NATO announces date of largest air force exercise in history

photo: Getty

Air Defense Exercise Air Defender 23 will be the largest air force redeployment exercise since NATO was established. The maneuvers will take place between June 12 and 23 over Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Germany and the Baltic States.

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More than 200 aircraft and about 10,000 of the troops from Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States will take part in the Luftwaffe-led exercise. Aircraft from many participating countries will be stationed at German air bases

As this is the largest air force redeployment exercise since NATO's inception 74 years ago, it has received high priority, especially from the U.S.

"This annual, nearly two-month long exercise is focused on the strategic deployment of the U.S.-based forces, employment of Army pre-positioned stocks and interoperability with European allies and partners," said Sabrina Singh, during a briefing today at the Pentagon.

U.S. Army Europe and Africa is in charge of the Defender 23 exercise, which has been in the works since 2021. The goal of the exercise is to show how quickly the U.S. military can deploy combat-ready personnel and supplies to reassure friends, dissuade potential threats to European peace, and protect the continent against invasion. The exercise also shows how committed European countries are to expanding the size, power, and interoperability of their own forces.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, sales of weapons to Europe have increased, and one platform that has seen a rise in sales is the Lockheed Martin F-35 multi-role stealth fighter. In 2022, contracts for the jets were signed by Germany, Finland, and Switzerland.

The exercise will also address the space issue. Dominance in this area where both the United States and the Russian Federation and China are looking increasingly bold in terms of gaining dominance.

Exercises held during the ongoing war in Ukraine are likely to be negatively highlighted by Russian propaganda, which will try to show that the Alliance's goal is to attack Russia, or at least to support a Ukraine defending itself against a Russian attack. But the air force pilots of NATO member states are in contact with the Russian adversary anyway. On Saturday, the North Atlantic Alliance's air command reported that Romanian F-16s stationed in Šiauliai, Lithuania, intercepted two Russian fighters flying near NATO territory.