Mighty B1-B "Lancer" to make an appearance at Cope India 23

The venerable USAF B1-B "Lancer" bomber is to make its first appearance at this year's Cope India. This exercise will pit the bomber against India jets.
Christopher McFadden
B1-B "Lancer" with fighter jets.
B1-B "Lancer" with fighter jets.


American B-1B "Lancer" bombers are participating in the "Cope India" air combat exercise for the first time. A bilateral exercise between the United States Air Force (USAF) and the Indian Air Force (IAF), this year's exercise will occur at Kalaikunda Air Force Station in West Bengal, eastern India.

"Cope India." in case you've never heard of it, is a series of joint military exercises conducted between the air forces of India and the United States. The exercises involve both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat scenarios. They are intended to enhance the capabilities of both countries air forces and promote interoperability and cooperation between the two nations. The first "Cope India" exercise was conducted in 2004; subsequent exercises have been held intermittently since then.

This year's star of the show, the B-1B "Lancer," is a long-range, multi-role bomber aircraft operated by the United States Air Force. It can carry a variety of conventional and nuclear weapons, has a top speed of Mach 1.2, and can fly at altitudes up to 30,000 feet. Its swing-wing design allows it to fly efficiently at high and low speeds, making it a versatile platform for various missions.

But, the B1-B is not the only American air asset attending; there will also be an incredible array of Indian Air Force aircraft, including, but not limited to, the Dassault Rafale, HAL Tejas, SEPECAT Jaguar, and Su-30MKI Flanker. The air combat phase of Exercise Cope 23, The Drive reports, kicked off at Kalaikunda on April 13 and will go through April 24.

An air mobility component involving C-130J "Hercules" transports from both air forces, C-17A "Globemaster III" transports, and MC-130J "Commando II" combat transport/special operations tankers from the U.S. Air Force came before this.

The U.S. Air Force's offerings at Kalaikunda consist of two B-1Bs from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, and F-15E "Strike Eagles" from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, which are presently stationed temporarily at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Additional IAF assets include some C-130Js.

The service mentions the A-50EI "Mainstay" and EMB-145 "Netra" radar planes, undisclosed IAF aerial refueling, and airborne early warning and control aircraft.

Although the U.S. Air Force and Indian Air Force (IAF) generally participate in Cope India as a bilateral exercise, this time around, members of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) are present as observers, which is typically a step before more substantial participation.

Although the specific missions being practiced have not been disclosed, DACT is normally used in the air combat phase of Cope India. Despite this, some IAF jets participating in the drills are likely involved in fictitious aerial combat with the U.S. Air Force's B-1B and F-15E aircraft.

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