The French Air and Space Force worked with the U.S. Navy on Thursday to launch a NATO Air Shielding mission over Hungary demonstrating Allied cooperation, commitment and integration along NATO’s eastern flank. A French A-3330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) Phénix refueled two French Rafale fighter jets and four U.S. Navy F/A-18E fighters enabling a combined and joint Air Shielding mission above Hungary. The French fighters from 4th Fighter Wing took off at Saint-Dizier air base in France and were joined by four U.S. Navy F/A-18E fighter aircraft which launched from the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group that arrived in the Mediterranean Sea in August on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) area of operations.
“The Neptune series is a tangible demonstration of the power and capability of the NATO Alliance in all domain operations. This is a prime example of NATO’s ability to integrate high-end maritime warfare capabilities of an allied carrier strike group, ensuring our collective ability to deter and defend,” said Vice Admiral Thomas Ishee, commander Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO and U.S. Sixth Fleet.
The Joint Force Air Component at Allied Air Command oversaw the aircraft sorties, the team planned and coordinated the air-to-air refueling missions and ensuring air patrols. The activities were part of the ongoing Neptune Series vigilance activities, integrating carrier strike and amphibious strike capability into NATO operations. The Air Shielding mission was conducted as French-US joint activity under overall NATO coordination. It showcases that is has become routine work for the battle planners to generate effects in the maritime, air and land domains, providing deterrence and reassurance, and offering powerful opportunities for Allied interoperability.
NATO’s Air Shielding mission is an increased air and missile defence posture along the Alliance’s eastern flank, implemented in the wake of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Allies have deployed more fighter jets and ground-based air and missile defence systems to protect Allies along the eastern flank against possible air and missile threats. This is purely defensive, and a key component of NATO’s enhanced deterrence and defence posture. NATO’s Air Shielding involves deployments ranging from a few weeks to several months at air bases and key locations in the eastern part of the Alliance. NATO’s Air Policing mission has not changed and Allied fighter jets are on alert 24/7 to respond to aircraft which may pose a threat in or near Allied airspace.