NATO’s largest air maneuver prepares for a “crisis situation” | NATO News

About 250 aircraft from 25 NATO and partner countries with 10,000 military personnel participate in ‘Air Defender 23’.

NATO has launched the largest air force deployment exercise in the history of the Western military alliance, and the exercise was presented as a show of unity among the bloc’s members and partners as tensions with Russia escalated in the wake of Moscow’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in February. 2022.

The German Air Force’s “Air Defender 23” maneuvers, which began on Monday, involved nearly 250 military aircraft from 25 NATO and partner countries including Japan and Sweden applying to join NATO, according to the German Air Force. German Air Force.

Up to 10,000 service personnel take part in the exercises, which run through June 23, and are designed to boost interoperability and “NATO Air Force Crisis” readiness, including protection from drones and cruise missiles in the event of an attack within NATO. province.

“The important message we send is that we can defend ourselves,” Lieutenant-General Ingo Gerhartz of the German Luftwaffe told public television.

The “Air Defender 23” exercise in 2018 was designed in part as a response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine four years earlier, though Gerhartz insisted the exercise “didn’t target anyone” in particular.

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He said the exercise would not “send any flights, for example, in the direction of Kaliningrad,” the Russian enclave bordering NATO member states Poland and Lithuania.

“We are a defense alliance and this is how these exercises were planned,” he said.

Russia’s war on Ukraine galvanized NATO, the Western military alliance founded nearly 75 years ago to counter threats from the then-Soviet Union.

Finland and Sweden, which have long maintained official neutrality to avoid conflict with Moscow, both sought membership in NATO after invading Moscow in February 2022.

Finland has since become the 31st member of the world’s largest military alliance, while Sweden’s bid for NATO membership has foundered over objections from NATO members Turkey and Hungary.

Under NATO’s Article 5, an attack on one member is an attack on all and offers of membership must be accepted by all members.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on Monday that NATO’s air forces are “of central importance in the event of an attack because they are the first responders to secure the population as well as their armed forces.”

Pistorius said the exercise “aims to show that NATO and the German Air Force are ready to defend themselves.”

He added in comments broadcast on national television that this applied to Russian President Vladimir Putin and anyone who “threatens our freedom and security”.

According to the German Air Force, 100 of the 250 aircraft deployed in Europe are from 42 US states.

General Michael Lew, director of the US Air National Guard, said NATO’s duties were at a “turning point”.

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“A lot has changed on the strategic landscape around the world, especially here in Europe,” he said.

Lu added that the exercise would focus on “complementing the permanent presence of the United States in Europe” as well as providing training “on a larger scale than has usually been accomplished on the continent.”

He said many of the coalition pilots were working together for the first time.

“This is now about establishing what it means to take on a great power in a great power competition.”

The exercises come as NATO officials said on Monday that the alliance’s fighter jets scrambled several missions last week to investigate unidentified Russian military aircraft over the Baltic Sea.

A total of 15 flights were launched to investigate potential threats last week – the most aircraft launched in a single week so far this year.

Most of Russia’s military aircraft were reportedly operating in international airspace without a prior flight plan, transponder signal or radio communication, according to military officials in NATO member Lithuania.

The increased presence of Russian aircraft has been attributed to the annual US-led naval military exercise, BALTOPS, which takes place in the Baltic Sea and involves 50 ships and boats from 19 NATO countries and Sweden. The Lithuanian Defense Ministry told the Baltic News Agency that the Russian Baltic Fleet is conducting military exercises.

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