On June 14, six United States Air Force (USAF) F-16CM aircraft touched down in Indonesia to participate in the bilateral Cope West 2021 exercise, according to a Pacific Air Forces release. The aircraft, of the 13th Fighter Squadron and based out of Misawa Air Base in Japan, arrived at Roesmin Nurjadin Air Force Base on the island of Sumatra to exercise with six Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) F-16s for nine days (June 14th-25th). According to the commanding officer of the 13th Fighter Squadron, Lt Col Jordan Kahn:
“Cope West is a valuable bilateral exercise designed to advance interoperability and build on the strong partnership that exists between U.S. military forces and the Indonesian Air Force, It also allows for the exchange of tactics, techniques, and procedures through air-to-air combat training and promotes regional stability through cooperation.”
This is the first iteration of the exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the last occurrence being in 2019. Cope West began in 1989, originally involving C-130 Hercules aircraft from both nations, but over the years has evolved to focus on F-16 aircraft which are also operated by both countries.
Cope West 2021 comes as Indonesia continues to upgrade its existing fleet of F-16A/Bs and Lockheed Martin, the F-16’s manufacturer, ramps up its campaign to sell advanced F-16 Block 72 jets to Jakarta. Lockheed faces a challenge in doing so, however, as Jakarta has recently indicated that it intends to purchase Dassault Rafale and Boeing F-15EX jets in the near future, despite ongoing concerns about funding arrangements.
Cope West 2021 is just one of several ongoing Indonesia-United States military exercises, which include RECONEX 21-II between the United States Marine Corps (USMC) and Indonesian Marine Corps (KORMAR RI), an ongoing deployment by elements of the US Army’s 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade (5th SFAB) to train the Indonesian Army (TNI-AD), and TEAK SPEAR IRON 21 between U.S Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the TNI-AD.