Germany is playing host to what NATO is touting as the largest air drills in the alliance's history, which has been four years in preparation.
Dubbed Air Defender 23, the drills kicked off on Monday and will go to June 23, and involve up to 250 aircraft engaging in operations launched from across six military bases. In total, 25 countries are taking part, with the United States sending 100 of its aircraft across the Atlantic for the major exercise.
Large swathes of airspace over parts of Germany will be intermittently closed to civilian aviation while the drills persist, to include the northern German area above the North Sea, a small strip in southern Germany, as well as in the east.
A NATO official told a German publication this this huge show of force is about deterrence...
"Of course, this sends a clear signal, saying that even though this airspace is extremely busy, they are prepared to say, 'we will defend every centimeter of NATO territory," he told DW.
Missions are expected to be flown to and from Romania and Estonia as well, with ground drills also ensuing.
Deutsche Welle summarizes other aspects of the Air Defender 23 exercises as follows:
More than 10,000 soldiers from NATO countries are participating in numerous drills. Some of these are ground-based, including an "evacuation from an airfield," said Gerhartz of the German Air Force. This exercise was apparently added to the schedule after the chaos at Kabul airport in 2021 when the US and its allies hastily ended their mission in Afghanistan.
Other scenarios include supporting ground troops from the air, airborne battles against enemy jets, and the interception of medium-range missiles by NATO fighter bombers.
US forces are sending the F-35 stealth combat aircraft, the alliance's most modern fighter jet, to take part in the exercises. The North Sea will see defensive drills against enemy submarines or ships, Arnold pointed out, adding that an enemy "can also attack from areas other than on the continent."
.@Team_Luftwaffe🇩🇪kicks off the largest multinational air force deployment in #NATO history as exercise #AirDefender23 begins— NATO Air Command (@NATO_AIRCOM) June 12, 2023
The exercise's large scale operations involve almost 10,000 personnel & more than 250 aircraft from 25 nations & NATO
Read more https://t.co/V3VQiAJKgB pic.twitter.com/oxUrUNQtw0
These drills were in planning and scheduled long before the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, but certainly have taken on greater importance for NATO due to the raging conflict which is just outside of NATO's 'eastern flank' countries.