Air Defender 23: the largest deployment exercise of air forces in NATO’s history

Source: Deutsche Welle, Defence Industry Europe

The German Air Force is facing its biggest challenge in decades: After four years of preparation, the NATO military exercise Air Defender 23 is set to begin on Monday, June 12.

It’s the biggest drill of its type since the military alliance was formed in 1949, and Germany will serve as the host and logistical hub.



From June 12 to 23, up to 250 aircraft will be stationed across six military bases, with 25 countries taking part. The US alone is sending 100 aircraft across the Atlantic. In the air, participants will train in crisis situations over three flight zones: over northern Germany in the North Sea, in the east and in a small strip of southern Germany. These zones will be alternately closed to civilian aircraft each day for several hours.

More than 10,000 soldiers from NATO countries will participate in numerous drills. Some of these will be 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.”



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