Activities begin this month across ten European countries and continue through June as part of a U.S. Army-led exercise DEFENDER 2023, which U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa is supporting in several ways. Ten Air Force Reserve Command A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft assigned to the 442nd Fighter Wing, based at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., are slated to arrive in the USAFE-AFAFRICA area of operations to support DEFENDER 23. The aircraft will be primarily based in Spain and Greece during the exercise. DEFENDER 23 is a USEUCOM-directed multinational joint exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between U.S. and NATO Allies and partners.
“This annual, nearly two-month long exercise is focused on the strategic deployment of U.S.-based forces, employment of Army pre-positioned stocks and interoperability with European allies and partners,” said Sabrina Singh, deputy Pentagon press secretary, during a briefing April 6, 2023, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
DEFENDER 23 consists of three separate but related exercises. Those exercises are Swift Response, Immediate Response and Saber Guardian. Each of these exercises focuses on unique and challenging objectives. As an example, Swift Response tests the exercise participants’ ability to conduct three separate yet simultaneous joint forcible entry airborne operations. Exercise Immediate Response allows the participating nations and individuals to work through the complexities of rapidly building combat power arriving from the U.S. Finally, Exercise Saber Guardian affords participating units unique challenges such as conducting a forward passage of lines, contested wet gap crossings and joint forceable entry operations to seize key terrain objectives. USAFE-AFAFRICA has significant participation in all three exercises.
DEFENDER 23 is led by U.S. Army Europe and Africa and has been planned since 2021. USAFE-AFAFRICA is the supporting command. The exercise is designed to demonstrate the U.S. military’s ability to rapidly deploy combat-credible assets and equipment to assure allies, deter those who would threaten the peace of Europe and defend the continent from aggression. The exercise also demonstrates European nations’ commitment to increasing their militaries’ scale, capability and interoperability. DEFENDER 23 will include multinational troops from more than 20 Allied and partner nations. The large-scale movement of troops and equipment from the continental U.S for this exercise involve extensive support from each of the host nations, demonstrating the importance of ally and partner investment in European military readiness and defense. The United States is a coalescing force in Europe improving interoperability and readiness, and strengthening resolve across the Alliance.
Air Force Reserve is supporting USAFE-AFAFRICA operations for DEFENDER 23 in various capacities, specifically with A-10C aircraft from its reserve wing at Whiteman AFB. This year, AFR is commemorating 75 years of service, providing combat-proven Airmen at a moment’s notice to address national security priorities worldwide. USAFE-AFAFRICA’s ability to support and integrate with U.S. allies and partners continually strengthens solidarity, collective resolve, and ability to adapt in a dynamic warfighting environment. The A-10 is the U.S. Air Force’s primary low-altitude close air support aircraft and is the first Air Force aircraft designed specifically for close air support to ground forces. These capabilities provide essential support to the joint force land component and afford the U.S. military flexibility in projecting power in highly contested regions.