Two B1-B bomber jets of the US Air Force, for the first time, will be a part of the ‘Cope India’ exercise, a joint US-India Air Force exercise that began on Monday. The B1 heavy bomber jets will participate in the exercise this week.
Amid the current geopolitical situation and China’s exerting coercion in the Indo-Pacific region, the exercise started off in Kalaikunda and comprised American platforms that include a fleet of F-15 E fighter jets, C-130 and C-17 transport aircraft.
General Kenneth S Wilsbach, the commander of the US Pacific Air Forces, said the B1 bombers and F-15 E fighters will be a part of the exercise later this week.
Two B1 bombers were a part of the American exhibits at the Aero India 2023 in Bengaluru in February this year. But, the aircraft will join the exercise in India for the first time.
The B1-B, also known as “The Bone”, is a long-range, multi-mission, conventional bomber that can carry out missions worldwide from its bases in the US, and also from forward-deployed areas. The B1-B is considered the backbone of the US’ long-range bomber because they carry the largest unconventional payloads of guided and unguided weapons.
The ‘Cope India’ exercise is being held at Air Force Stations Arjan Singh (Panagarh), Agra and Kalaikunda. The exercise’s first phase began on Monday. During this phase of the exercise, transport aircraft and Special Forces assets from India and the US air forces will participate in order to enhance mutual understanding and share their best practices with regards to air mobility.
Describing the current global scenario, General Wilsbach said like-minded countries such as India are committed to ensuring an open and free Indo-Pacific, an objective which the US also shares.
He said that significant modernisation and advancement of forces of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force and PLA Navy had been achieved over the last 15 to 20 years. According to General Wilsbach, Chinese forces are pursuing policies based on their perceptions of their threats and challenges.
“The air forces of the US and India are watching it very closely,” he said.
“We are in a unique part of history. The US’s objective in the Indo-Pacific is a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the US military commander said.
“Certainly, India is one of them. What you are seeing is unprecedented cooperation among like-minded countries that value a free and open Indo-Pacific, that value democracy, that value that their citizens get to determine their future by voting for their leaders and taking their countries forward,” he said.
“That is very positive. That is something happening in the Indo-Pacific. If you bring it down to strategic political, into the military, a lot of those like-minded nations are also working together in one way or the other,” he said.
“For those countries which perhaps do not want it to be a free and open Indo-Pacific, they would like to impose their will, that could be problematic,” he added.