US-Bangladesh air exercise reflects a broader strategic understanding

The US has started to consider Bangladesh as an important security partner in the region

Mehjabin Bhanu Mar 04, 2022
US-Bangladesh air exercise reflects a broader strategic understanding (Photo: ISPR, Dhaka)

A six-day joint exercise, Exercise Cope South-2022’, involving the Bangladesh Air Force (BAF) and US Pacific Air Force ended on February 25. 

The Pacific Air Force said a reason behind the exercise was assisting the long-term modernization efforts of the Bangladesh Armed Forces by providing training and strengthening regional stability for a shared goal of a free and open Indo-Pacific. 

The focus of the exercise was to enhance humanitarian assistance capability during any natural disaster, to ensure maximum utilization of BAF transport aircraft and develop interoperability between BAF and US Air Force. 

US airmen from 374th Airlift Wing, Yokota Air Base in Japan, and the BAF participated in exercise from February 20-25 at BAF Kurmitola Cantonment, Dhaka, and in Sylhet. 

Joint exercises 

Approximately 70 US airmen along with two US Air Force C-130J Super Hercules from 36th Airlift Squadron joined some 300 Bangladesh armed forces members and two Bangladeshi C-130Js in the exercise. 

Since 2020, the US has provided at least $121 million in assistance to Bangladesh for Covid-19. Exercise Cope South is going to be the first after the start of the Corona epidemic. 

Such joint exercise enhances cooperation by military professionals and helps develop a deeper mutual understanding of overall operations of tactics, techniques and procedures which are vital towards successful regional and international relief operations. It also ensures mutual cooperation between the two parties. The joint exercise reflects the mutual understanding between the US and Bangladesh, and bolsters their relationship of trust. 

The US Pacific Air Force has been conducting various training exercises in response to natural disasters in different parts of the world. As Bangladesh is a coastal and riverine country, it is prone to natural disasters every year. BAF transport planes have been used to distribute relief goods in disaster-affected areas. Exercise Cope South mainly dealt with emergencies and natural disasters. 

Beneficial exercise 

The joint exercise also improved utilization of various equipment used during training, identification of equipment required by the BAF in future activities and maintenance procedures of transport aircraft.  

The exercise, conducted for the past 27 years, has benefited the Bangladesh Armed Forces, especially the Air Force. Exercise Cope South helped to evaluate proficiency and identify future training and other actions that enhance partnership capability between the US and Bangladesh forces. 

The US is a major stakeholder of Bangladesh in South Asia in trade, aid, grant, security cooperation and humanitarian assistance. The US has been training Bangladeshi security personnel from time to time. Since 2005, the US has contributed nearly $44 million to support training, equipment and facilities upgrades to enhance Bangladesh’s peacekeeping capabilities. Since 2015, the US provided $66.9 million in Foreign Military Financing and $7.29 million in International Military Education and Training assistance to Bangladesh. 

Since 2010, the US has conducted the annual multinational military exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) with Bangladesh to expand relationships and enhance maritime domain awareness. Since 2008, Bangladesh has partnered with the state of Oregon via the National Guard’s State Partnership Programme. 

Diluting sanctions 

The US has imposed sanctions on the Bangladesh Rapid Action Battalion and some officers of the security organization for alleged violations of human rights. At this critical time, a joint air exercise between the US and Bangladesh can help to narrow misunderstandings and misperceptions. It can help both Bangladesh and the US strengthen their security partnership.  

 The US has started to consider Bangladesh as an important security partner. Both countries are interested to combat security threats in the region. And Dhaka is keen to engage itself with Washington.  

(The author is a researcher-writer and teacher in Rajshahi, Bangladesh. Views are personal. She can be contacted at  

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