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9 Apr, 2023 15:53

NATO to hold largest ever aerial war games

A German-led exercise involving hundreds of aircraft is scheduled for June and will coincide with a massive US troop deployment
NATO to hold largest ever aerial war games

NATO is planning to hold its largest ever Air Force exercises this summer, the German Armed Forces announced in a statement. Dubbed ‘Air Defender 23,’ the drills are scheduled to take place between June 12 and June 24 and are expected to involve hundreds of aircraft from dozens of nations.

A total of 10,000 soldiers and 220 aircraft are to be involved in the war games, the Bundeswehr said, adding that they are to train “in the European airspace.” The US is to supply 100 of the aircraft out of its stocks, the statement said. According to Berlin, the drills are to be held mostly over German territory, although a map published by the Bundeswehr shows that the airspace of Estonia, which borders Russia, and of Romania, which borders Ukraine, could be used as well.

The plan of the drills “is modeled after an Article 5 Assistance scenario,” the Bundeswehr said, calling it “challenging air operations training” for the participating troops. The exercise is aimed at “optimizing” the cooperation between the participating nations and demonstrating the “strength” of the military bloc.

A total of 24 nations are to take part in the drills, including Finland, which only joined NATO earlier in April. Sweden, which has yet to join the bloc, will participate in the exercise too.

The US Air National Guard will provide around half the aircraft used in the German-led exercise in June. Its commander, Lieutenant General Michael Loh, maintained that there is no set scenario pitting the NATO forces against a particular adversary during the drills. Yet, he still did mention Moscow during a briefing on the matter earlier this week.

“This is now putting the alliance together quickly, with a credible force, to make sure that if Russia ever lines up on the NATO border, that we’re ready to go,” he said on Wednesday. “We’re going to defend every inch.”

A similar tone was struck by the German Air Force. “We won’t write [Russia] a letter,” its commander, Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz said, adding that he thinks “they get the message.”

The drills coincide with a separate US-led exercise called Defender Europe 23. “This annual, nearly two-month-long exercise is focused on the strategic deployment of US-based forces, the employment of Army pre-positioned stocks and interoperability with European allies and partners,” the Pentagon’s deputy press secretary, Sabrina Singh, told journalists earlier this week.

A total of 9,000 US soldiers, together with 17,000 troops from 26 other nations, are to participate in the drills, which would take place across ten European nations, Singh said. Washington had already started shipping the equipment needed for the exercise to Europe, she added. According to the Pentagon, the first pieces of equipment have already arrived in Spain.

Some 7,000 pieces of equipment are to be transported to Europe as part of the drills. Around 13,000 other pieces of equipment are to be drawn from pre-positioned stocks, the Pentagon said. The US-led exercise is to kick off on April 22.

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