Air Defender 23, hosted by Germany and running from Monday to June 23, will see the participation of 10,250 troops and 25 military aircraft from <> NATO member and partner countries, including NATO candidate Japan and Sweden.
The drills aim to enhance interoperability and readiness to protect against aircraft, drone and missile attacks on cities and infrastructure, with other training activities including ground forces support and evacuation missions.
Air tension between NATO and Russia
Mohamed Mansour, a researcher specializing in military affairs at the Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies and Thought, explained that the current maneuver can be seen in the context of escalating air tension between the alliance and Moscow, due to the frequent air friction between NATO fighter jets that are active in NATO forward air bases, and Russian fighters operating in the Black Sea and Baltic Seas.
Mansour identified in statements to Sky News Arabia, a number of indicators of that maneuver, saying:
- The latest friction between NATO fighter jets and Russia is what happened between two Russian fighter jets and a US drone last March in the Black Sea, as well as the interception by a Russian fighter last May of two NATO naval patrol planes over the Baltic Sea.
- The Black Sea incident caused an increase in the likelihood of air friction between the two sides, especially after the decision of Britain and Germany last March to send air units to participate in the tasks of the "air police" of the alliance, which are stationed in air bases in Estonia and other countries, which Moscow viewed within the framework of operations to strengthen the alliance's presence in Eastern European countries and increase the number of NATO combat groups in the Baltic states.
- The frequency of air exercises carried out by NATO has increased over the past few months, especially the "Ramstein Alloy" air exercises, which have been held since 2008 three times a year in the Baltic Sea, and were most recently conducted last January.
- The "fixed noon" nuclear deterrence exercises, which took place last October, with the participation of 60 fighters, are one of the most important air exercises carried out in the previous period, as NATO fighters carried out intensive air exercises in Belgian airspace, as well as British airspace and some parts of the North Sea airspace, about 1000,<> kilometers from Russian territory.
- The size and scope of Air Defender can in itself be seen as a message to Moscow that NATO is cohesive and can muster significant air forces in a short time.
- The scope of these exercises is significant as it includes 3 main air zones, the first includes northwestern Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, the second includes eastern Germany up to the borders of Poland and the Czech Republic, and the second includes southwestern Germany and Luxembourg, which means that important parts of the North Sea and Baltic Sea skies will be included in these exercises.
- At the operational level, the exercise, which is expected to see some 2000,<> sorties, involves testing the ability of NATO Air Force to respond quickly in emergency situations to an external attack on an alliance country.
- According to NATO, the main objective of the exercise, which sees the largest deployment of air forces in the history of the alliance, is to organize air operations with allied and partner air forces, where the focus is to maximize and expand cooperation between countries.
- The exercise is based on a collective defense scenario also known as the Article 5 scenario, in which the Allies deploy their air forces to Germany to fight against mixed occupation forces from an imaginary adversary.
- During joint operations, NATO Air Force demonstrates the ability to defend NATO territory with swift decisive action.
- The exercise also includes operational and tactical training, especially in Germany but also in the Czech Republic, Estonia and Latvia.
- According to NATO's official website, the exercise confirms Germany's ability to receive and host large aircraft units at its airports, enabling among other things the concept of agile combat employment in the United States that facilitates short-term and foreign deployments, and the exercises are evidence of "NATO's deterrence and defense in the Euro-Atlantic area."