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419th Fighter Wing F-16s, personnel head for `Cope Tiger '98' in Thailand

The 419th Fighter Wing, Utah's only Air Force Reserve unit, dispatched six F-16s, 80 pilots and support personnel to Thailand to take part in "Cope Tiger '98," a two-phase exercise.

The aircraft and crews left HAFB Jan. 17 to participate in training at Hickam AFB, Hawaii. Thursday they flew on to Thailand where they will participate in a multinational defense exercise that also includes personnel from that country, Singapore and Japan.U.S. Marine Corps pilots from Iwakuni, Japan, will join in the air-to-air and air-to-ground combat training.

Cope Tiger provides training important to the United States, Thailand and Singapore. 419th personnel will take full advantage of the benefits and challenges presented by Cope Tiger, said Col. Wayne F. Conroy, 419th Operations Group commander.

Hill's reserve F-16C Fighting Falcons will fly with, and in some cases against, F-15C/D Eagles, F/A-18C Hornets, E-3B Sentry airborne warning and control system aircraft and KC-135 Stratotankers. During the exercises, Thai forces will operate F-16A/Bs, F-5E Tigers and L-39 ground attack aircraft. And Singapore's forces will man F-5Es and F-16A/Bs.

Last November, personnel met for the planning phase of the exercise, in Paya Lebar, Singapore. The second phase, which runs Feb. 8-20, features flying training from Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, about 110 miles northeast of Bangkok.