercise, JASDF F-2 fighter pilots got to release live bombs, something they can’t do back home. “Because of the restrictions in [Japan], we do not get to use live bombs,” explained Col. Yutako Masuko, JASDF exercise commander, and added, “The experience we are getting flying with US pilots here on Guam is wonderful.” Maj. August Marquardt, an exercise coordinator with 13th Air Force’s Det. 1, remarked that the first-time addition of F-16 Aggressors from Eielson AFB, Alaska, provided that “invaluable experience that is as close as it gets to being at war.” (Andersen report by SrA. Ryan Whitney)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.