NATO’s largest military exercise since 2018, Exercise Steadfast Defender 2021, has begun with a maritime operation off Portugal, a logistics exercise in southern Germany and a rapid reaction exercise in central Romania. Exercise Steadfast Defender 2021, which is designed to improve the Alliance’s defensive capabilities, includes over 9,000 air, land, maritime and special operations forces from more than 20 Allies and partners training together. Steadfast Defender 2021 officially began on May 12 and ends June 22 in Romania.
The exercise took around two years to plan; Lieutenant Colonel James Scott serves as the officer with primary responsibility of organising the multi-phase exercise. “The overall focus is on NATO’s capability to conduct reinforcement across the Alliance. The span of the exercise is broad, ranging from the training of the new Joint Force Command in Norfolk, the Joint Support and Enabling Command in Germany, and the delivery of the Very High Readiness Task Force Land Component into Romania on a deployment exercise. Exercise planning during the ongoing pandemic has been very challenging but serves to demonstrate NATO’s flexibility and adaptability,” said Scott.
“Steadfast Defender 2021 is the first in a new series of long-planned NATO exercises to ensure that our forces are trained, able to operate together and ready to respond to any threat from any direction. This exercise will demonstrate the value of North America and Europe working together to keep our nations safe in a more challenging security environment,” said Captain Jason Salata, exercise spokesperson.
Joint Command Norfolk will lead the first phase of the exercise, which includes a maritime live exercise with around 5,000 forces and 18 ships, including the Britain’s UK Carrier Strike Group led by the HMS Queen Elizabeth. About 300 personnel are also scheduled to participate in a table-top exercise in Ulm to train and test the ability of the Joint Support and Enabling Command to coordinate the speedy movement of Allied forces and equipment across European borders. At the end of the month, about 4,000 troops from 12 countries will participate in NATO’s annual Noble Jump — which will see the deployment of the Turkish-led Very High Readiness Joint Task Force to Romania — under the umbrella of Steadfast Defender 2021.