German Will Hold Its Biggest Air Exercise In NATO's History This Summer
German Will Hold Its Biggest Air Exercise In NATO's History This Summer

German Will Hold Its Biggest Air Exercise In NATO’s History This Summer

Exercise Air Defender 2023 (AD23) is a German-led, multinational exercise focusing on operational and tactical-level live-flying and will take place across Germany from June 12-24, 2023. AD23 involves Air Forces from 24 Nations and 220 aircraft. The German Air Force ensures command and control of air operations during the exercise. It will be combined in time and space with the German-led Multinational Air Group Exercise (MAGDAYS 23) and linked to two NATO exercises (RAMSTEIN DUST 23 and RAMSTEIN GUARD 23). Participating Air Forces will be exposed to training scenarios simulating a NATO Article 5 scenario, i.e. collective defence of Alliance territory. Assets from Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey, Hungary, the United Kingdom, and the United States will be flying in AD23.

A specially liveried A400M taxiing at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, during an information campaign promoting exercise Air Defender 23 to US audiences in early April 2023.
A specially liveried A400M taxiing at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, during an information campaign promoting exercise Air Defender 23 to US audiences in early April 2023. (Photo by Air National Guard)

“Our goals for this largest deployment exercise since the foundation of NATO are comprehensive,” said Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, Chief German Air Force. “We want to demonstrate the agility and swiftness of Air Forces as a first responder and showcase NATO Air Power. In addition, we as the Luftwaffe show that we can plan, organise and execute such a large exercise. We take responsibility. The collaboration of 24 Nations hones our interoperability and enables a credible deterrence against a potential aggressor. The transatlantic dimension – we will have 100 US Air National Guard aircraft flying in Europe – is a rock-solid proof of NATO cohesion and solidarity. With AD23 we practice a wide spectrum of Air Operations via large daily COMAOs and underscore Germany’s capability to ensure command and control of multinational Air Forces. Another important aspect is to facilitate continuation training for Air Force units and reinforcing our cooperative bond with the eastern flank of NATO by conducting Air Defence mission in the Czech Republic airspace to reinforce the cooperative bond with east,” Lieutenant General Gerhartz concluded underlining the importance of Germany as a hub for Allied defensive operations within Europe.

Lieutenant General Michael Loh (left), Director Air National Guard, and the German Chief of the Air Force, Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz during a press conference presenting the multinational live-fly exercise Air Defender 23 in Washington.
(Photo by Luftwaffe/Francis Hildemann)

Following the arrival and bed-down of incoming US reinforcements and other Allied aircraft at three hubs in Germany Jagel/Hohn in Schleswig-Holstein, Wunstorf in Lower Saxony and Lechfeld in Bavaria as well as Spangdahlem in Rhineland-Palatinate, Volkel in the Netherlands and ?áslav in the Czech Republic, the participants will practice Composite Air Operations (COMAOs) in training areas over Germany and conduct so-called out-and-back missions into the Baltic States and Romania. However, to accommodate comprehensive large-force flying activities they have been expanded and partly connected with each other by corridors. While large-scale training is essential to maintain a credible deterrence and defence capability of Allied Air Forces, the German Air Force is making efforts to minimise the impact of AD23 on the population. The three air exercise areas will only be used for two to four hours a day at various times and, for safety reasons, closed for civilian air traffic during these time windows. In close cooperation with the authorities responsible for flight safety processes and procedures are currently being optimised to minimise the effects on civilian air traffic as much as possible.

F-35A Lightning II jets from the Vermont Air National Guard’s 158th Fighter Wing during an Agile Combat Employment in mid-April. Air National Guard 5th generation jets will also deploy for exercise Air Defender 23. (Photo by Air National Guard)