Air Defense: The Russian Menace


October 23, 2005: While the U.S. Air Force has cut back on the highly realistic air-to-air combat training, it has kept up realistic bombing exercises. To this end, twice a year, the air force holds its “Cope Thunder” exercises. There, pilots fly very realistic missions, as much like what would be flown in actual combat as possible. While there is some air-to-air training at Cope Thunder, the emphasis is on putting together all the bombers, fighters, tankers and electronic warfare aircraft needed for an assault on a prepared enemy.

The air force is less concerned about defeating enemy fighters, than it is in dealing with increasingly dangerous anti-aircraft missiles (SAMs). Russia, in particular, has been selling very effective SAM systems, and Cope Thunder is a lot about how to deal with this particular Russian menace. Russia has plenty of customers for its SAMs, because many countries know that they would have to spend far more for warplanes to match what the U.S. has, and then take years of expensive flying to get pilots anywhere near the skill levels of American flyers.


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