French C-130 transport aircraft and civilian charter aircraft move French troops from Istres, France to Romania
French C-130 transport aircraft and civilian charter aircraft move French troops from Istres, France to Romania

Allied Heavy Tactical Air Lifters Move Land Forces to NATO’s Eastern Flank

Strategic and tactical air transport aircraft including C-17s, C-5s, A330 MRTTs, and C-130s from multiple nations have been busy moving units from the NATO Response Force along with national contributions to locations across NATO’s Eastern Flank. In a combined effort, Allied air transport aircraft working alongside charter aircraft have been moving Allied troops from across the Euro-Atlantic area towards their new locations in Eastern Europe. This augments NATO’s presence in the region enhancing the speed, responsiveness, and flexibility of the Alliance’s defense.

“Allied Air transport aircraft are key in enabling the rapid movement of troops and supplies, allowing NATO to position its forces effectively during the evolving crisis. These movements underscore the Alliance’s cohesion and readiness to ensure the security of all member States,” said Lieutenant General Pascal Delerce, Deputy Commander, Allied Air Command.

USAF C-17 moving supplies and troops to Amari Air Base, Estonia, where USAF F-35s are currently based. (Photo by U.S. air Force)

These moves contribute to around 22,000 Allied land forces which are now under NATO command and control. Many of these forces are already deployed along the eastern flank of the Alliance, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. Having forces in these eight nations under Supreme Allied Commander Europe’s command ensures a robust and integrated shielding of NATO’s eastern borders.

The NATO Response Force (NRF) is a highly ready and technologically advanced multinational force made up of land, air, maritime, and Special Operations Forces (SOF) components that the Alliance can deploy quickly, wherever needed. Overall command of the NRF belongs to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). In addition to its operational role, the NRF can be used for greater cooperation in education and training, increased exercises, support for disaster relief, and better use of technology. NATO Allies decided to enhance the NRF in 2014 by creating a “spearhead force” within it, known as the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF).

Polish Air Force C-130 moving US troops from the UK to Lithuania. (Photo by U.S. air Force)