Germany prepares to host biggest NATO air deployment exercise


Germany has planned to host a monumental air deployment drill, slated to be one of NATO’s largest in history. The purpose of this exercise, known as Air Defender 23, is to showcase military strength and leave a lasting impression on allies and adversaries, particularly Russia.

German and American officials in the country have revealed that the drill will commence from June 12 to June 23, involving a staggering 10,000 participants and 250 aircraft from 25 nations. The objective is to simulate a coordinated response to an attack on a NATO member nation.

“This exercise is truly awe-inspiring for anyone who witnesses it, although attendance is not mandatory,” stated Amy Gutmann, the United States Ambassador to Germany, during a press conference in Berlin. 

She emphasized that even Russian President Vladimir Putin could potentially observe the proceedings. 

“It will incontrovertibly demonstrate the remarkable agility and swiftness of our allied NATO force as a front-line responder,” Gutmann added. While the drill had been in the works for several years, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February of the previous year has spurred NATO members to intensify efforts to expand and fortify the military alliance. 

As a testament to this, Sweden, aspiring to join NATO, and Japan will also participate in the exercise.

Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz of the German Air Force, responsible for coordinating the drill, conveyed the message that the exercise is primarily defensive in nature. 

“By undertaking this exercise, we are unequivocally drawing a red line around NATO territory, declaring our preparedness to defend every inch of this land,” he asserted. 

“However, it should be noted that we will not conduct flights toward Kaliningrad, for instance. Our intentions are purely defensive.” 

Kaliningrad, an exclave of Russia situated between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, is thus excluded from the exercise’s scope.

Lieutenant General Michael A Loh, director of the US Air National Guard, highlighted that the drill goes beyond mere deterrence. “It is a testament to the readiness of our forces. It emphasizes coordination not only within NATO but also with our other allies and partners outside of NATO,” he explained. 

Germany’s air command has designated three areas for the exercise, with each being utilized for two to four hours daily. As a precautionary measure, the airspace for civilian airlines will be closed during these time slots, potentially leading to disruptions in some passenger flights to and within Europe due to safety concerns.

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